A few Orioles questions that must be addressed later

As the Orioles’ offseason moves into a new week, there are lingering questions surrounding the club that won’t immediately be resolved.

There’s no real rush. Hires need to be made on the coaching staff and the minor league side has to be completed - with new titles part of the process - before the roster becomes more of a priority.

However, my patience wears thin - like today’s glitch in our system that deleted my morning entry and had me starting over - and I’m sharing a few of my curiosities.

For example:

What’s going to happen with Chris Davis?

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias confirmed that Davis will be with the Orioles in spring training. However, he said nothing about opening day and beyond.

Davis-Chucks-Bat-After-Strikeout-Gray-Sidebar.jpgDavis has three more years left on his franchise-record $161 million deal that includes $42 million deferred. Elias is fully in charge, but it doesn’t decide whether ownership eats the remaining salary. He isn’t the one handling the menu.

Manager Brandon Hyde kept Davis in the lower portion of the lineup, with 13 starts in the sixth slot, 41 in the seventh and 24 in the eighth. Davis slashed .189/.274/.332 in 63 games in the first half and .162/.279/.316 in 42 games in the second.

There’s no way to put a positive spin on it. He’s still turned in the wrong direction since the 2015 season, and he turns 34 in March.

Hyde kept Davis out of the lineup in September with the exception of nine games. The first baseman had his most productive month, in a limited role, by slashing .233/.361/.467 in 36 plate appearances. He went 6-for-18 with two home runs in his last five games.

Elias and Hyde already sat down with Davis and mapped out the latest offseason plan for him. He’ll keep working with hitting coach Don Long and the replacement for assistant hitting coach Howie Clark.

It’s quite possible that Hyde uses Davis in a similar manner next season, with stretches on the bench if the production is lacking again.

Unless the menu changes.

How deeply will the Orioles dive into the Rule 5 draft?

They won’t sit on the edge of the pool and watch everyone else splash around. They’re going to participate.

It may not resemble 2017 with pitchers Nestor Cortes Jr., Pedro Araujo and Jose Mesa. Only Araujo remains in the organization and he’s off the 40-man roster. But they could make multiple selections.

They need pitching and aren’t going to spend much on it. This is one way to find it. But they need impactful arms or they’ll be in the same bind, with Hyde scrambling to find trustworthy pitchers who can get outs.

Who’s going on the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft?

Alex Cobb and Josh Rogers must be activated from the 60-day injured list. That’s two.

Prospects who must be protected include Ryan Mountcastle, Keegan Akin, Cody Sedlock and Dean Kremer. They seem to be the no-brainers.

The list also includes Gray Fenter and Ryan McKenna, among many others.

It’s no longer safe to assume that teams eventually will return a player who is selected. Too much tanking going on now, which makes it easier to stash someone on a roster that’s expanding to 26.

Make smart choices.

Will any of the arbitration-eligible players be non-tendered?

Jonathan Villar remains the most fascinating case, with his projected $10.4 million salary per MLBTradeRumors.com. (I still find that figure to be inflated, but we’ll see).

Who cuts loose a player with 24 home runs, 40 stolen bases and 162 games played? A player who, we’re assuming, was runner-up to Trey Mancini in Most Valuable Oriole voting?

The more likely scenario has Elias exploring trades again, as he did at the July deadline. The Orioles could attempt to swing a deal before arbitration figures are exchanged, or after Villar receives his raise.

They won’t be thrilled with carrying Villar’s salary in a rebuild.

Villar is a free agent after the 2020 season, which removes his status as “a piece moving forward.” The Orioles aren’t looking to hand out extensions and increase payroll. Again, it isn’t part of the rebuild blueprint.

What about non-tendering Villar and attempting to re-sign him at a reduced rate?

Other arbitration-eligible Orioles include Mancini, Dylan Bundy, Mychal Givens, Miguel Castro, Richard Bleier and Hanser Alberto.

No one in the group is an obvious non-tender.

MLBTradeRumors.com predicts that Bundy and Mancini will each receive $5.7 million, Givens $3.2 million, Alberto $1.9 million, Castro $1.2 million and Bleier $1.1 million.

Bleier made $573,000 while posting a career-worst 5.37 ERA and 1.319 WHIP in 53 games. But he was navigating through injury and his recovery from lat surgery, and he registered a 2.93 ERA and 0.717 WHIP in 15 1/3 innings in September. Opponents slashed .180/.241/.260 in his last 12 appearances.

Bleier had a 7.27 ERA and 1.500 WHIP in the first half and a 3.68 ERA and 1.159 WHIP after the All-Star break. Left-handers batted .222/.250/.303 against him this season.

He registered ERAs below 2.00 in the three previous seasons. Hyde trusted him more than most.

Who’s the shortstop next season?

Villar might prefer to stay with the Orioles because they let him play shortstop in 97 games, including 73 starts. Other teams could view him more as a second baseman or a utility-type bench player.

Letting Villar walk - and he’d probably try to steal second and third base if they did - would leave the Orioles in a bit of a shortstop bind. Richie Martin no longer has Rule 5 restrictions and could be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.

The winter shopping list has to include a middle infielder. Especially with Alberto playing only second and third base this season - when he wasn’t pitching or being used for one game in left and right field.

blog comments powered by Disqus