Baltimore Orioles: 2016 Winter Meetings Preview

The Baltimore Orioles spent a lot of money last off-season in hopes that their 2016 campaign would be an improvement over their third place finish in 2015. It paid off, as the Orioles performed much like everyone expected them too by mashing a major league high 253 home runs en route to an 89-73 finish. Their record was good for second place in the American League East and earned them a Wild Card selection, where they lost to the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Orioles will be losing a large chunk of their offense, most notably the AL Home Run leader Mark Trumbo, as well as Pedro Alvarez and Matt Wieters, leaving them sapped of the power that identified their team in 2016. With at least $96 million on the books for 2017, the Baltimore Orioles’ front office may have to get creative if they want to plug some of the holes in preparation for next season.

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Position of Need

Power Bat: For a team that is built on the long ball, losing the guy with the most in baseball is undoubtedly a huge blow. With Mark Trumbo gone, the Orioles are left with a hole in their offense and will see their run production diminish if it is not addressed. Trumbo also acted as an outfielder when he wasn’t DHing, leaving Baltimore in dire straits in the outfield. As it stands now, Hyun Soo Kim, Adam Jones, and Joey Rickard populate the outfield without any help. Furthermore, Jones is the only one of the three that is anything close to a sure-thing.

Starting Pitching: Outside of All-Star closer Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles pitching gave up almost as many homers as the team hit themselves. While Chris Tillman won 16 games, his 3.77 ERA and 1.285 left him as less than an obvious ace. Baltimore’s pitching has a combined 4.22 ERA, and it was largely due to the shaky starting rotation. The lowest ERA on the team was Kevin Gausman with a 3.61, followed by Tillman at 3.77. Outside of them, nobody with less than 15 starts had an ERA above 5.27. Giving up that many runs a game will not lead to success, no matter how many home runs your team hits.

Catcher: At least for the time being, long time catcher Matt Wieters is gone. While there is some interest in bringing him back, the Orioles have to remain open to finding a replacement. As it stands right now, their top option at catcher is Caleb Joseph who is a solid defensive catcher but is a .213 lifetime hitter. As I mentioned before, if the starting pitching is giving up five runs a game, .213 with 20 career homers in 231 games is not going to cut it.

Potential Targets

Power Bat: The Baltimore Orioles should waste no time in signing first baseman Chris Carter, who was just non-tendered by the Brewers. Carter blasted 41 homers in 2016, and while he may not be a Gold Glover in the field, he would give them options to Chris Davis at first. Jose Bautista may be a stretch, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if the Orioles make a beeline for the 36-year-old right fielder. The power numbers are there, and he would fit into the outfield perfectly alongside Jones. His age and asking price may be too much for the Orioles, though, so someone like Ian Desmond or Carlos Gomez could also appear on Baltimore’s radar.

Starting Pitching: The Orioles haven’t had the best of luck with free agent pitchers in the past, with Yovani Gallardo and Ubaldo Jimenez contributing very little to the team in 2016. The starting pitching market is slim this off-season, with many names already off the board, but some interesting candidates that would fit into the Orioles’ rotation are Ivan Nova, Jason Hammel, and Doug Fister. The three would all come at a reasonable price and could provide a significant boost to a struggling rotation.

Catcher: If Matt Wieters does not resign with the team, the Orioles could look to reunite with Nick Hundley who played for the team in 2014. Hundley hit .260 with ten homers and 48 RBI in 83 games in 2016. Number two prospect Chance Sisco could also be an option, but it’s likely that the Orioles will grab someone with more experience to start the 2017 season behind the plate.

Possible Trade Pieces

Starting pitchers Wade Miley, Yovani Gallardo, and Ubaldo Jimenez is all entering a contract year, which could lead to one or more of them to be dealt before the upcoming season. They wouldn’t generate very much of a return, but it could lead to new possibilities in the starting rotation. Zach Britton is the obvious best trade chip, but after the season he had in 2016 it’s unlikely the Orioles would give away their strongest asset and leave the bullpen as a question mark. The O’s don’t quite have the depth in pitching to be dealing pitchers away, though, so a trade seems unlikely.

One Bold Prediction

The Orioles sign Jose Bautista at the Winter Meetings, and slot him into right field. He’ll prove to be a big help for the team he helped eliminate last season, hitting right in front of Chris Davis. They’ll still need to upgrade their pitching if they want to make it that far again, but the Orioles could very well be an active team when the Winter Meetings begin on Sunday.

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