Because You Asked - “The Secret of the Ooze”

With a break in the awards shows - the Silver Sluggers are announced on Thursday and the Wilson Defensive Players of the Year on Friday - it’s a convenient time to rummage through the ol’ mailbag again and delve into the duplicates.

You ask and I answer. Someone else asks and I answer again. And the dance continues until my feet swell.

I skipped the ones asking, “Who exactly will the Orioles sign this winter?” I already feel pretty useless. Let’s not crush my spirit completely.

Otherwise, I’m happy to pass along what I’ve heard and offer up a few guesses.

Are the Orioles going after any starters this winter?
Well, they only have two who aren’t free agents, so the math indicates that they’ll go after multiple starters this winter. It could be via free agency or trades. They’ll also consider Miguel Castro, who has past experience as a starter, multi-inning reliever and closer. And maybe Gabriel Ynoa, who had mixed results in four September starts. But there aren’t enough legitimate in-house candidates to fill out the rotation for a team that isn’t ready to rebuild. They’re going to go outside the organization

Are we supposed to be excited by Andrew Cashner and Jason Vargas?
Who am I to tell anyone how to get excited? The Orioles are seeking upgrades and Cashner and Vargas could be solutions. They’re not marketed as No. 1 starters, but they bring experience and previous success. So did Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jiménez and Jeremy Hellickson. I get it. Cashner and Vargas are only two of the starters out there who interest the Orioles. There are others. I’m not sure how they’ll impact your excitement level. I recommend that you adjust it because Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta aren’t coming here.

Which starters do you want?
Darvish and Arrieta, but my GoFundMe page hasn’t been much of a help. I’d make an aggressive play for Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn. A team that wants to go for it again before free agency really strikes hard should be targeting one of the top second-tier starters. projected that Cobb will get $48 million over four years from the Twins and Lynn will receive $56 million over four years from the Rangers. The Orioles shouldn’t be scared off if those numbers prove accurate. Cobb really seems to be within their range - as long as Jiménez’s failings don’t bleed into future negotiations.

Hunter Harvey throws black.pngWill Hunter Harvey break camp with the team?
He’s going to be a serious temptation if he’s mowing down hitters in spring training. Maybe in the bullpen before the Orioles ease him into the rotation. But there will be the expected counter arguments that he needs more seasoning in the minors, never having thrown above low Single-A Delmarva due to a myriad of injuries and setbacks that included the biggie - ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow. He’s healthy and he’s put on some necessary weight. Everything is moving in a positive direction. There’s no need to rush Harvey, but again, he may be so good in camp that it will be hard to send him down. I know that his readiness has been discussed internally. I also know that I received a text from one official asking whether I was dreaming when I wrote about the possibility of Harvey making the team out of spring training. It also had something to do with the 4 a.m. time stamp, but I got the message. So, stay tuned. And if the Orioles are lucky, they will have a wonderfully difficult decision to make in March.

Any updates on Pat Connaughton?
He wants to play basketball. The Orioles want him to play baseball. A year from now, Connaughton will want to play basketball - he seems to be doing a better job of it lately - and the Orioles will want him to play baseball. I’m so over it.

Any updates on the Wizards?
They all want to play basketball.

How can the Orioles be serious about winning if they want to bring back Miley and Chris Tillman?
They checked on Miley’s possible interest in a one-year deal. The old pillow contract. They weren’t putting on the full court press to keep him. Just broaching the subject before the free agent market opened for business. Tillman is a different story because he’s been very good with them in the past and his season can be more easily dismissed due to his shoulder issues that dated back to August 2016. He didn’t have a normal winter or spring training. Tillman on a one-year contract could prove to be quite a bargain. Multiple starters are needed. He wouldn’t be the only move.

Should the Orioles consider Tyler Chatwood?
They should and they will. You just need to look beyond his 8-15 record, 4.69 ERA and 1.442 WHIP. He had a 6.01 ERA and 1.678 WHIP at Coors Field this summer and a 3.49 ERA and 1.228 WHIP on the road. He induces ground balls and he already underwent Tommy John surgery, so he got it out of the way. He falls in the affordable category for a team that won’t spend big on pitching. MLBTradeRumors predicted a three-year, $20 million deal from the Phillies. He probably won’t get you excited, but he could be a good pickup. And again, we’re looking for upgrades here. Jiménez, Hellickson and Chatwood. Let’s pretend those are your three choices. Go!

How are the Orioles supposed to improve their defense if the lineup is mostly set?
Get more strikeouts from their pitching staff. Unfortunately, the names we’re kicking around as rotation upgrades aren’t big strikeout guys. But the ball is constantly put in play, raising the risk of errors. Also, pitch counts tend to skyrocket when batters keep fouling off everything thrown to them. Otherwise, it’s more fielding drills in spring training. Lots and lots of drills. Anyone suggesting that defense and fundamentals don’t matter to manager Buck Showalter and his staff doesn’t know manager Buck Showalter and his staff. Don’t confuse miscues for apathy.

