Only four days remain before the Orioles’ annual FanFest event commences without the chance to announce a significant acquisition via free agency or trade. The ticking of the clock grows louder. It can’t drown out the angst emanating from a fan base that lost patience shortly after the final out of the 2017 season.
Could the team make a move later this week?
“I hope so,” said executive vice president Dan Duquette. “I’m trying, I’m trying. I hope so.
“We’re still talking to a number of teams on the trade front and some players that we’re going to sign prior to the spring, hopefully.”
Constructing the roster is a 12-month endeavor, as Duquette is quick to remind, but he’d certainly like to make news before the doors open Saturday morning at the Baltimore Convention Center. Before lines form outside and forums are held inside.
“It would be good to sign some players before the weekend, for sure,” he said. “That would be a plus.”
The market continues to move at a snail’s pace, with more teams waiting for costs to come down, for agents and rival executives to raise their heels out of the dirt.
“There’s a lot of players still available for Jan. 22,” Duquette said.
* Three players in the organization were included yesterday in Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list - outfielder Austin Hays at No. 21, catcher Chance Sisco at No. 65 and infielder Ryan Mountcastle at No. 71. The trio could contribute this season, the first two already making their major league debuts in September.
The Orioles didn’t have three players crack the list since 2014. Sisco was the lone representative last year.
“That’s encouraging,” Duquette said. “We had five one year (2008) and this is the most we’ve had in a couple of years. It’s good. They’re all young, talented players and it’s good that they’re recognized by the national publications.
“Mountcastle came around in Double-A at the end of the year. Pretty impressive offensive record. Won the batting title in the Carolina League and led the league in extra bases even though he was only there for (88) games.
“Sisco’s been pretty solid the last couple of years. And Hays came on quickly. They all have good capabilities to help the club and they’re young and well-regarded by the other clubs.”
The Orioles will keep playing Mountcastle at third base while determining whether he can handle the move from shortstop or eventually need to try another position.
“We’d like to see if he can make the transition to third base,” Duquette said. “He had about 45 games in Double-A. He’s got a serious, serious bat and pretty solid footspeed. His hands are OK. The question is whether he’s going to have enough arm for the position and we’d like to play that out a little bit more.
“You can always move him to another position, but he seems to be committed to that. And I think from the organization’s perspective it would be good to play that out a little bit more.
“The extra-base hits are what really impress me and the kid’s dynamite against left-handed pitching.”
The Orioles will invite outfielder DJ Stewart to major league camp and they’re deciding whether to include Mountcastle in the group of non-roster players.
“I think we need a few more infielders in there,” Duquette said, “so that’s under consideration.”
* Outfielder Joey Rickard bats from the right side but throws with his left hand, which is a rarity in baseball. He’s only the second Orioles position player to do it since 1954, according to STATS Inc.
Can you name the other one? Answer to follow.
* Jonathan Schoop finished seventh on MLB Network’s “Top 10 Second Basemen Right Now!” program that aired over the weekend.
Schoop, making his debut on the list, finished one spot ahead of the Angels’ Ian Kinsler and one behind the Red Sox’s Dustin Pedroia.
Here’s the list:
Jose Altuve, Astros
Robinson Canó, Mariners
Brian Dozier, Twins
Daniel Murphy, Nationals
DJ LeMahieu, Rockies
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Jonathan Schoop, Orioles
Ian Kinsler, Angels
Neil Walker, free agent
Cesár Hernández, Phillies
With all of the talk about moving Manny Machado to shortstop, I haven’t heard anything of substance regarding Schoop switching from second to third base. A team again preaching the need to improve defensively isn’t inclined to put multiple players to different positions, though Schoop made 22 starts at third in the minors in 2011 and 14 with the Orioles in 2014.
“For me, I don’t want to sign anybody who can’t defend,” manager Buck Showalter said last week on 105.7 The Fan. “If you look back at some of the things that we did that made us successful, we defended at every spot and we’ve gotten away from that.”
* Showalter didn’t agree with the program’s rankings at third base, where Machado placed eighth, and right field, where the Red Sox’s Mookie Betts was third behind the Nationals’ Bryce Harper and the Yankees’ Aaron Judge.
“How do you have Manny there?” Showalter asked.
“Did you see the right fielders? They had Mookie Betts third. Really? Mookie Betts is the best defensive right fielder I’ve ever seen. He’s that good. And what a difference he is playing right field in that ballpark in Fenway. I wish they’d move him to another position.”
* Answer: Outfielder Carl Warwick is the other Orioles position player to bat right-handed and throw left-handed. Warwick appeared in nine games and had 17 plate appearances in 1965 after the Orioles purchased his contract from the Cardinals in June. They traded him to the Cubs in March 1966 for catcher Vic Roznovsky.
Warwick attended Sunset High School in Dallas and Texas Christian University.
Thirty-two left-handed pitchers for the Orioles have batted from the right side, according to STATS Inc., though 16 didn’t record a plate appearance. The list includes Tanner Scott, Wei-Yin Chen, Dave McNally, Jesse Orosco, Jimmy Key, Ken Holtzman, Doug Johns, Steve Kline, Rick Krivda, Garrett Olson and Wesley Wright.