Another October without the Baltimore Orioles as they faced yet another difficult season at the bottom of the standings. They finished the season with a 54-108 record, clearly continuing a rebuilding effort.
Battling Through the Rebuild
The Orioles shifted gears into rebuilding mode “full time” when the old regime of former general manager Dan Duquette cleaned house in 2018. Duquette and his team traded away crucial pieces of the 2014 ALCS and 2017 AL Wildcard team. Players like Manny Machado, Johnathon Schoop, Zack Britton and others were traded off to contenders for a chance at rebuilding the farm.
The Baltimore Orioles came into this season with many new faces, including new manager Brandon Hyde and new general manager Mike Elias. The new front office made the most of the Orioles this season. Although they concluded with the second-worst record in the MLB, the Orioles gained a lot of experience and upside for their new young core.
Up and Coming Pitching Rotation
To begin let us look at the bad. One of the biggest disappointments of the season came from pitcher Dylan Bundy. He recorded a 4.79 ERA, 162 strikeouts in as many innings and only won 7 of his 21 decisions. Bundy was rumored to be moved at the deadline this season, but his performances ended up tanking his value. Despite the disappointment, the upside is still there. Holding on to the 26-year-old could still benefit the Orioles in the long run as he is still under Baltimore control through 2021.
However, the biggest surprise for the O-Birds this season was the outstanding play by rookie pitcher John Means. Means found a way to post a winning record on a dreadful Baltimore team at 12-11. He posted an impressive 3.60 ERA in 31 appearances. Means only walked 38 batters, as he struck out 121 in 155 innings, an impressive ratio for the rookie. The young slinger gives the team a solid pitcher to build around. Unless an unlikely, big-name free agent signing takes place Means looks to become the ace next season for the Baltimore Orioles.
“I like the work that was done this year. There is still work to be done, no question about it. In terms of year one, getting the foundational pieces in place, getting players and coaches on-ramped, we made tremendous strides in year one.”Chris Holt, 2019 Orioles Minor League Pitching Coordinator. (Newly Named Orioles Organization Director of Pitching)
It wasn’t just Means either. The Baltimore Orioles saw great potential from many of their young starting pitchers. That led the team to name minor league pitching coach Chris Holt as the organization’s director of pitching. Holt will now oversee all pitching prospects through the entire Orioles farm system.
Will Givens Stick Around?
Mychal Givens was in receiving a lot of attention for a possible change of scenery during the trade deadline. He has been on the minds of many front offices to help bolster their pen and add a potential closer to their mix. Mychal is still in orange and black though, despite all the trade rumors that have persisted over the past couple of seasons. The 29-year-old performed subpar during the 2019 campaign with an ERA at 4.57, but still managed to record 11 saves and a remarkable strikeout-inning ratio. A registered 86 strikeouts in only 63 innings pitched. It would not be surprising to see a team make a move on him this offseason as he does not seem to be in the systems’ future plans.
Mancini Becoming New Locker Room Leader
It was abundantly clear throughout the season that a new leader has begun to establish himself in the locker room. Trey Mancini has been that guy. Mancini has absorbed the role as the new face of the franchise while this team desperately looks for an identity. Although the First Baseman faced a few injuries during the season, he still managed to play well. Mancini recorded 35 home runs and 97 RBI’s leading the team in both categories. Mancini should be in the plans for the Baltimore tear down, but as we have seen in the past, no player is safe during a rebuild.
Big Contracts Continue to Woe Baltimore Orioles
Chris Davis historically had the worst season for a batter ever in 2018. Davis broke a record for the worst batting average in MLB history with a .168 average. 2019 was not much better for the 33-year-old slugger. Davis slightly improved in 2019, still below the Mendoza Line at .178. Unfortunately, the contract issue between the Orioles and Davis will continue next season as his contract is not set to expire until the end of the 2022 season.
Luckily for the Orioles, one of these will finally come off the books. Mark Trumbo is officially a free agent, which opens up 13.5 million. Deciding not to re-sign will remove the third-largest contract per year on the Orioles payroll. Trumbo was a great pickup for the Orioles at the beginning of his contract, but injuries plagued the latter. He only played in 13 games for the club this season. The choice to move on from the 34-year-old Trumbo, will instantly allow for more youth on the 40-man roster.
The most significant focus this offseason is simple. Continue building the farm and strengthen the young players above all else. Speeding up the rebuild could make it crumble, so signing the big and flashy names won’t do the team any good. They are a few years out, so it wouldn’t hurt to move some of their players to keep feeding the farm. Names like Givens and Villar might be perfect candidates for these acquisitions. Baltimore should already be thinking about 2021 and beyond as they work to be competitive in a tough AL East.
The Foundation of a Process
All through the season, including the end of season interviews, the focus continues to be about building up this team from the farm up. Many discussions continue to emphasize the rebuild being a process. A focus was also that this year was the foundation of what’s to come. New GM Mike Elias’s previous job was with the Houston Astros, who just went through an extensive rebuilding process. After their rebuild, the Astros won a World Series Championship and have had multiple 100-win seasons. If Elias implements these same tactics as he was a part of in Houston, the Orioles’ future could be incredibly bright.
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