It has been a relatively quiet offseason for the Baltimore Orioles, with a little over a month left before catchers and pitchers report to spring training. The club decided to let go of all-star catcher Matt Weiters, a move that did not surprise many involved with the organization.
Weiters is thought to be seeking at least $15 million per year and it was wise for the Orioles to go in another direction. The club signed Wellington Castillo to a one year, $6 million deal this offseason and his 2016 numbers are comparable with Weiters.
Castillo posted 14 homers and 68 RBIs to go along with a .264 AVG, whereas Weiters hit 17 homers and 66 RBIs with a .243 AVG. Castillo is signed through the 2017 season and is a stopgap for top prospect Chance Sisco. Sisco, the No. 2 ranked prospect in the organization, was the club’s Minor League player of the year for 2016 and hit .317 across two levels. The one knock on Sisco has been his glove behind the plate, but the 21-year-old lefty has shown improvement in that regard over the past season.
The Orioles entered the offseason with six starting pitchers locked in for five rotation spots. Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman are expected to be at the top of the staff, followed by former top prospect Dylan Bundy, who showed flashes of greatness in the second half of the season and finished his rookie season 10-6 with a 4.02 ERA. Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley and Yovani Gallardo were expected to fight for the last two rotation spots, but the club solved that issue by trading Gallardo to the Seattle Mariners earlier this week.
Seth Smith was brought to the Orioles in the trade, a solid acquisition and one that shores up right field and provides the team with a much-needed left-handed bat. The 33-year-old outfielder had perhaps the most complete season of his career this past year, hitting 16 home runs and 63 RBIs with a .249 AVG. The Orioles will need every one of those 16 home runs, as they are unlikely to retain Mark Trumbo, who led the league with 47 home runs last year.
Trumbo is seeking a multiyear offer of around $20 million per year and the Orioles have not budged on their stance of not exceeding $15 million a year. It would be wise for the Orioles to bank the break and pay Trumbo, because without the veteran in the lineup the club will turn to rookie Trey Mancini for DH duties. Mancini showed flashes in five games last season, hitting three home runs, but the 24-year-old is still an obvious downgrade from Trumbo.
The one question mark left on the roster is in left field. The team had been linked to outfielders such as Jared Dyson and Michael Saunders, but the latest word out of Baltimore is that left field will be a platoon between Hyun Soo-Kim and former rule-5 pick Joey Rickard. Kim had a solid season as a 28-year-old rookie, hitting 6 home runs to go along with a .302 AVG. Rickard started out the year red-hot for the club, but tailed off significantly and missed the final third of the season with a thumb injury. The two are solid contact hitters, but they lack the power that the Orioles usually desire in the corner outfield spot.
With the season less than three months away, it is likely that the Baltimore Orioles roster is all but set. The team looks to make the playoffs for the fourth time in six years and will have to rely on Kevin Gausman, Chris Tillman and Dylan Bundy to do so. Gausman is regarded by many in the organization as the club’s ace and much is expected from the 26-year-old right hander. With a superb bullpen led by Zach Britton, the one question mark for the team will be the play of the new acquisitions, Wellington Castillo and Seth Smith. If all goes according to plan, the team has a legitimate shot at making the playoffs and should finish the season between 85 and 90 wins.
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