To say the least, there is some skepticism out there that the Orioles’ decision to reload and not rebuild is the right one.
Fans have seen the Chicago Cubs go from 101 losses in 2012 and 96 the next year to World Series champions in 2016. The Houston Astros lost 106 games in the 2011 season, then followed that by losing 107 and 111 the next two years. But they won 101 games and the World Series this past season.
Both clubs went from the outhouse to the penthouse. They made a lot of good moves along the way. They got a lot of high draft picks along the way.
But the Orioles are not as down as those teams were. They lost 19 of their last 23 last season, had the worst rotation ERA in team history and still only lost 87 games. Yes, it was a last-place finish, but 87 defeats won’t even get them a top 10 draft pick.
So following the plans of the Cubs and Astros probably doesn’t work for them. The Orioles have a lineup that can produce homers, a defense that is good in the infield and a bullpen that has been one of the American League’s best the last few years. They look like the 1927 Yankees compared to those bad Cubs and Astros teams.
But some fans still believe - and the future could prove them right - that the Orioles have too far to go to be a playoff team in 2018. The rotation has two pitchers right now and needs some major work. Fans will be skeptical if the Orioles try to piece a rotation together based more on potential and hope than track record and previous performance.
Putting together a questionable rotation would be inconsistent with their stated public desire to keep pending free agents like Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Zach Britton. If they are going for one last hurrah with this present group, they have to build a rotation that can compete in what is probably the toughest division in baseball.
The Yankees and Red Sox are back on top with strong rotations, solid farm systems and deep pockets. The Orioles have beaten them before, but coming off 87 losses, there is reason to doubt it will happen next year.
As the Winter Meetings are set to begin Sunday night, the Orioles front office is on the spot. It needs to produce a 2018 rotation that can beat the big boys, one that features only two members right now.
The Orioles truly need to win games come April to prove that last year’s last-place finish was a fluke or a bump in the road. But as some starting pitchers start to come off the free agent board, the Orioles are not winning at the moment in the court of public opinion. Many of their long-time fans are doubters as the baseball world is set to converge on Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
By the way, “MASN All-Access” will stream a live show for three hours via its Facebook page next Monday through Wednesday from the Winter Meetings. Click here for more information.