It is a question worth asking even though we pretty much know the direction the organization will take: Should the Orioles be rebuilding now after posting a losing record in 2017, and with several veterans not signed beyond 2018?
The Orioles seem much more inclined to be reloading than rebuilding. They are still looking to add to their roster and improve their pitching to make another run for the playoffs in 2018.
But we all know that free agency awaits for four key players after the 2018 season unless they sign extensions before then. This is the group of Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Adam Jones and Brad Brach.
That is a big chunk of the team, one that includes the team’s best individual talent, unofficial team captain and two key late-inning relievers.
Most teams that are considered to be rebuilding have the profile of several seasons of losing, and they are looking to acquire young talent to build for the future.
But don’t the Orioles have an impressive group of young talent already? They have Jonathan Schoop (age 25), Trey Mancini (25), Machado (25), Dylan Bundy (24), Kevin Gausman (26) and Mychal Givens (27).
Beyond that there is Tanner Scott (23), Gabriel Ynoa (24), and Anthony Santander (22). Joey Rickard is 26, Donnie Hart is 27 and Tim Beckham is 27. Hunter Harvey, finally healthy, could have an impact for the team at some point next season. He is 22.
We’ve already seen numerous young players in Baltimore, and could see more next year. This long list includes pitchers Jimmy Yacabonis, Stefan Crichton, Jesus Liranzo, Chris Lee, Mike Wright, Alec Asher and Yefry Ramirez. All are currently on the 40-man roster.
A rebuilding team would be looking to add and acquire players just like some of the talent that the Orioles already have. At the same time, the team has a record of 113-124 (.477) since the 2016 All-Star break and has had losing records in seven of the last nine months. The Orioles have struggled to win with this core group for a season and half now.
But the lineup is still capable of scoring enough to win. The bullpen is deep. The defense has been good in the past and needs to get back to that. The farm system is trending up. I just don’t think many teams would choose to rebuild in such circumstances. Right now the Orioles have a clubhouse and front office that wants to go for it.
So both have work to do. The front office needs to acquire pitching to give the rest of the team a chance. The players can’t go 7-22 right after they get back in the race with a seven-game winning steak.
For now, it’s reload and not rebuild