I got the Sheehan Newsletter for XMas. Here's his latest O's screed.
The Joe Sheehan Newsletter
Vol. 10, No. 13
March 9, 2018
Well, it’s probably time to concede that the Orioles aren’t going to provide an impetus to write about them this offseason. A team whose window is about to close, a team that held on to its superstar who can -- and certainly will -- leave as a free agent after the season, a team with significant holes and facing steep competition...signed Andrew Cashner. It traded for Andrew Susac. It brought Colby Rasmus to camp.
Camden Yards is a beautiful place, one I’d go to if they were playing netball on the field. Give me a sunny day and that view and a helping of Boog’s, and it doesn’t matter. Give me good company and a trip to Abbey Burger after, and I’ll put up with whatever is wearing the black and orange. The 2018 Orioles, though, are a test of this idea, though. Just letting Buck Showalter be a witch has produced four hours of playoff time -- and one egregious error -- in three years. The Orioles were 14th in the AL in runs allowed last year and were outscored by nearly 100 tallies. Their 75-87 record masked a 90-loss team.
That 90-loss team is being brought back whole. The Orioles’ top six players by bWAR all return, and just one player who was worth at least a win to last year’s team, Welington Castillo, is gone. That’s the problem, of course; the Orioles seem to be counting on a 72-90 team to just get better on its own, and this isn’t that team. It’s old, and the bullpen is no longer great, and the defense has slipped. Being a low-OBP, high-HR offense is no longer clever, it’s literally the basis for the entire game of baseball in 2018. This team is closer to worst in the AL than it is to best.
1B-L C. Davis
CF-R A. Jones
Not only did the Orioles sign Rasmus, but the lefty might have the inside track to the right-field job. Rasmus walked away from a similar role with the Rays last summer, saying “I needed a little break.” At 31, he’s probably the same two-win player he’s been for most of his career, and an upgrade on Joey Rickard. Then again, he’s 31 and had a 45/5 K/UIBB last year. He could be done...and still be an upgrade on Joey Rickard.
The Orioles very much need Tim Beckham’s resurgence after last year’s trade to be real. He’s not really a leadoff man, but he fits that role better than anyone else on a team that is larded with 20/20 guys: 20 homers and 20 walks. Chance Sisco could be the exception if he can make the team; Sisco has hit and drawn walks a most of his minor-league stops. His two-year llne of .267/.340/.406 at Triple-A, though, is reason to doubt whether he’s ready to take over in Baltimore, and that’s before you consider the questions about his defense. The Orioles badly need the OBP he can bring.
Bench-B Santander (OF)
Bench-R Gentry (OF)
Bench-R Joseph (C)
Bench-B Vielma (IF)
Anthony Santander was the Orioles’ Rule 5 pick two years ago, and because he was injured for much of last year, the Orioles have to keep him on their roster for six weeks or offer him back to the Indians. He’s a switch-hitting outfielder who played in just 13 games for the Os a year ago. Craig Gentry may have the inside track to the fourth-outfielder job, and the combination of these things would squeeze Rickard off the team. Danny Valencia is in camp, but if you can think of something the Orioles need less than a four-corners right-handed bat, let me know. If Sisco doesn’t make the team, Susac probably will. It’s too much to hope they’d both be in Baltimore soon enough, right? Nothing against Caleb Joseph, but the Sisco/Susac platoon just sounds...musical.
Dylan Bundy stunned me by staying in the starting rotation all season and pitching well, making 28 starts with a team-leading 4.24 ERA and 4.38 FIP. Presumably, the problem with that sentence is obvious. Bundy no longer has the upside he had as a heralded prospect. I could see him hanging in as a mid-rotation starter for a little while, although I think it’s more likely last year was his best one.
Andrew Cashner was last year’s luckbox, running a 3.40 ERA with an 86/64 K/BB right out of the 1980s. Cashner has been better than this in the past, but since 2015 he has a 17% strikeout rate and a 363/185 K/UIBB. He’s barely a solution for a team needing bulk innings, much less a team needing quality outings.
If the Orioles were serious about contending this year with Manny Machado, they’d have signed Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb to some kind of imaginative contracts. (I’m guessing they would have a hard time convincing Jake Arrieta to return.) Absent that, absent 60 good starts appearing from nowhere, the Orioles have no chance to challenge for even the wild card.
Zach Britton is coming back from a torn right Achilles tendon, and will take his place as the save specialist once he’s healthy. That probably bumps one of the other lefties. although Showalter could go with an eight-man bullpen. Nelson Cortes is one of two Rule 5 pitchers in camp, along with Jose Mesa’s kid Jose Mesa. The top four guys in these bullpen, assuming a healthy Britton, are good; there just aren’t going to be enough high-leverage situations to make that meaningful.
There was a path by which the Orioles could have threatened for a wild-card slot this year. If that’s the goal on November 1, and you can spend the BamTech money, and you’re all-in for 2018, you can put a team around Machado that can win. The Orioles, instead, took the entire winter off after the Rule 5 draft, and the results on the field will reflect that. Manny Machado should be somewhere else by August.
Man, though, what a ballpark.