With the World Series concluding Oct. 30, free agency is right around the corner.
The two biggest names on the market both played in this year’s World Series: Houston Astros right-handed starting pitcher Gerrit Cole and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon. Nationals right-handed starter Stephen Strasburg can opt out of his deal as well.
While teams will be competing to sign the top free agents for hundreds of millions of dollars in record-breaking contracts, others are still looking to rebuild, like the Baltimore Orioles.
“They’re going to have to be small moves,” ESPN baseball insider Tim Kurkjian said on The Ross Grimsley Show Oct. 29 of potential Orioles moves. “They’re not going to be in on, nor should they be, these huge acquisitions when you’re multiple years away from being a real contending team.”
The Orioles finished 2019 with a 54-108 record, a seven-game improvement from 2018 but a second straight season with 105 or more losses.
A historically bad 2018 gave Baltimore the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, which was used to draft Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman. The 21-year-old has been touted as the next Buster Posey, a franchise-altering talent. Rutschman advanced to Low-A Delmarva in 2019.
However, even with Rutschman in the organization, it is going to take more than just one player to contend, which is where small, tactical moves come in. A rebuilding organization can look to spot diamonds in the rough, much like the Orioles did in 2019 with All-Star left-handed starting pitcher John Means and infielder Hanser Alberto.
“They’re going to have to do this slowly, methodically, much like the Cubs did,” Kurkjian said. “… There are no more quick fixes in baseball, not anymore, not when you’ve gone to the extent that the Orioles have.”
Throughout the next several years, especially next season, Kurkjian doesn’t see the Orioles improving much, considering the team is entering is still deep in the throes of a rebuild.
“I don’t think they’re going to look like a significantly better team going into next year,” Kurkjian said. “It’s going to be subtle changes. It’s going to be Rule 5 guys. It’s going to be minor-league free agents and it’s going to be that major-league guy who they’re going to take a chance on and hope it works out.”
Hope and the Orioles seem to go hand in hand, especially in recent years. That’s something the fan base is banking on, considering attendance at Camden Yards has nearly been cut in half since 2014.
This past season, Baltimore averaged 16,146 fans a game, the first time in the history of Camden Yards and the first time since 1982 the Orioles didn’t draw more than 20,000 fans a game on average.
It’s going to take a lot to get those numbers back up, but Kurkjian said that the team needs to make small, gradual improvements first.
“There’s a lot of hope going on with the Orioles. That’s their best thing right now,” Kurkjian said.
The O’s have players on the major-league roster that the organization could use as trade bait, such as outfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini. The 27-year-old has blossomed with Baltimore, especially last season when he hit .291 with 35 home runs, 97 RBIs and an .899 OPS.
However, it’s unlikely the Orioles would use Mancini to procure talent from another organization.
“The Information Age might end up hurting the Orioles [because] they’re not gonna be able to sneak one by somebody else because everyone else knows everyone’s information,” Kurkjian said.
For more from Kurkjian, listen to the full interview here:
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