Dillon Atkinson: A lot of questions need answering before next spring

The Baltimore Orioles are currently 75-83, tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for last place in the American League East division. This is the club’s first losing season since 2011, and first under executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. The Birds gave the fans something to cheer and hope for heading into September, but the last month has been a pure disappointment. If there’s anything good about getting officially eliminated from playoff contention early, it’s that there is still time left for us to see more Austin Hays and Chance Sisco before the season ends. But now it’s time to, not necessarily draw up an offseason blueprint before next year, but at least wonder what type of team the Birds will look to have.

Will Hays and Sisco start the 2018 season in the majors? Could the Orioles form one of the most expensive platoons in the majors with Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo to make it easier for Hays to start every day, but to also make room to add another hitter? Will Welington Castillo exercise his player option for 2018? If he does, will that push Sisco back down to Triple-A Norfolk?

Will the Orioles attempt to lock up any of their current players? Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton and Brad Brach are all scheduled to hit free agency after next season. Even if the Orioles try to make one last extension offer to Machado, would the superstar third baseman sign it, being just one-year away from the open market? If the club attempts to lock up Jones, would he need to be willing to move out of center field long-term to get a deal agreed upon? Are injury scares enough to stay away from extension talks between Britton and the Orioles? Could the answer to the last question be the determining factor on whether or not the club tries to extend Brach?

How many starting pitchers will the Orioles add from outside the organization this season? Will they be one-year bounceback candidates? Could they look to sign a pitcher to a long-term contract? Could the organization decide to just look toward the multiple Triple-A Norfolk pitchers for rotation spots next season? The answer to this last question may also answer the next.

Will the Orioles actually look to contend in 2018? If the club can’t lock up Machado long-term this offseason, could the Birds look to shop him for young talent? This can go for any of the players, really. Will the Orioles build a competitive roster and try to make one last run, then chance it in free agency with Machado, or will they decide to take a step back and plan for the future?

I just asked 16 questions that will need answering as the offseason unfolds, and there are plenty of others that could be asked as well. This offseason, I believe the Orioles will face more franchise questions than they ever have under Duquette as executive vice president of baseball operations. And no, I haven’t forgotten about the Blue Jays fiasco in the 2014-15 offseason.

What are some questions you have for the Orioles during this upcoming offseason?

Side note: Thank you to MASNsports.com for bringing me back as a guest blogger for my second year. I also would like to thank all the fans who have read my thoughts and engaged in discussions with me. I appreciate all the feedback in the comments sections (yes, all of it). Here’s to hoping for a fun 2018.

Dillon Atkinson blogs about the Orioles for Orioles Uncensored. Follow him on Twitter: @DAtkinsonOU. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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