Wondering about your worries in a new year

Any headaches out there? Anyone popping Tums like they’re Skittles? Anyone chugging Pepto like it’s your job?

I’m kinda/sorta on vacation through Tuesday. I’ve been scouting the Tampa/St. Petersburg area in case I need to alert the Orioles of any changes before their next series against the Rays. And there’s that trip to George Steinbrenner Field when they play the Yankees in spring training.

If I’m forced to sleep late or sit by a pool or watch football at a bar, so be it.

The laptop is never far from reach, so I’ll be able to respond if there’s actual news. But my goal is to stay away from Twitter like it’s transmitting the stomach flu.

As long as some of you are hurting from last night’s festivities, let’s add to the pain and consider your biggest Orioles concerns as the offseason enters a new year. It’s keeping with the theme of suffering.

How would you arrange or replace the following?

Who’s playing right field?

If the season started today, I suppose former Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard would serve as Mark Trumbo’s replacement. You may notice a drop in power, though his hair game is on point.

Rickard-Swings-White-Sidebar.jpgRickard offers more speed and could develop into a leadoff hitter, but the Orioles would like him to serve as a fourth or fifth outfielder as he continues his education in the majors.

You’ve read the list of free agents who interest the Orioles. They all come with pluses and minuses. There’s no perfect solution. But they potentially fit a budget that’s not going to expand much beyond attempts to re-sign Trumbo and raises to arbitration-eligible players.

Who’s getting on base?

The Orioles routinely rank near or at the bottom in on-base percentage and vowed again this winter to improve. Hyun Soo Kim was a step in the right direction last year. Who’s next?

New catcher Welington Castillo owns a career .318 OBP in seven major league seasons, the exact same as Matt Wieters in eight seasons. And Castillo thus far is the biggest move of the offseason.

Rule 5 outfielder Aneury Tavarez posted a .379 OBP at Double-A Portland last season, which brings the same level of comfort as an itchy blanket. Nothing against Tavarez, of course. He was a smart pick. But the Orioles don’t know whether he’s going to break camp with the them, let alone whether Eastern League skills transfer to the majors in one year.

The rotation

No need to expand on the title. This pretty much covers it.

The Red Sox also have six starters for five spots, but they include Chris Sale, David Price and Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello. It’s not quite the same in Baltimore.

The Orioles like their depth and are buoyed by the rotations’ ERA in September, lowest in the majors. The starters had a 5.15 ERA in the first half and a 4.24 ERA in the second.

They figure to head into spring training with Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Yovani Gallardo, Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley, with a trade possible later in camp. They’re banking on Gausman and Bundy to really emerge in 2017 and on Gallardo to have a bounce-back season now that he’s healthy. On Jimenez to stay on his late-season roll and Miley to be more consistent now that he’s not pressing to impress.

The rotation’s 4.72 ERA ranked 24th in the majors. The Orioles are convinced that it can climb. Are you?

Other teams in the division are making bold moves

Speaking of Chris Sale ...

The Red Sox traded for Sale because they could, and they also signed first baseman Mitch Moreland. The Yankees signed Matt Holiday and Aroldis Chapman. The Blue Jays signed Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce and remain in talks with Jose Bautista.

The Orioles aren’t trying to keep up. They know who they are, as manager Buck Showalter likes to say. Which means they know their strengths and limitations. Life goes on.

Doesn’t mean you have to like it or approve, of course.

The window is closing

Tillman is a pending free agent next winter and J.J. Hardy could join him, depending on his option. The 2018 list includes Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Brad Brach.

Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette also are under contract through 2018. Major changes could be on the horizon.

Letting the market play out makes fans fidgety under the most ideal circumstances. How about now?

Feel free to add to the list. Maybe you’re more concerned about the loss of power if Trumbo doesn’t re-sign. Or the club’s refusal to consider trade proposals for Britton and Machado. Or the pressure that Caleb Joseph must be facing to get off the RBI schneid. Or who’s going to have a cooler nickname than “Vanimal?”

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