Key questions the Orioles face as the offseason begins

Finishing in last place is not what the Orioles organization or their fans had in mind. Not for the 2017 season. Not after leading the league in wins from 2012-2016.

Not after the Orioles began the year 22-10. On May 9 they had the best record in the majors, playing .688 ball. That was better than three teams that would go on to win 101 or more games.

Also not after where the Orioles stood heading into September. On the night of Aug. 30, the Orioles won their seventh straight game. They were 1 ½ games behind the Twins for the second wild card and 2 ½ behind the Yankees for the first wild card at that time. But in going 75-87, the Orioles finished 10 games behind the Twins. Only the White Sox and Tigers won fewer games in the American League.

But after the Orioles had that winning streak and moved to the doorstep of a playoff berth, they fell back. And it was an epic fall. They lost their last five games and 19 of the last 23. They went 7-22 since that win streak ended.

Now today, another offseason begins. Some fans may feel the team that fell into last place with Sunday’s loss, will have a hard time moving out of that position for next year. Others may feel the club is not that far away from becoming a contender again.

The offseason begins with a lot of questions:

* How will the Orioles fix a broken rotation? Will they add a significant free agent pitcher or pitchers and are they prepared to spend more than they did for Ubaldo Jiménez for instance and play in the deeper end of the pool?

* Will the club consider trading any players that have a contract ending after 2018. This list includes Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Adam Jones and Brad Brach?

* How many young players will impact the 2018 team and are the Orioles prepared to turn over right field to Austin Hays?

* Will either or both Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter be Orioles past 2018 as their contracts have a year left as well?

* How can the Orioles reshape an offense that is too homer-reliant?

Some of these questions may result in answers that the fanbase supports and some may not. But one thing seems certain - it is a pretty vital offseason for the Orioles and it figures to be anything but boring.

The draft: The Orioles have the No. 11 pick in the first round of the 2018 draft, according to The Orioles tied with Pittsburgh and Oakland for the ninth-worst record in MLB this year. But they will pick No. 11. Per this article, when two or more teams share the same record, the team that had the lesser record in the 2016 season gets the higher pick in the 2018 draft. In 2016, Oakland won 69 games, Pittsburgh won 78 and the Orioles won 89.

Picking No. 11 would be the Orioles’ highest selection since they took pitcher Kevin Gausman No. 4 overall out of LSU in the 2012 draft.

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