Jorge Mateo is the sixth Orioles player to produce back-to-back 30-steal seasons, joining Cedric Mullins in 2021-22, Brian Roberts in 2006-09, Corey Patterson in 2006-07, Al Bumbry in 1979-80, and Luis Aparicio (1963-64).
Will there be a 2024 season for Mateo in Baltimore?
Could it happen as a visiting player?
The Orioles are preparing this week for the Division Series, but Mateo ranks among their big off-season decisions. His first year of arbitration netted him a $2 million contract, a raise from $709,500. He’s batting .217/.267/.340 in 116 games and the Orioles are loaded with young shortstops, on their roster and below.
Gunnar Henderson has made 64 starts, compared to 95 by Mateo, a former top 100 prospect in three organizations. Jordan Westburg hasn’t played shortstop but made 156 starts in the minors. The Orioles seem to have figured out how to create room by using him at second base and third base.
Joey Ortiz made his major league debut this summer and got into 15 games. He slashed .321/.378/.507 with 30 doubles and four triples in 88 games with Norfolk, the bat beginning to catch up with the glove, and his versatility makes him a possible replacement for Ramón Urías – who’s first-year arbitration eligible - if the Orioles go that route.
Let’s not bump guys off the roster in early October. We’re just kicking around some ideas and possibilities. And it’s the reality of being this good and this deep. Can’t keep ‘em all.
Mateo won a Fielding Bible Award last year, the first Oriole honored at short, and posted a 2.4 dWAR per baseball-reference.com that’s dropped to 0.8 this summer. He had 14 defensive runs saved (DRS) and 11 outs above average (OAA) in 2022, and three and one, respectively, in fewer games going into the weekend. He misplayed a ground ball in the sixth inning Thursday night for his 11th error.
Manager Brandon Hyde has defended Mateo at every opportunity, through the longest slumps, reminding everyone how he’s a “game-changer” with his speed.
He gets on base, he scores.
Getting on base is the challenge. Mateo hasn’t done it enough. But there’s no denying that he’s a weapon on the basepaths and could influence postseason games coming off the bench if he isn’t starting.
Mateo pinch-ran for Adley Rutschman Saturday night in a scoreless game and swiped his 31st bag without drawing a throw - his jump so big, he was more than halfway to second before Red Sox reliever Josh Winckowski released the ball. He stole his 32nd an inning later after an RBI fielder’s choice, and he scored again.
Put a sprinter on first base in the playoffs. Watch what happens.
* Henderson was voted Most Valuable Oriole, and there’s no argument here. It wasn’t unanimous, but he was the overwhelming winner.
I’m surprised that only six players appeared on ballots – Henderson, Rutschman, Anthony Santander, Kyle Bradish, Félix Bautista and Ryan O’Hearn. Arguments could be made for others. But at least there wasn’t an outrageous pick.
We saw one last year. Remember? But let's move on.
I bring up this year’s ballot as a segue to Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s recent comments about Rutschman.
“Behind the plate, it’s a different vibe since he got here,” Cora said last week. “The kid is like (Joe) Mauer and (Buster) Posey when they showed up. He enjoys playing the game. He hustles all the time. I can talk about him forever.”
* For a little more perspective on the Orioles’ ascent with Hyde, only one other manager has experienced a 100-plus loss season and later a 100-plus win season with the same team.
Hyde entered an exclusive club with Hall of Famer Connie Mack.
The Philadelphia Athletics lost 109 games in 1915, 117 in 1916, 104 in 1919, 106 in 1920 and 100 in 1921.
And Hyde thought he had it rough.
The 1929, 1930 and 1931 teams registered 104, 102 and 107 victories, respectively.
* The Orioles are holding workouts all week at Camden Yards, and fans are invited to attend Wednesday afternoon.
The workout runs from 12:30-2:30 p.m. and complimentary parking is available in Lot A with overflow in Lot B/C. Enter through Gate E.
Lower-level seating is available. Restrooms and limited concession stands are open. Tickets must be claimed at Orioles.com/SoakItIn.
The schedule includes bullpen sessions and live batting practice with a plate umpire.
Media can gather Tuesday evening to watch live BP, sans the plate umpire. However, an ump will be used Thursday afternoon.