The Orioles have removed a lot of the uncertainty that hung in the air after their final game of the season. However, there are questions that always linger like the aroma of a hard-boiled egg.
And that’s no yolk.
This is why mailbags exists. This is why I continue to do sequels to the original.
I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll keep pretending. Forgive the snark.
What’s your ideal rotation for the Orioles?
Palmer, McNally, Dobson and Cuellar.
Trying this again, what’s your ideal rotation in 2020?
So you’re banning Mike Mussina from the conversation?
I give up.
Sorry. (And that’s not a question, but you’ve earned a real response.) The top three have to be John Means, Alex Cobb and Asher Wojciechowski. The only question is who gets the opening day start. Of course, Cobb has to prove that he’s healthy and stay that way. Beyond the trio, I don’t think there’s necessarily an ideal setup. Kohl Stewart makes all of the early projections based on his split contract and spot on the 40-man roster, but he could be optioned. I’ve penciled him into the rotation. David Hess will be given a chance to show whether he can make the same improvements as Means after going through a similar offseason program. Rule 5 pick Brandon Bailey also is a candidate, among others. And let’s wait until executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias is done crafting the roster. He could bring in a veteran who instantly becomes a favorite to head north.
Who’s going to be the opening day starter?
Didn’t I make it clear that it’s an unknown? Anyway, I don’t know. Means or Cobb. Cobb or Means. You can make an argument for both, whether based on the past or the most recent past.
Was Caleb Joseph ever a real candidate to return to Baltimore?
Well, he was under consideration for a return to Sarasota, but I don’t sense that there were serious negotiations. It seemed pretty quiet until the week before the Orioles announced the signing of Bryan Holaday to a minor league contract, and by then, they pretty much had made their decision. They certainly had internal discussions about him and other free agents.
Where are some of your favorite hangouts in Sarasota?
Park your car anywhere you can find a spot on Main Street and enjoy the stroll. Lots of cool bars, restaurants and shops. It’s my go-to. If you enjoy a cigar every once in a while, check out Smokin’ Joe’s Pub and hope that there’s an open seat on the outdoor bar side along the sidewalk. Just be warned that the smoke isn’t coming from barbeque.
Any sushi recommendations?
We could do this all day. Yume Sushi on Main Street and Pacific Rim on Hillview Street are the ones I’ve tried and loved. The latter feels more upscale. But I do love me some Main Street and have become a Yume regular. Brady Anderson made so many stops at Pacific Rim that they’d have his favorite roll ready for him as he walked through the door.
Is the Orioles front office safe from any punishments related to the Astros sign-stealing scandal?
No one on the club was included in Major League Baseball’s lengthy press release. Sounds safe to me.
Any chance Mike Elias becomes a candidate to replace Jeff Luhnow?
He’s under contract with the Orioles. They take that sort of thing seriously, from what I’ve heard.
What are your thoughts on the Astros scandal?
I can’t get past how an organization that relied on all of this technology to steal signs relayed them by banging on a trash can with a bat. I’d expect something a little more clever and discreet. I mean, who came up with that suggestion? Why not just light sparklers and wave them clockwise for a fastball and counterclockwise for a changeup?
Did you play with sparklers as a kid on the Fourth of July?
Yes, because there’s no safer toy than one you light and pass along to a young child as hot sparks bounce off his hands and face. The sheer terror is exhilarating.
There’s no such thing as cold sparks, right?
Nice job turning that one into a question. And yes, they exist. I looked it up.
Could the Orioles bring A.J. Hinch into the organization, since he has ties to Mike Elias?
To do what? He was handed a one-year suspension before the Astros fired him. I don’t know what the future holds for Hinch beyond 2020, but something would have to open up and the Orioles would have to be willing to take some heat. Like holding a sparkler. There tends to be a stigma attached to cheating, though Hinch apparently was uncomfortable with the tactics and demonstrated it by twice breaking the monitor. Should he have done more? Major League Baseball and Astros owner Jim Crane think so.
Do you have a dark horse candidate in spring training?
I think it’s a little too soon, since the club probably isn’t done making moves and the spring invites haven’t been revealed. But here’s an early one: Reliever Cole Sulser, who was claimed off waivers from the Rays on Oct. 1. He made seven relief appearances for the Rays in September and didn’t allow a run. He’s averaged 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings in six minor league seasons. The Orioles could carry eight relievers, but they also might have to make room for at least one of their two Rule 5 selections. I’d just recommend that you keep an eye on Sulser.
Do you think people just like saying “Sulser?”
For sure. But you can’t tell whether the manager is asking for Sulser or salsa or seltzer.
How many games will the Orioles win this year?
Doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme, but trading away Jonathan Villar and Dylan Bundy would seem to indicate that another 100-plus loss season is on the horizon. However, we’re going to find out how much of a difference it makes having Austin Hays and Hunter Harvey on the roster for an entire season. A more reliable bullpen can result in fewer blown leads or tiny margins expanding to grotesque proportions.
What’s your opinion of the José Iglesias signing?
I would have been fine with Iglesias or Adeiny Hechavarría. Two defensive upgrades at shortstop. Hechavarria would have come cheaper and the Orioles made their interest known back in October, but Iglesias emerged as their preference and it’s only costing a guaranteed $3 million, including the $500,000 buyout. He can be a trade chip or held onto for the 2021 season while the Orioles try to develop their shortstop prospects into viable major league options. The deal makes sense for both sides. I don’t know how many other interested teams pegged Iglesias as a starter.
Is it 100 percent certain that Iglesias stays beyond the 2020 season based on Mike Elias’ quotes?
The short answer is no.
What’s the long answer?
No, because Iglesias can be a trade chip. You know it, I know it, the American people know it.
Who will the Orioles take with the second overall pick in the draft?
So much can change before June, but the Orioles might snag a pitcher after concentrating more last year on position players in the early rounds, especially up the middle of the field. Baseball America’s mock draft, and it’s really early, has the Orioles selecting University of Georgia right-hander Emerson Hancock. Which, of course, would allow the team during the contract signing to say, “Just put your Emerson Hancock here.”
Are the Orioles planning anything special for the 25th anniversary of Cal Ripken Jr. breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive-games record?
With a nod to Ray Stevens, oh yes they call it “The Streak.” (boogity, boogity)
Man, you’re old.
Not a question. But getting back to the original one, yes, something will be done to mark the occasion. No details yet because it’s only January. Can’t rush the process. Sort of like a rebuild.
Not a baseball question, but what did former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue do to deserve induction in the Hall of Fame?
You mean, besides denying Baltimore a much-deserved expansion team and then telling the city to use the money earmarked for a new stadium to buy a museum? Besides that? I have zero idea. But his bust should resemble the back end of a horse.
Would the Orioles consider moving Chance Sisco to another position?
Yes. But which one? They don’t need another first baseman or corner outfielder. You can’t just stick him anywhere. And he needs to hit. We know he can do it in the minors and spring training, and for spurts in the majors. But he’s been bogged down by prolonged slumps. Maybe they wouldn’t happen if he stayed in the lineup. But maybe he’d stay in the lineup if they didn’t happen. You get the idea. Anyway, he’ll be given another chance to make the club and at least back up Pedro Severino or share the position.
Are Austin Wynns and Bryan Holaday the Norfolk catchers if Severino and Sisco are in Baltimore?
That’s the assumption, but don’t forget about Martin Cervenka, who re-signed as a minor league free agent. Maybe the Tides carry three catchers. Or he could be stuck again at Double-A Bowie.
Do you worry about catching anything in spring training?
Don’t make it weird.