Because You Asked - State of the Union

The first post-World Series mailbag has been emptied. Much like my hopes for a Game 7.

There’s nothing better in sports. And it delays the actual offseason for one more day.

I’ve grown to love the period of calm. A few small-scale transactions and some announcements on awards, but that’s about it.

(I picked the Astros in six games, but I digress …)

Now we’re ripe for rumors. I’ve already seen one prediction that the Orioles will sign Carlos Correa.

I predict that I’ll keep receiving the same questions no matter how many times I answer them. And that I’ll get a bunch that have nothing to do with the Orioles or baseball.

I’m fine with all of it. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many sequels.

Just a quick reminder that my mailbag would draw lots of interest on the free agent market, while yours is a candidate to be non-tendered.

What is the status of Matt Harvey at this point with the Orioles, and do you think it’s time for him to retire?
Harvey is a free agent who underwent knee surgery in September. The Orioles made it possible for Harvey to serve his 60-game suspension and to pitch in Triple-A. He never made it back to the majors. Who am I to tell a guy to retire? I hate it when people keep suggesting that I do it. Harvey wants to try again in 2023 and there should be a minor league deal out there for him. Maybe not with the Orioles, but someone could take a low-risk chance on him.

Who will be the Orioles' second baseman on opening day?
So many ways to go with this one. Ramón Urías could drag his Gold Glove over to second. Jordan Westburg could make the club out of spring training. Jorge Mateo could slide over from shortstop. Terrin Vavra could win the job in camp. The Orioles could look outside the organization. Probably too soon for Connor Norby.

Do you think the Orioles will pick up the option on Jordan Lyles for 2023?
This is purely a prediction. I have no idea. I’ll say that they do based on the same desire for a veteran innings eater and clubhouse leader, and at a reasonable cost. But they’ll still prioritize a more impactful arm. They want the depth. But I honestly don’t know how it’s going to play out. He could return to the free agent market and the Orioles could try to re-sign him.

Any concerns by the Orioles about Kremer throwing more innings in the WBC?
There would be more if the first WBC game was Oct. 6, but he’s getting ample rest. Of course, there’s going to be some concerns about players ramping up earlier than normal for the competition, and especially the pitchers. Fingers will be crossed. But the organization recognizes that it’s an honor to be chosen and important to the players, and it will make the necessary camp adjustments. With fingers crossed.

Is Fort McHenry still at its original location?
It is, according to an industry source with direct knowledge of forts.

Have you heard what changes could be expected in Camden Yards with the state money appropriated for improvement to the stadium?
Still no. The flag court won’t be moved back and raised. I’ll keep saying that an improved scoreboard and PA system are desired by the media. Also, we don’t have any input.

When do regular single game tickets go on sale?
The expectation is early February.

Has any player you've interviewed ever given you an answer that surprised you? Can you share the details with us?
Not sure if this applies, but I once asked Scott Erickson if he had a minute and he said, “Not for you.” Hurtful.

Can you get us some details on what an offensive strategy coach does?
Not until the Orioles announce their 2023 coaching staff and Cody Asche’s promotion. But it’s probably in the description. Helps to formulate a plan against the opposing pitchers, likely with heavy emphasis on analytics. But the specifics will be revealed later, perhaps this month.

Do you think the Orioles will add pieces mostly through trade, mostly through free agency, or some combination?
A combination with more free agency than trades. That’s my prediction. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias is open to either method for upgrading the roster.

What's the dullest part of the offseason for you?
This question.

Wow, OK.
I kid, I kid! Don't be so sensitive. Besides people asking how a mailbag can be conversational like this? I don’t know if there’s necessarily a dull part, though I can’t say that I get excited over tracking the awards. There’s a good chance that I’ll ignore the broadcasts of the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award announcements. But I’ll still have to check whether any Orioles appeared on a ballot. I’ll try to control my breathing.

Do you think the Orioles big move this offseason as far as acquiring a player comes through trade or free agency? Pitcher or position player? I think they need a starting pitcher.
There could be a big move for both a pitcher and a hitter, and it could be via free agency or a trade. I’d just be guessing, which is what we do on Nov. 8. A trade doesn’t require a player’s approval unless it’s in his contract. That makes it easier. But a trade requires a partner, which can make it harder. Oh heck, I don’t know.

Are you going to the winter meetings? And a related question, how do you feel about 5-hour flights?
I’ll be there. My least-favorite assignment of the year. But I’ve had a long reprieve. I was due. At least it’s another sign that the sport is getting back to normal. Should be busier than usual with the national media paying attention to the Orioles. I do not like five-hour flights. I do not like any flights. Can’t sleep, can’t stay comfortable. I prefer the aisle seat, but that means having someone crash into my shoulder every minute. Other than that, I can’t wait for the Winter Meetings.

How disappointed are you that the Rule 5 will most likely not be the offseason highlight event for the Orioles anymore?
I used to joke about spending five days at the Winter Meetings just to bring back a Rule 5 pick. Sometimes two. And then we’d wait for the minor league signings. They’ll happen again – every team has its camp invites and moves made to improve depth in the system - but the Orioles are cleared to aim higher.

