Because You Asked - Chamber of Secrets

The mailbag is loaded down with questions, though pretty much the same five or six. They just get repeated a lot and I can’t stop it from happening.

This is my little attempt. Answer them here and see if that satisfies the masses. Perhaps the responses won’t get lost in the social media shuffle.

I did lighten the load by removing all the ones that begin with “How do you keep your job?” and “How do you sleep at night?” Also, I remain undecided whether a hot dog is a sandwich, though I lean toward the negative. Guess it deserves its own special category. Something that includes the words “artery clogger.”

I can’t tell you anything about the weather beyond what I read on weather sites. I can’t recommend good restaurants in Sarasota unless you tell me what you like and dislike and how much you’re willing to spend.

And for the last time, it’s boxer briefs.

Here we go:

Why didn’t the Orioles trade Zach Britton?
They didn’t have a strong desire to sell low. They didn’t get an offer that approached what the Yankees received last summer for Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. We can debate whether it was a realistic goal, but that’s what they sought. They wanted impact prospects, not middle-of-the-road guys. It was about quality, not quantity. I’m told one offer from an American League contender was “an insult.” And two pitchers offered by the Astros had health issues that were red-flagged by an Orioles’ physician who reviewed the medicals. So, they held onto Britton and left themselves in a possible bind with his salary growing and his value on the market lowering.

kim-toronto-gray.jpgHow did you feel about the deadline decisions?
I was surprised that Hyun Soo Kim was the only player moved off the major league roster, in part because I didn’t think there was a market for him. I was probably right. The Phillies took him as a salary offset while shedding Jeremy Hellickson. They were more interested in Double-A left-hander Garrett Cleavinger and the international signing bonus slots. Anyway, I figured Zach Britton or reliever Brad Brach were real possibilities, and if a position player was removed, my pick would have been outfielder Seth Smith over Kim. I wasn’t prepared for the Orioles to be buyers, if that’s the correct term. They didn’t exactly go all-in with Jeremy Hellickson and infielder Tim Beckham. No big sale and no major acquisitions, though so far so good.

Why didn’t the Orioles go hard after Sonny Gray?
He would have been a Sonny delight (pauses to let laughter die down), but how in the world were the Orioles going to entice the Athletics? They don’t want to part with left-hander Tanner Scott or catcher Chance Sisco. Austin Hays could be playing right field next season. There just aren’t the necessary pieces to reel in a big fish. And that includes Yu Darvish. Yu ought to know that (pauses again).

Will the Orioles make any more trades now that the deadline has passed?
It’s not a real deadline, other than players now having to pass through waivers first. Britton won’t, of course, but plenty of guys do, and trades are commonplace. How do you think the Orioles got Alejandro De Aza in 2014, for instance? Who can forget Kelly Johnson? And of course, there’s outfielders Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs last August, first baseman Michael Morse in 2013, left-hander Joe Saunders in 2012 and reliever Pedro Strop in 2011. I’d expect the Orioles to swing at least one deal this month.

Is it true that a dozen inmates in Alabama used peanut butter to escape prison?
Yes. They were out in a Jif.

This has nothing to do with baseball.
That’s not a question.

When is J.J. Hardy coming back?
Manager Buck Showalter has targeted Aug. 18, when Hardy is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list. The bone has healed in Hardy’s right wrist. It’s just about building up strength and playing some rehab games. Because it’s been two months since he’s played, the 18th may be a tad ambitious.

Why did Showalter promise Hardy that he’d be the starting shortstop?
There’s the obvious respect factor, but also, Showalter trusts Hardy in the field more than anyone else he could send out there. I’m not judging Tim Beckham on one play in his first game in Baltimore, but Showalter had to notice the low, wide feed to Jonathan Schoop on an attempted double play. Schoop stretched for the ball like a first baseman to save Beckham the error. Hardy makes that throw in his sleep. And there was the bases-loaded ground ball through his legs against the Tigers. But Beckham was solid-to-spectacular the last few days of the homestand. Also, his speed is a tremendous asset - he turned a single into a double, something Hardy can’t do - but Showalter thinks defense first, and Hardy is just so dependable. Has he lost a step? Of course. I’ve lost two or three, plus my car on a few occasions. But he still makes the plays that he’s supposed to make. Rubén Tejada’s defense improved quite a bit from his early starts. Beckham can be a dynamic player, and he’s swinging the bat much better this year. His first week as an Oriole was historic. But Hardy is Showalter’s guy, and it comes with complications. I obviously don’t think Beckham will just disappear. Will be interesting to see how Showalter handles him.

