Can the @Orioles Compete in 2016?

Now, I know that you’re expecting me to write a think piece on last night’s blackish. Nope. Not doing it. The episode was poignant enough without me—or anyone, really—chiming in with more. Go watch it. NOW! For scenes such as the one below and others.


Switching gears, I’m no prognosticator, nor am I a pundit for ESPN or Bleacher Report. However, even with those cards against me (to some), I’d like to think I know a thing or two about sportsball. And while not making Earth-shattering moves during the offseason thus far, the Baltimore Orioles—known for making a lot out of a little (see the 2012 team for an example) and their insanely-rigorous physicals—have made moves that make sense.

Let’s go through some of them:

The O’s recently signed Yovani Gallardo to a three-year deal. Technically, the Gallardo deal is two years with an option for a third. But, if he can even put up the numbers he did with Texas last year, it’s still an improvement over the Orioles’ pitching staff in 2015 (and worth the third year option). Now, I won’t go out and say that Yovani Gallardo will be this year’s David Price, R.A. Dickey, or who-the-hell-ever you want to stick in that role. However, he’s a solid pitcher and immediately serves as an upgrade for whomever the O’s were gonna put in to replace the departed Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Miami Marlins.

Photo Credit: Baltimore Orioles

To Wei-Yin Chen, I say thank you for your years in Baltimore. However, Miami? The team that ended up 20 games under .500 last year. Sure, you join Jose Fernandez, the young ace who has as much potential as he does injury risk. But, Miami? You know what? Do you. You’re an upgrade to the team just as Gallardo is to the Orioles after you left, so everyone’s filling holes that need to be filled.
Additionally, the Orioles went out and got themselves a legit starting left fielder (probably) in Hyun-soo Kim (Kim Hyun-soo for you traditionalists), the KBO star who’s mostly improved his output over each of his ten seasons with the Doosan Bears. Now, he may not bring every ounce of his power over to the States, but he’s been predicted to still win out over most of his Orioles compatriots (hi Nolan Reimold. It’s okay. We still love you).

Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun

Furthermore, the Orioles retained Darren O’Day, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and traded for Mark Trumbo. That’s a shutdown set-up guy, a home run machine, a clutch backstop, and another home run machine (who’ll probably stay at DH for most of his games played). All in all, while the Orioles didn’t sign David Price (would’ve loved that!), the Orioles are probably a lot better off than some pundits would suggest.
Before we get into the “can they compete” section, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, though: Dexter Fowler heading back to the Cubs. It stings. It stings because, while he wasn’t exactly Nelson Cruz with the bat, he would’ve filled a gaping hole in both right field and at the leadoff position. But, in some ways, he’s like Chicago’s Adam Jones (and no, that’s not because they’re both black).

Plus, he wanted an opt-out after one year. That’s the equivalent of renting a guy midway through the season only for him to sign elsewhere for big money. It’s cool right now, but the losses outweigh the gains. At least there’s still time for that Jay Bruce trade we kept hearing about months ago (and no, believe it or not, I’m not kidding). Even if the Orioles can’t replace Fowler, though, the upgrades they’ve made are still pretty significant and fill a lot of openings in the team.

But, can the Baltimore Orioles compete this year in an AL East that’s seen a lot of moves made? I’d say “yes.” While, again, the Orioles didn’t get many outright “superstar” players (and lost out on Fowler) thus far, they made smart moves and Buck Showalter has shown time and time again that he’s able to work with scraps and turn them into studs.

However, I will say this: the Orioles contending this year depends on two things: First, the starting rotation. With their best player from last year gone in Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman and company? They’re gonna have to find that 2012 and 2014 magic again. Can they do it? Dave Wallace is a pitching coach genius, so anything’s possible. Add in Gallardo, a career 102-75 pitcher with a ground ball percentage of 51.62%, 23rd in the league in 2015 (that’s better than the entire O’s starting lineup, by the way; he’ll need that at OPACY) and you’ve got the makings of some Orioles Magic.
Additionally, the Orioles have got to give their pitchers more run support! I don’t expect Chris Davis to shatter Barry Bonds’ single season HR record or anything (though that would be dope, no pun intended) or Adam Jones to put up a 40/40/40 season (which would also be amazeballs), but they can’t have a bunch of one-run games closed out by Zach Britton this season. Now, I’m not saying he’s not good. Because, my goodness! He’s great. But…he’s a closer and having him work as many games as he has over the past couple years is a recipe for clusterfuckery (had to through one F-Bomb in there; otherwise, it wouldn’t be a SOTB! post). Remember Jim Johnson, the Orioles closer in 2012 and 2013? Remember how he signed a crazy-big deal with Oakland for the 2014 season then proceeded to, for various reasons, stink up the joint? Yeah. We don’t need that happening.
The Orioles are, in some ways, mirroring the Royals more than people’d like to see. They’re not going out spending crazy loot on overpriced free agents (Davis notwithstanding), they’re growing most of their talent within the organization (or fostering further growth out of acquired players in the organization), their coaching staff is top-notch, and Peter Angelos is finally opening his wallet (when it makes sense) to keep players around who perform well for us. I say when it makes sense because we all know that Miami got a steal signing Chen at 80/5. Plus, Steve Pearce (love the guy’s work) declined a bit in 2015 and’ll probably somehow end up back on the O’s.

So, again, two things to take from this:

  1. Go watch that episode of blackish and…
  2. The O’s can probably do some damage in 2016.
But seriously, go watch that episode.
Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on Dad of two, cat dad (of two), mental health advocate, Team Support Dope Music in All Its Forms.

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