There was a report a couple of weeks ago that the Astros will request permission to speak to Sig Mejdal about their GM position if they decide to part ways with James Click. Do you sense that Sig is someone who would want to be a GM if the right opportunity presented itself?
That report ran before the Astros won the World Series, suggesting that anything less might cost Click his job. Should be a moot point now. I can’t speak for Sig, but I assume that he’s at least intrigued by the idea. The Mets reportedly had interest last year. Teams with an affinity for analytics are drawn to him for obvious reasons. They see how the farm system is ranked No. 1, and the team is winning again, finishing above .500 for the first time since 2016. What the Orioles are doing is working, and Mejdal is a huge part of it.

At last weekend's Birdland Members Day, Sig said that one of the things he learned was that the Orioles were more directly dependent on fan involvement than other teams. I assume he means financially reliant on attendance figures, but do you have any idea what he means?
I wasn’t there because I was celebrating my first anniversary – wedding, not MASN – but basically, compared to other markets, Baltimore is a smaller one for large corporations. The Orioles rely on strong support from fans and their corporate community.

Any pet peeves beyond the one you’ve mentioned several times with “could care less?”
Plenty. How much time do you have? It would be nice if people stopped referring to this site as “MASN.com.” I don’t even think that’s a thing. And “MASN,” while definitely a thing, is the network. It isn’t the website where news occasionally breaks. Two different animals.

Who is starting our home opener? Also, can you give me our lineup for that day?
I’m guessing that the opening day starter isn’t on the current roster. And no, except that Adley Rutschman will be catching, Ryan Mountcastle will be the first baseman, and Gunnar Henderson probably will be on the left side of the infield.  

Who’s going to be protected in the Rule 5 draft? And please don't say, "Your mom."
I'd never! Again, I'm guessing here. Pitcher Grayson Rodriguez and shortstop Joey Ortiz are the two no-brainers. Left-hander Drew Rom seems like a lock, but don’t confuse him with NFL quarterback Drew Lock. Pitcher Seth Johnson, acquired from the Rays in the three-team Trey Mancini trade, is recovering from Tommy John surgery and eligible for the Rule 5. I’ll assume that he’s also protected. Noah Denoyer, who signed in 2019 as an undrafted free agent and started for the American League in Sunday’s Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game, seems like a bubble guy. He could make the 40-man. And catcher Maverick Handley also must be considered. That’s six right there.

Matt Holliday is the new Cardinals bench coach. Will son Jackson demand a trade?
Oh good, let’s give fans another reason to worry. The Orioles aren’t leaving Baltimore and Jackson Holliday isn’t leaving the Orioles.

Carlos Correa opted out of his contract with the Twins. Will he sign with the Orioles?
And here we go. Now it’s officially the offseason.

So no?
Never say never, but I still don’t think the Orioles will engage in, and win, a bidding war for Correa. The payroll is going up, but how high? And there isn’t a screaming need at shortstop. Correa is a special talent and there’s the Elias connection. I get that. I can’t completely dismiss it. And there will be more “sources” claiming that the Orioles made him a huge offer. I’m ready for it.

Who was the best pitcher after Jim Palmer who was originally signed by and only pitched for the Orioles and their affiliates?
This question fascinated and tortured me. I shared it with friends and colleagues. We were stumped. There doesn’t appear to be an obvious candidate. Guys like Dave McNally, Mike Mussina and Mike Flanagan were traded or left via free agency. Mike Cuellar, Scott McGregor and Chris Tillman arrived from other organizations. There are some who only pitched for the Orioles in the majors but also were in other organizations. Heck, it might be John Means. I’m stumped. I’ll open this one to everybody else. Give me your picks.

When will Mike Elias cross from South Baltimore to downtown by walking on the water across the Harbor?
And ruin a nice pair of shoes? No way.

Has the Hall of Fame revealed the candidates on the Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee ballot?
I wish they’d go back to a shorter name. Anyway, yes, there are eight players, including some former Orioles: Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro and Curt Schilling. The results will be announced Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. on MLB Network. Any candidate who receives votes on 75 percent of the ballots will earn election to the Hall of Fame and will be inducted on July 23, 2023, along with any electees who emerge from the 2023 Baseball Writers’ Association of America election, to be announced on Jan. 24, 2023. I kept voting for Murphy until he lost his eligibility, and I finally began doing the same with McGriff, Bonds and Clemens.

Which actor will portray you in the movie version of "School of Roch"?
We’re currently in negotiations with John Cusack. His only demand is that he’s allowed to say anything.

I see what you did there.
That’s not a question.

Any word yet on when pitchers and catchers report to camp?
Nothing has been announced. I’ll pass it along when it’s available. Don’t rush the process. The World Series just ended.

Is it true that Mike Elias has been blasting Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" and John Cafferty's "Hearts on Fire" in his office in anticipation of the offseason?
I’m going with “no,” but I love how excited fans are about the Orioles. Now, show it by filling the seats at Camden Yards.

Have the Orioles considered putting the left field wall on wheels, like an extendo-wall? When the visitors are up, roll that sucker back. When the O's are up, slide it forward.
This is probably a good place to stop.

Random take Tuesday
Hyde and Rutschman finalists in BBWAA voting
 

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