Any chance we see Pedro Álvarez?
If you’re willing to drive to Norfolk. What’s stopping you? But seriously ... There just hasn’t been a need for a left-handed-hitting designated hitter, though at-bats were more readily available with Mark Trumbo on the disabled list. The Orioles did consider it. The infield corners and the outfield are strictly prohibited. Alvarez’s average was in the low .200s for most of the season. He’s free to leave if a major league team comes calling. So far, nothing. He’d actually be a smart September pickup. And the Orioles will continue to discuss him. The reports on his defense at first base actually have been pretty good. And the guy’s power is sick.

Will Anthony Santander have Rule 5 status next year?
Yes. However, a player only has to be on the active roster for 90 consecutive days. They don’t have to fall in the same season. Santander’s days later this summer can be added to his days at the start of the 2018 season to total 90. And I’m told he can be optioned to the minors after reaching the limit.

Why not make Miguel Castro a starter?
He was starting at Double-A Bowie and the Orioles are pondering the possibility at the major league level. He’s been valuable in the bullpen, a guy who doesn’t seem to require much rest and is fearless. He’s got a good arm. Every bullpen can use a guy like him. But the Orioles always will consider rotation possibilities, especially with Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jiménez pending free agents and Wade Miley joining them if the Orioles don’t pick up his $12 million option. And you saw what Castro did Thursday night with his six scoreless innings, only one hit allowed. Yeah, he’s got to be considered for the rotation next spring. Or next week.

Would the Orioles pick up Miley’s option?
Sounds unlikely to impossible on the surface, but let’s see how he finishes up. Check the list of free-agent starters this winter and consider the going rate for anyone with even the shortest of track records. It’s not completely out of the question, from what I’ve heard. Check back later.

Will the Orioles bring up Chance Sisco?
They won’t do it before rosters expand in September because they don’t need three catchers. Welington Castillo was available in trade and still could be moved, but his $7 million player option for 2018 isn’t appealing to everyone.

Have you seen what Ariel Miranda’s doing in Seattle?
Yes. And it hasn’t been all that terrific, but I still get asked about him as if the Orioles let Dave McNally go in his prime. And I’ll repeat that few fans were screaming about the Orioles trading him until Miley struggled. He’s done pretty well overall and certainly would have been useful in Baltimore, but I don’t recall seeing him on top prospect lists. Correct me if I’m wrong. I don’t have them all memorized.

Have you seen what Josh Hader’s doing in Milwaukee?
I still can’t talk about it.

What’s made Jonathan Schoop so good this season?
His average, on-base percentage doubles, home runs, RBIs ...

Let’s try this again. Why has he shown so much improvement?
I’ll direct you again to his on-base percentage, which was .353 before last night. It was .298 last season. He’s more patient at the plate, having better at-bats, getting back in favorable counts and hitting the ball all over the field. He’s just matured as a hitter and he’s worked hard at it. He knew his deficiencies and addressed them. It just took time for the results to show.

Why is (insert Ubaldo Jiménez or Wade Miley) still on this team?
I’m combining questions. There’s never just one reason, but a lack of viable options at Triple-A contributes. Guys are really struggling down there. The Orioles also have been banking on everyone in their rotation to suddenly get hot, which we’ve seen happen in spurts. It isn’t the most comforting game plan when considering the entire season’s worth of production, but that’s where we stand. I’ll say again that ownership hasn’t prohibited the Orioles from releasing Jiménez.

When are the Orioles going to put “Baltimore” on their road jerseys?
Wow, I really need to go through this mailbag more often. Sorry.

Anything new on contract extension talks with Manny Machado?
Absolutely nothing that I’ve heard.

Anything new on contract extension talks with you?
Absolutely nothing that I’ve heard.

Why not put (insert name) at third base and move Manny to shortstop?
The Orioles really like Machado at third base and it appears that he’s quite happy staying there. I haven’t heard anything about him pestering Showalter to move him. Heck, he’s there a lot anyway with all the shifts. The Orioles like their shortstop options and don’t feel the need to slide Machado over and insert whichever name that’s suggested.

Why didn’t the Orioles trade Chris Davis?
For starters, that’s a lot of contract to move. You’d definitely have to lift with your legs.

As if you know anything about leg lifts.
Not a question and not nice.

How can Buck keep Chris Tillman? Doesn’t he see what the rest of us see?
Yes. He sees the command issues, the targets missed by a wide margin. But the Orioles can’t force Tillman to the disabled list if he says he isn’t hurt. Major League Baseball and the union frown on that. And Showalter’s job description doesn’t include releasing players. That comes from above. It’s the bullpen for now.

How many international signing bonus slots does a team get?
The Orioles have a machine set up in the warehouse that spits them out. You sit them on a window sill to let them dry - can’t smear the slots or they’re no good - and then trade them.

You don’t know, right?
Not a clue.

Would you like to amend your response?
Just that the Orioles don’t usually wait long enough for them to dry. But also, it’s money that’s available to be spent internationally that’s sent to other teams. If that makes the Orioles a slot machine, so be it.

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