The rotation was the Orioles’ primary concern before and during the 2017 season and it remains long after Rays reliever Chaz Roe struck out rookie Trey Mancini for the final out at Tropicana Field.
It dominates, but it doesn’t distract.
There’s other serious business that needs to get done before opening day. Try creating a mock lineup and count the number of left-handed hitters in it.
Let’s put a right-hander on the mound for the opposition. Let’s try to stay in step with manager Buck Showalter.
Tim Beckham, SS
Manny Machado, 3B
Jonathan Schoop, 2B
Chris Davis, 1B
Adam Jones, CF
Mark Trumbo, DH
Trey Mancini, LF
Caleb Joseph, C
Austin Hays, RF
See the problem here? Davis is the only left-handed hitter.
(You also see that my cleanup hitter batted .215 this season with 195 strikeouts in 128 games, but try to focus on the issue of an unbalanced lineup.)
Chance Sisco bats from the left side, but he isn’t assured of breaking camp with the team. He has to earn a spot and he’s not likely to get the bulk of the starts in the early portion of the season.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette said he can fit a left-handed bat in the outfield or at designated hitter. It would be a platoon in the latter scenario with Trumbo on the roster. Hays could be assigned to Triple-A Norfolk or serve as a fourth or fifth outfielder, but he’s in right field in my late-December lineup because I don’t have many choices.
Anthony Santander is a switch-hitter who retains Rule 5 status for the first 44 days of the 2018 season, so he’s expected to break camp with the team. But there’s no way that he should be projected as the starting right fielder with only 31 plate appearances and the ongoing evaluation of his defense. It could happen, of course, but he currently projects as a reserve who hadn’t played above the Single-A level before joining the organization and is likely headed back to the minors once the Orioles are allowed to option him.
Duquette acquired Jaycob Brugman from the Athletics on Nov. 22 for a player to be named later who turned out to be minor league pitcher Jake Bray. He has a chance to be part of a right field platoon, with three hits in only 18 at-bats against left-handers in the majors and a .280 average in 143 plate appearances against right-handers. But I’m not putting him in my lineup with the uncertainty over his chances of being on the opening day roster.
I’m more likely to include him in Triple-A Norfolk’s lineup, but that’s a separate blog entry.
Machado’s move to shortstop or another team could allow the Orioles to put a left-handed bat in their infield. I’ll stop beating the Mike Moustakas drum unless his price comes down. If it does, I’ll be John Bonham performing “Moby Dick.” The song won’t remain the same, since I don’t play any musical instruments, but I digress ...
This club needs to figure out how it’s going to stop leaning so heavily to the right. A corner outfield spot seems to be the most logical place to insert a left-handed bat. The identity to be determined.
There are no rumblings about a reunion with Seth Smith, a free agent after batting .258/.340/.433 in 111 games. Hyun Soo Kim isn’t walking through that door - he’s back in Korea - and Pedro Álvarez isn’t getting near an outfielder’s glove if he returns for a third stint with the Orioles.
Jon Jay makes perfect sense for the Orioles and they’ve had internal discussions about him the past two winters, but there must be dissenters because they keep bypassing him. The free agent market also includes Carlos González, Melky Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, Jarrod Dyson, Ichiro Suzuki and Michael Saunders.
They shouldn’t settle for just anyone, of course. They don’t need Travis Snider 2.0. But they’ve got to tilt the lineup a little more toward the left before March 29.
I’ll keep pushing for Jay while waiting for my Moustakas solo.