In a non-shocking development last week, it became known that Orioles manager Brandon Hyde would return for a fourth season in Birdland in 2022. As first reported by The Athletic’s Dan Connolly, Hyde agreed to an extension last offseason that guaranteed him the 2022 season.
Neither Hyde nor GM Mike Elias would talk about the specifics of the manager’s deal, so we don’t at this time know whether this extension includes some sort of option for 2023 or not.
At various points along the way (a way that has seen the Orioles go 129-249 under Hyde), Elias has referenced that he doesn’t think it’s fair to really judge Hyde by wins and losses while the team is embarking upon such a deep rebuilding program.
However, oftentimes the way this works is that when a rebuilding club becomes more capable of winning, management decides it wants a new voice in the clubhouse.
Elias saw this play out in Houston. Former Astros GM Jeff Luhnow hired Bo Porter as his first manager in September 2012 but let Porter go less than two years later. Luhnow hired A.J. Hinch in September 2014. Hinch ultimately won the 2017 World Series, but he was fired along with Luhnow during the 2019 offseason as part of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.
Hinch was suspended a year and began to manage again this year in Detroit. His return has been a smashing success. The Tigers, a team believed to be in an early phase of their rebuild, are sitting at 75-80 entering the last week of the season.
It’ll be interesting to see if Elias supports his young team with some smart, veteran free-agent pickups and truly tries to help Hyde succeed in the way that Tigers GM Al Avila did with Hinch.
Early in the offseason, I’ll write my annual advice piece on who I’d like to see the Orioles pick up. In the past, I have recommended the likes of shortstop José Iglesias and right-handers Félix Hernández and Collin McHugh. The Orioles did sign Iglesias to a one-year deal with a club option ahead of the 2020 season, and they did invite Hernandez to spring training in 2021. Last offseason, I strongly recommended McHugh, who has been a huge and valuable member of the Rays staff this season.
It’s no real secret that the club has and is developing lots of position players. And there is no doubt that right-hander Grayson Rodriguez is one of the premier pitching prospects in all of baseball. Left-hander DL Hall was also a top-100 prospect by all the leading content providers in that world. That was before he missed a large chunk of 2021 with elbow issues. Hall only tallied 31.2 innings this year after not pitching in 2020 because of the pandemic and being used guardedly in 2018 and 2019 (175 total innings).
It’s been nice late this season to see a vastly improved Keegan Akin and get some positive glimpses of both Mike Baumann and Zac Lowther. Baumann and Lowther no doubt would have been much more major-league ready had there been Minor League Baseball in 2020.
Before we automatically pencil the aforementioned trio into the staff in any meaningful way for 2022, we must remember the warning of former O’s skipper Buck Showalter. “Gotta be careful about making judgments on players based on what they do in March and September,” he used to say.
Showalter, ever the sage, was oh so right on that advice.
But pieces are starting to fall into place with several position players. Outfielders Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander and first basemen Ryan Mountcastle and Trey Mancini made up the core of the team’s lineup this year. They’re all under club control. Top prospect Adley Rutschman will be the club’s catcher, if not on Opening Day then soon thereafter.
Clearly, there are still holes at second, third and short. Will the Orioles try to man those three positions with better talent than they had this season? Only time will tell, but it’s not out of the question that Ramón Urías, Jorge Mateo and Kelvin Gutiérrez are given first call on those three key positions.
Urias has been a useful fill-in, and one wonders if more playing time will expose some issues, such as durability or easier ways for pitchers to get him out. In the case of Mateo, he has amazing tools. In the case of Gutiérrez, he looks like an amazingly gifted athlete, but to win an everyday job at a corner infield spot, he’s got to hit and hit with power.
All these questions will make for an interesting offseason.
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