Because You Asked - Dawn of Justice

The Orioles are three-quarters through the 2019 season and, much to the chagrin of the most optimistic of fans, a winning record no longer is a mathematical possibility.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve responded to the same questions. Of how many times I’ve made a mockery of the mailbag format for interacting with readers.

You keep coming back, so you must get the joke. Or you just keep coming back and are thinking, ‘What joke?’ In which case ... never mind.

You ask and I answer and you often ask again, or get a friend to do it. And we perform this kind of slow dance that would feel like middle school except in this case I actually worked up the nerve to approach you.

Let’s get started on the latest sequel. And just know that if this blog is sold and moves to another state, I’ll make certain that the “Because You Asked” series goes with it.

Are the Orioles for sale?
I’ve been told unequivocally no. And I can’t find a single person who actually has evidence to the contrary - there are multiple reasons why it couldn’t possibly happen right now - but the rumor persists. Because some people are handling the story as if wearing grease-covered mittens and it takes on a life of its own. The dots being connected are ridiculous. But hey, give me solid proof and I’ll start cashing in my CDs and make an offer.

You do know that your collection of heavy metal CDs isn’t the same thing, right?

Any chance that the Orioles will cash in CD?
Stop it.

Why won’t someone with the Orioles issue a statement squashing the sale rumor?
Would probably prefer to ignore rather than react, though maybe that changes later. But you know the expression about not dignifying something with an answer?

Why do the Orioles lay down when they play the Yankees?
This team hasn’t quit against anyone. Let’s not confuse outmanned for lack of effort or passion or pride. And by the way, the Yankees are really good. So are the Astros. They don’t get much better. The Orioles are in the first year of a rebuild. And they pushed the Yankees to the final out Wednesday. Games that get out of hand early suddenly have the tying run at the plate in the late innings. Of course there are the really gross 23-2 exceptions. But this team grinds.

How hard has it been to cover this team?
Easier than last year, when there was a total collapse while the Orioles were supposed to be making one last run at a playoff berth. The window was slamming shut and they forgot to move their fingers. And other appendages. Jobs were on the line. The teardown began with popular veterans traded in July. It was dead team walking after a while. The expectations were much, much lower this season. Far less drama, too. And I’ve found that my paycheck is deposited no matter the team’s record, so I have that going for me.

Are the Orioles moving to Nashville?
One branch of the rumor tree. I’ve also heard Las Vegas, but I’m rooting for Carroll County to shorten my commute.

Who are the Orioles bringing up in September?
They’re still formulating that plan. A third catcher, which likely is Austin Wynns. They’ll recall pitchers on the 40-man who have been back and forth all summer. If they aren’t with the team on Aug. 31, they’re headed that way. Austin Hays could join the outfield if healthy and Cedric Mullins also is a consideration, especially with the Orioles using so many infielders in the outfield. But he really needs to get on a roll. Or the Orioles could decide that speed and defense are sufficient reasons to promote him again. I do know that Brandon Hyde and Buck Showalter share the same preference for limiting the number of players crammed in the clubhouse and dugout.

What about Ryan Mountcastle?
That’s a tough one. Only 22 and still learning to play first base and left field. And do the Orioles want to start his clock? But he has to go on the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft, so they’d just be doing it a few months early. He’s certainly earned it with 21 home runs this season.

So you don’t know?
I was hoping you wouldn’t notice.

Are the Orioles moving to Saskatchewan?
Anywhere to get away from the humidity.

Which players are part of the rebuild moving forward?
I’m reluctant to state with any authority how the front office feels about certain guys because that’s their business and they keep locking the door during meetings. And let me tell you that pressing a glass against a wall only works on television.

Maybe you’re using the wrong end of the glass.
That’s not a question. And ... shut up.

Is Renato Núñez a piece for next season and beyond?
Beyond is tricky, but Núñez’s power, age and salary make him quite appealing to the Orioles. This guy could hit 30-plus home runs this season. The Orioles will take it and keep working on his defense.

What about Anthony Santander?
Are we going down the entire roster? Yes, “Tony” seems to have sealed a roster spot unless he strikes out in every at-bat next spring, in which case the Orioles might option him. Few players have taken advantage of an opportunity like Santander. You can put Núñez and Hanser Alberto on that list.

