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Orioles Season Preview: Are They Contenders?

Jack Corcoran, Staff

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With the Orioles embarking on an early offseason thanks to a disappointing 75-87 campaign, many fans of the team called for drastic changes for the last-place team at the end of last season. While the Orioles might not have made the splashy moves in the off-season, they did acquire a few players that might help the O’s get out of the cellar.

Last year’s record is certainly less than stellar, but a few individual O’s have had years that they can build upon. Welington Castillo, the marquee free agent signing last year who recently signed with the Chicago White Sox, batted .282 with 20 home runs and 53 RBI, all the while battling injuries throughout the year.

Jonathan Schoop had his breakout season, one that can give fans hope for the future, batting .293 with 32 HR and 105 RBI. Also, Trey Mancini continued to make progress by batting .293 with 24 HR and 78 RBI in limited appearances. Lastly, Manny Machado started off the year slow but picked it up after the All-Star Break, batting .259 with 33 HR and 95 RBI. To quell some of the offseason departures on offense, the O’s have signed players to minor-league deals, namely re-signing outfielder Pedro Alvarez, who has spent the last two seasons with the tea.

While the offense was explosive last season, the pitching staff was among the worst in the MLB, even having a streak of 20+ games where they allowed five runs to be scored against them. The two rotation centerpieces, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, had statistically inconsistent seasons, showing flashes of brilliance while also having some poor starts, with both pitchers having an ERA above four.

The three pieces around them were among the worst in baseball. Wade Miley had an 8-15 W-L record with a 5.61 ERA, while Ubaldo Jimenez posted a 6.81 ERA and a 6-11 record. Chris Tillman posted a 7.84 ERA in an injury-riddled season for the longtime Oriole, who was recently re-signed to a 1-year, $3 million contract.

The bullpen took a step back last season after having to pitch so many innings, with mainstays Brad Brach and Zach Britton posting 3.18 and 2.89 ERA’s, respectively. Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens also emerged as solid options for manager Buck Showalter to turn to in the event of a terrible start.

To try to improve the rotation, the Orioles signed former Texas Ranger Andrew Cashner to a 2-year, $16 million deal, and remained in contact with pitchers like Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, and Jake Arrieta to add a few more solid arms into the starting rotation. Cashner produced an 11-11 W-L record with a 3.40 ERA, which was better than any Orioles starter on the team last year.

All in all, the Orioles just didn’t do enough to improve their roster. Teams in the AL East, like the Red Sox and the Yankees, made upgrades on their playoff-ready rosters, like signing JD Martinez and trading for Giancarlo Stanton, respectively. The Orioles will finish with a 68-94 record, good for last in the AL East. The starting rotation will improve incrementally with the Andrew Cashner signing, but still won’t be able to do enough. The Zach Britton injury will thin the bullpen and cause them to tire as they will be left out to dry far too many times because of poor starting pitching, like years before.

The homerun-or-nothing mentality of the Orioles offense will continue, to the dismay of fans. Players like Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo will continue to hit 25+ homeruns while maintaining an average just above the Mendoza line and striking out over 200 times, wasting what are gearing up to be MVP type of years from both Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado. Sadly, the era of Orioles competitiveness is over.

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Orioles Season Preview: Are They Contenders?