With the offseason now finally beginning, the Orioles are looking to make one more push to reach the playoffs and finally capture that elusive championship that has evaded Birdland for 34 years. With free agency pending following the 2018 season for Manny Machado, Adam Jones, and Zach Britton, the team is looking at one final chance before a lengthy rebuilding process.
Starting pitching for the Baltimore Orioles during 2017 was abysmal. Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Jeremy Hellickson, and Wade Miley are all free agents now. With that quartet onboard, Baltimore ranked 14th in the AL in team ERA, BAA, and quality starts, while giving up the second-most walks and runs in 2017. The team will return with Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy who look to anchor the team and ranked as follows in the AL during 2017 for SP with a minimum of 100 IP:
Even with the starting pitches woes, the Orioles were expected to have a more vaunted offense to pick up for their lack of depth in the rotation. However, the offense showed inconsistency ranking eighth in runs, ninth in OPS and 14th in OBP with the AL. While Schoop and Mancini posted career years, the remainder of th roster failed to deliver on their expected offense performance and it showed in several long stretches of the season where the offense disappeared.
Given the uncertainty of the team’s roster and its underwhelming offense in the prior year, the upcoming year is not predicted at this time to be much of a success. MyTopSportsbooks is putting their odds to win the 2018 World Series at a distant 45/1, which equates to only a 2.17% chance at a championship. The Orioles throughout the Showalter era have historically been placed in this similar tier. The best odds they every had was entering into the 2015 when they held 20/1 odds. What can the Orioles do to push them into at least similar odds to 2015?
Improve the Starting Pitching Depth: With the team finishing 14th in the AL in fWar, the team needs to add proven quality starting pitching that can make an impact similar to a Bundy/Gausman. To be in the mid-tier of the AL, the team needs to post between around an 11.0 fWAR up from the 5.5 fWAR in 2017. Free agent additions such as Alex Cobb (2.3 fWAR), CC Sabathia (2.2 fWAR), or Jaime Garcia (2.2 fWAR) could help to solidify the rotation. However, the Orioles will likely not dabble with all of these or even any of these names. However, the signing of at least two pitchers with proven upside needs to be accomplished leaving this off-season.
Improving the OBP issue: The team is forecast to finish at .319 OBP, which would once again place it near the bottom of the AL. Regardless of any signing, the Orioles will not drastically improve the entire team through the addition of a player to the team. However, the team has struggled to find an identity at the top of lineup since the departure of Nick Markakis. A player like a Lorenzo Cain (.346 OBP) could easily improve the team in this regard, but at a price tag that the Orioles can’t afford. However, the addition of a Curtis Granderson (.340 OBP), Jon Jay (.333 OBP), or Jarrod Dyson (.327 OBP) could assist this team as well as in the next area as well.
Improving the Outfield Defense: In 2014, the team outfield posted the best UZR/150 for the AL at 10.9. Since that season, the team has continued to worsen to a low of -4.7 UZR/150 for 14th in AL. The team desperately needs to improve in this area and allow for Adam Jones to not have to cover two other positions at Camden Yards. Utilizing the names from the above, the team has options to improve in two areas at once with each player having the following UZR/150 for 2017:
If the Orioles are willing to leverage these three key areas during this offseason than perhaps the odds can improve to be better than any other team during the Showalter era. And if this the last ride for this great era in Orioles history, why not go all in?