Christmas Because You Asked

If visions of sugarplums are dancing in your heads on this Christmas morning, you may want to dilute the eggnog.

You also might want to skip the malls in the future and do your one-stop shopping on this blog with all of your Orioles questions. But they tend to repeat like garlic shrimp.

Chestnuts are roasting on the hot stove as we stay in a festive mood. Santa has his bag of toys and I have my mailbag.

I’m not much of a dancer, but I’ve gotten Blitzen on eggnog. And so much for a silent night. I tend to get chatty.

But seriously ...

I also tend to get the same inquiries over and over, no matter how many times I respond to them. But that’s fine. I haven’t run out of sequel ideas.

Are the Orioles going to trade Manny Machado?
Maybe.

Is that the best you can do?
Definitely. (And that’s what she said.) I do know that it remains a possibility. The Orioles have not completely moved away from it. Talks haven’t gone ice cold. Teams are still “poking around,” as it’s been described to me. If someone is willing to part with the right pitching, the Orioles aren’t going to plug their collective ears and drown out the offer. But they also can’t become so consumed with negotiations that they lose out on more free agents that fall off the board or available players who are dealt to other teams. They have too many needs and some very important decisions to make and it’s wise to proceed for now as though Machado is staying.

Why didn’t the Orioles trade Machado last winter while his value was higher?
Because they were coming off a wild card berth and didn’t think it was the right time. Something about trying to win a World Series.

Do I detect a note of sarcasm?
Maybe.

Why don’t the Orioles just sign Machado to an extension?
I can give you at least 300 million reasons why it’s not going to happen. The Orioles say they simply can’t support that kind of contract. They’d be trying to trade him a couple years into it.

Why don’t the Orioles trade Chris Davis instead of Machado and be rid of that contract?
Yeah, because it’s that easy. Teams are lining up.

More sarcasm?
You think? The Orioles would have to eat so much of the contract, their games would be moved from MASN to The Food Network. And right now, Davis is the only left-handed hitter assured of being in the lineup. Craft a mock lineup as if opening day arrived later this afternoon and you’ll see what I mean. You can’t put Chance Sisco behind the plate while he hasn’t officially made the team. You’d have to put Jaycob Brugman or switch-hitter Anthony Santander in right field and that’s not how manager Buck Showalter would do it. But forget all of that. The contract and Davis’ lack of production the past two seasons make it virtually impossible.

Jonathan-Schoop-run-black-sidebar.jpgWill the Orioles try to sign Jonathan Schoop to an extension?
That’s the expectation. Probably more of a backburner issue at the moment as they try to fill out their rotation and find a left-handed bat, left-handed reliever and utility infielder, but they’d like to get a feel for Schoop’s interest in bypassing free agency. They recognize his importance to the team on the field and inside the clubhouse. He’s a good influence.

Why didn’t the Orioles trade Zach Britton before he got hurt? Now he’d be someone else’s problem.
Last winter didn’t happen for the same reason I gave for Machado. The wild card, the desire to make another run at a championship. They almost had a deal with the Astros at the non-waiver deadline, so it’s not like he was untouchable. And they were listening to offers earlier this month at the Winter Meetings, but teams weren’t offering a sufficient package for him and they didn’t see the point in just dumping him.

What’s your favorite Christmas memory from your childhood?
There are too many to narrow it down to just one, but nothing was more exciting to me than waking up and finding my stocking at the foot of my bed. Just the idea that Santa sneaked into my bedroom and left it there was such a thrill. And then my sister would outrace me down the stairs for the presents. Every ... single ... time. We still joke about her almost knocking me over the railing. My first exposure to a hip check.

Which Rule 5 picks will the Orioles keep?
Are we counting Santander? Left-hander Nestor Cortes would be the early favorite because he’s left-handed and could be used in the rotation or bullpen. He doesn’t throw hard and I’ve heard a comparison to former Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland. The Orioles could use him in the same fashion, as a multi-inning lefty in the bullpen to cover for starters making early exits.

How many pitchers are the Orioles bringing to spring training?
The current count is around 34 and the Orioles still need a couple of starters. But they could acquire two and subtract two pitchers from the 40-man roster. It’s a fluid situation. It better come with a lot of mounds.

Does Austin Hays make the club in spring training?
He’ll be given a chance to start in right field or back up at all three spots. The rest is up to him, and whether the Orioles make moves that sabotage his chances. He’s going to be in Baltimore at some point over the summer if he stays healthy. The kid is legit.

Who’s in the rotation if the season started today?
I ran my guesses past someone in the organization who congratulated me for matching his picks. And it was nothing to celebrate. The Orioles have a lot of work to do. Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Miguel Castro and Cortes. This is why the season doesn’t start in December. And no offense to anyone in the group. They can all contribute in 2018. But Bundy and Gausman are the only guarantees.

How does Santa get in a house if it doesn’t have a chimney?
Before we had a fireplace built in our house, my mother said she gave Santa a key to our front door. Such a trusting woman.

Who plays third base if Machado moves to shortstop or is traded?
There are no obvious candidates, which is added to the list of issues on this club. Like I’ve pointed out, Tim Beckham’s made five career starts at third. Put Beckham at second and Schoop at third and you’re weaker at two positions.

Did the Cubs really offer shortstop Addison Russell, outfielder Albert Almora Jr. and left-hander Mike Montgomery for Machado?
I wrote that those names came up in talks, among many others. Never said those three were offered together, though one source from outside the Orioles organization insists that it’s true. Of course, no one wants the names to go public in case there’s no trade.

Are the Orioles really thinking about bringing back Chris Tillman and Miguel González?
It’s certainly been discussed. The non-2017 version of Tillman on a pillow contract would be a steal. But the Orioles couldn’t fix him this summer and they’d need to be convinced that the problems were in the past. González never should have been let go while he still had a minor league option, no matter how much he was set to earn. He would have been back in the rotation at some point. But again, it’s not my money. I have my own problems.

The Orioles signed four more minor league free agents. When do we start printing the World Series tickets?
Hopefully before that joke becomes funny.

Are Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter coming back after 2018?
I’m setting the line at one of them. That’s the best I can do right now.

Why would the Orioles consider making Britton a starter again?
For the reasons I stated in yesterday’s article. It’s a consideration, and nothing more at this point, due to his rising salary, the desire to keep him and the need for starters - a left-hander bringing special appeal. He can close for someone else or maybe start for them. It’s worth a discussion and it allows the Professor Hinkles who follow the team to freak out and overreact again and melt Frosty and fill that gap between 7 a.m. and 7:12 a.m.

More sarcasm?
You think?

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