Does anyone stand out in the AFL?
Lance Alworth and Don Maynard were great receivers. And Joe Namath, well ...

Does anyone stand out in the Arizona Fall League?
If you mean with the Orioles, former second-round pick Keegan Akin is dealing. The Orioles hope he’s showing an ace. Akin had a 1.46 ERA and 0.73 WHIP in seven games before last night, with two runs and six hits allowed in 12 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out 12. Infielder Steve Wilkerson was batting .316 with three doubles, four triples, one home run and eight RBIs in 16 games. Ryan Mountcastle was 5-for-15 with a double, home run and five RBIs in his last four games. His production has come in spurts. One observer offered high praise for Mountcastle’s ability to hit. The more people watch, the more they project how he can help the Orioles.

Who’s replacing Richie Bancells?
Brian Ebel is expected to move up from assistant to head athletic trainer. Nothing is official, but that’s the likely outcome and it makes total sense. Ebel just completed his 21st season in his current role and his 32nd on the staff. He should be the choice. There’s been talk of an interview process, with outside candidates brought in, but Ebel is the strong favorite. The new assistant could come from the minors. Dave Walker is expected to remain in his role as minor league medical coordinator. I’ve heard that the Orioles checked on his interest in joining the major league staff. His work down in Sarasota is extremely important. Zach Britton provided the latest reminder over the summer while rehabbing his right forearm. Walker’s name always comes up when players pass around credit for their recoveries. It’s usually the first.

Will the Orioles attempt to re-sign Manny Machado?
They’re expected to take another shot at it. The question is when and for how long.

That’s two questions.
That’s two more than what you just offered. Anyway, yes, because ownership wants him to stay and needs to find out what it’s going to cost. And Machado’s side needs to know how much the Orioles are willing to give him. The preliminary feeling-it-out process is done. The talks need to become much more serious and advanced.

What do you cover in the offseason?
This again?

Could the Orioles re-sign Welington Castillo?
I’m not expecting it because he should be able to get a multi-year deal and the Orioles don’t have any reason to go beyond one. They would have been fine with Castillo exercising his $7 million option for 2018, but his departure works out fine with Chance Sisco ready to handle some of the catching load.

What are the odds that Showalter and Dan Duquette remain with the Orioles beyond 2018?
If I had a nickel for every time I was asked about them, I could retire and someone else would be handling the mailbag. This could go in a variety of directions. I got the sense, following a recent conversation with an official, that the Orioles are open to talking extensions with both of them. Like it was the next logical step. I’ve also heard that the subject already came up with Showalter. I can’t place odds. I honestly don’t know how it’s going to play out. But I get the sense that they’re both back if they choose to stay.

Why don’t the Orioles hire Cal Ripken Jr. as manager?
They already have a manager. And I’ve heard that Cal isn’t really focused on that type of position anymore. Running a team in the front office is much more appealing to him. You’ll notice that his name didn’t come up despite all of the managerial openings, including the one in D.C. that went to Dave Martinez. I’d love to see him get the chance to call the shots one of these days, wherever it is. But he’s got lots on his plate to keep him busy.

Is this going to lead to another Sidney Ponson joke?
Next question.

Are you happy that Twitter is increasing to 280 characters?
It only takes two for followers and non-followers to tell me, “You suck” Not sure what they’ll do with the extra 278 besides, “You really, really, really, really, really ... “

You wrote that Ben Werthan was a “big loss.” Why?
The behind-the-scenes guys rarely get the credit they deserve from fans who, understandably, don’t know what these employees do because ... they’re behind the scenes. Ever try to provide scouting reports on the next opponent? Try doing it after rosters expand. And when a team makes a roster move a few hours before first pitch. Some obscure minor leaguer is added to the lineup card and Werthan needs to find out everything about him and pass it on to manager Buck Showalter, his staff, his players, etc. And Werthan somehow could predict a future opponent’s starters before they were confirmed. He had a knack. The Orioles are fortunate to have qualified in-house candidates to replace him, but it’s still a big loss. Same with Ned Rice, who joined the Phillies in December 2015 as an assistant general manager.

Is there any chance that the Orioles trade for Giancarlo Stanton?
They’d probably have to start with Machado, and he’s a potential rental one year away from free agency. They’re starting to build up some pitching depth in the lower levels of the minors and would have to empty the cupboard. And it’s still likely to be insufficient with other teams able to offer higher-grade prospects. And there’s that contract. Just too many strikes against the Orioles, who, if choosing to get crazy aggressive, need to channel that energy toward pitching.

Did you really dress as Wonder Woman on Halloween?
No. It was three days before Halloween. This is how rumors start.

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