What are the Orioles going to do with Jonathan Villar?
This is a fascinating topic. They tried to trade him but there wasn’t a suitable return. He’s making $4.8 million this season and is due another raise in arbitration that could push him to around $6 million. That’s a hefty sum for a rebuilding club shaving payroll. He’s a non-tender candidate, though it would be a bold decision considering his production and how he’s been a regular in the middle of the infield. Letting him walk for nothing would have to sting a little, right?

Who are the pending free agents on the club?
It’s “free agent.” Mark Trumbo is the only one and he won’t be re-signed. That part of the beat writer offseason is a breeze.

How would you grade Brandon Hyde as a manager?
I didn’t think you meant as a hairdresser. It’s going to be incomplete for a while. As long as the talent level is in its current range and the front office is still building up various departments and implementing a plan that can’t be rushed. It would be ridiculous to judge Hyde by the team’s record. I’ll repeat that the Orioles are playing hard. There’s lots of energy and a thousand reasons why it could drain out. Hyde should get credit for how they keep grinding, right? He hasn’t lost the clubhouse. Guys aren’t tuning him out. His messages are received. And the losing hasn’t beaten them down. So for that, I’d say he’s off to a good start. But no grading.

When can we expect Adley Rutschman in the majors?
I’m not counting on 2020, considering that 2019 won’t end with him any higher than low Single-A Delmarva if he’s part of the playoff roster. Anything is possible after that. And I’d never put a ceiling on the kid - though I just came real close - because he’s a special talent.

Harvey-Delivers-White-sidebar.jpgWill we see Hunter Harvey in Baltimore this summer?
I’d need to know his innings limit. He absolutely has one. The Orioles will shut him down at some point, happy to get him through the season healthy. He’s being used in relief, which led me to believe that they became so frustrated by the bullpen implosions and constant shuttling of guys with high ERAs and WHIPs that they’d bring him up. It really depends on when they want to take the ball from him for the last time.

Is it true that Adley Rutschman might buy the team?
Now you’re just trolling me.

Is Brady Anderson still in the organization?
I get this one all the time. I was told yes. Just not with the same title and set of responsibilities.

How much is the 40-man roster going to change by spring training?
Lots. Give Mike Elias a full offseason and watch out.

Any predictions on who’s coming off?
I’m not comfortable guessing who’s going to be unemployed. But if you’re a pitcher who’s been up and down and the ERA and WHIP aren’t getting any lower, you might need to start lowering them. And if you were acquired by the previous front office and have no attachments to the new guys, you might be more vulnerable. This is all based on logic.

Who are some of the prospects who need to be protected before the Rule 5 draft?
There’s Ryan Mountcastle, of course. Also pitchers Cody Sedlock, Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer and outfielders Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna. Pitcher Gray Fenter wasn’t protected last year and teams passed, but will they again?

Do you expect Chris Davis to be on the roster in 2020?
This again? Yes, at the moment that I’m fielding this question. Mike Elias has cited the contract multiple times. Three years remaining on it. They won’t be able to trade him and it’s hard to imagine agent Scott Boras agreeing to some sort of buyout. I suppose it’s always possible that ownership decides to cut ties no matter how much money is on the table, but I haven’t been given any indication that they’ve reached that point. Then again, who’s going to pass along that nugget of information? Anyway, yes, right now I’d say he’s on the 2020 opening day roster. And please stop suggesting that he doesn’t care and isn’t working to get better.

Do you expect the Orioles to make any small-scale free agent signings?
Yes. I think they’ll try to find innings eaters on the market. Someone like Dan Straily, but without all the home runs. Or Nate Karns, but without the injuries. Team-friendly deals with the potential for high upside. And someone who could be moved at the deadline. There will be plenty of minor league deals handed out in an attempt to improve the depth and give Hyde more options at the Triple-A level.

Which of the current starters beyond Dylan Bundy and John Means has the best chance of staying in the rotation next season?
We’ll need to see who’s added to the staff before opening day, but Asher Wojciechowski is creating a strong argument for consideration. No one else comes to mind. Don’t forget that Alex Cobb is expected to be ready for spring training after undergoing hip and knee procedures. I checked again and nothing has changed.

Are the Orioles moving to my old elementary school?
Only if they move back the fences.

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