Answering some popular Orioles questions

Rather than take the usual deep dive into my “mailbag,” I’ve decided to skim the surface after the Winter Meetings and address, so to speak, a smaller batch of the more popular questions.

I’m skipping anything that includes the phrase “printing the playoff tickets.” Also ignored will be the ones that begin with, “Why should I bother to ...”

I can’t make the decision for you. You’ll support the team and the rebuild or you’ll bail on them. You could be supportive from your recliner, which lots of people seem to be doing, or enjoy the ballpark experience.

Or you could continue to ask me why you should bother and claim that you’d rather drive down to D.C.

You should consider the minor league affiliates, but again, I can’t make the decision for you. And if you hop off the Orioles bandwagon, don’t pull a hamstring leaping back onto it.

If you’re asking whether Adam Jones could return to the Orioles as a free agent, you didn’t pay attention last winter or last week.

Mancini-Dejected-White-Sidebar.jpgWill the Orioles trade Trey Mancini?
Anything is possible, but this one seems unlikely to happen without an offer that knocks Mike Elias off his feet. Deals can be struck from the prone position. But the Orioles just don’t appear as motivated to move Mancini, and while he generates interest, he appears to be more valuable to his current employer. He’s a legitimate bat in the order, a clubhouse leader and only one year into his arbitration eligibility.

Will the Orioles give Mancini a contract extension?
They aren’t inclined to do so because it requires the kind of financial commitment that isn’t associated with a teardown and rebuild. Check how the payroll is trending.

Why not trade Mancini if they don’t plan to extend him?
Maybe those contract talks begin later, as Mancini approaches free agency and the front office has a truer sense of the club’s proximity to contention. Or the Orioles become more aggressive in trade talks, though his value could decline as team control slips away. Anyway, it’s a valid question. Makes sense to hold onto Mancini and also to trade him with another 100-loss season on the horizon. Solid arguments exist on both sides.

Will the Orioles trade Mychal Givens?
Much more likely than a Mancini trade, and there are lots of teams searching for relievers. Givens doesn’t have to be a closer in order to attract interest. But the Orioles aren’t going to move him just to dump salary. They want an acceptable return and won’t rush it. They can revisit the subject later in the winter or at the July deadline.

Are the Orioles more interested in finding a starting pitcher or a veteran middle infielder?
I’ve labeled them as 1 and 1A. The Orioles were in the market for both and the needs intensified after they traded Dylan Bundy and Jonathan Villar. One could argue that the internal options in the middle infield are more appealing with Hanser Alberto planted at second base and Richie Martin at shortstop. The rotation, meanwhile, has three projected starters in John Means, Alex Cobb and Asher Wojciechowski and a whole lot of uncertainty and risks. Relying on Rule 5 picks and outrighted pitchers isn’t an ideal solution by any stretch.

Could a Rule 5 pick really make the rotation?
It would be highly unusual for the Orioles. T.J. McFarland made one start among his 38 appearances in 2013. But the times are changing. Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker will be in the spring mix.

Are the Orioles offering only minor league deals to free agents?
Elias stated at the Winter Meetings that there could be a mix of players brought to the organization on major and minor league contracts. The major league deals are more likely to be reserved for starting pitchers and middle infielders. A fourth catcher will have to settle for a minor league contract.

Is Elias also targeting relievers?
They aren’t at the top of the shopping list, but yes. I’ve heard that he made a minor league offer to at least one reliever at the Winter Meetings, but an agreement wasn’t reached. This is a clear indication that the ‘pen hasn’t been ignored. It comes down to financial execution. The Orioles want a veteran who could make the club in spring training or provide insurance if the younger relievers fail again.

Are the Orioles always going to keep the payroll this low?
I’ll repost a comment from Elias at Saturday’s Winter Warm-Up that seems to indicate the team will be more willing to spend down the road, though market size always is going to come into play: “Baseball’s got a lot of inequity among teams and markets, but that’s not a necessary way to compete and the important thing from our standpoint is laying a proper foundation across the entire organization before we jump back into being big players in free agency, and we’re in the midst of doing that right now. And eventually that will come and be a part of our plan. But right now we’re building the organization the right way. We’re building up our minor league base and giving young players an opportunity to play up here in Baltimore.”

Who did the Orioles hire to replace minor league hitting coordinator Jeff Manto?
No one who inherits the title. They also didn’t replace minor league catching coordinator Donnie Werner. And I’m pretty sure the same goes for minor league infield coordinator Dave Anderson, who is managing Single-A Delmarva next year. The news release announcing the minor league staffs didn’t include replacements. But each affiliate has an extra coach.

Do the Orioles have a bench coach for next season?
The staff hasn’t been announced but the assumption is that Tim Cossins and newly hired Fredi González will be de facto bench coaches without the title. González is going to serve as major league coach and he’s the likely choice to fill in as manager if Brandon Hyde is ejected.

Is Hyde’s job on the line in 2020?
That would be ridiculous. The Orioles aren’t judging Hyde on wins and losses. He’d have to completely lose the clubhouse, and that isn’t going to happen. He seems to have a solid relationship with Elias, who was given full authority to make the hire. Hyde is his guy and nothing that happened this season has made him regret the decision.

So Hyde won’t be looking over his shoulder at González?
Only if he’s leaning on the dugout railing while González sits on the bench.

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