- Orioles GM Dan Duquette tells MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko that top prospect Chance Sisco was in high demand at the non-waiver deadline, and Duquette also sounded open-minded about trade talks this coming winter. “A lot of teams like (Chance) Sisco other than our club,” said Duquette, who added that he feels the organization has some depth behind the plate. “We know that from our trade discussions at the end of July. Whether they can do that job or not, that remains to be seen, but we do have pretty good depth in the organization at the catching position.” Sisco is the presumptive heir apparent behind the plate in Baltimore, but he’s also played just four games at Triple-A and remains a work in progress from a defensive standpoint. Sisco did hit .317/.403/.430 as a 21-year-old at Double-A this season, demonstrating his offensive upside, but he’s probably not yet ready to open the year in the Majors, and he’d be an appealing piece in the event that the O’s pursue rotation help on the trade market this winter. However, Kubatko writes that the O’s are more determined to keep Sisco now that they traded fellow catcher Jonah Heim to Tampa Bay. Even still, though, he notes that they’ll need a short-term bridge to Sisco if they keep him.
- MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko examined the Orioles’ arbitration-eligible players following the release of MLBTR’s arbitration projections earlier this week. While Kubatko notes that the likes of Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman will obviously be tendered contracts, things are less certain for utilityman Ryan Flaherty, left-hander T.J. McFarland and right-hander Vance Worley — each of whom could be deemed to expensive and could be a non-tender candidate. Caleb Joseph figures to be the backup catcher next season based on his modest $1MM projection, even though he struggled tremendously in 2016. (Joseph did not hit a home run all season and, somewhat amazingly, did not collect a single RBI.) Of course, it remains to be seen exactly who will be the primary backstop for the Orioles in 2017.
- The Orioles may face a call on young first baseman Trey Mancini, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com explains. He had a solid season in the upper minors, but swatted three long balls in just five games of major league action late in the year. Some might suggest that the O’s shift Chris Davis to right field, but Kubatko suggests that’s not a likely outcome. And while Mancini could get a look there, the club hasn’t seemed optimistic about such a move. Instead, perhaps, he’ll more likely push for a spot in the DH mix — but could end up back at Triple-A, at least to start the year.
- While Manfred expressed confidence in July that the league would ultimately decide the long-running dispute between the Nationals and Orioles centering on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, that’s no longer the case. “I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that that situation is going to play out in the courts, and there’s not a lot that I can do to move that process along,” said Manfred. The Orioles own 90 percent of MASN compared to the Nationals’ 10 percent, and the teams are fighting over how much in broadcast fees the Nats should receive.
In the Orioles’ season-ending press conference with media (including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko) earlier this week, baseball operations executive VP Dan Duquette commented on the possibility of the club exploring extensions with several players, saying “I’m sure we’ll have time to take a look at that” during the offseason.
“All of those players have done a great job for us,” Duquette said, referring to Manny Machado, Chris Tillman and Jonathan Schoop. “We have explored extensions in the past, in fact a couple times each, with Tillman and Machado. We haven’t approached Jonathan Schoop on a long-term basis yet, but I’m sure we’ll have time to do that when it’s appropriate.”
As Duquette noted, this isn’t the first time the O’s have looked into extending its superstar third baseman or its staff ace. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported in June that Machado and the Orioles had come close to a seven-year extension at some point in recent years, while the club negotiated with Tillman about a long-term deal prior to the 2015 season.
A Machado extension, of course, would almost certainly be one of the largest deals in baseball history. Machado has generated more fWAR than all but three other players in baseball over the last two seasons, thanks to his combination of both elite third base defense and outstanding hitting. At just 24 years of age, Machado will only be 26 when he hits free agency after the 2018 season, so the Orioles would need to pay well in excess of $200MM in order to lock up the young star into his free agent seasons. Extending Machado would break new financial ground for the O’s, though Baltimore has shown it is willing to spend big to extend or retain key position players like Adam Jones or Chris Davis.
Tillman is the most immediate concern since he can hit the open market after the 2017 season, though his price tag is less clear. He rebounded from a disappointing 2015 season to post a 3.77 ERA, 2.12 K/BB rate and 7.3 K/9 over 172 innings this year, though as per advanced metrics, there actually wasn’t much of a gap between the righty’s performance over the last two years. Tillman has produced between 1.8 and 2.4 fWAR in each of the last four seasons and averaged 190 innings per year in that span, though the Orioles are notoriously cautious (some could say over-cautious) when it comes to committing to pitchers in long-term deals. It could be that the Orioles would be more comfortable spending money on a pitcher they’re already quite familiar with, especially given that the club is already in such need of rotation help.
Schoop will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, so the Orioles aren’t necessarily in any rush to extend the second baseman. Schoop, who turns 25 next week, hit a career-high 25 homers but was a below-average (97 wRC+) offensive performer overall thanks to a .267/.298/.454 slash line over 647 plate appearances. Between Schoop’s high strikeout totals and lack of OBP, there could still be some question if he is indeed a long-term piece for the Orioles, though obviously there’s still room for growth for such a young player.
Duquette was also asked about the possibility of extending star closer Zach Britton, and Duquette merely responded that Britton is still two years away from free agency. Extending Britton now would be the definition of a buy-high move given that he is coming off one of the best seasons from any closer in baseball history, though an extension would also give Baltimore some cost certainty over Britton’s rising price tag. He is due a major raise from his 2016 salary of $6.75MM, and he still has two arb years left thanks to his Super Two designation. Committing huge dollars to any reliever can be a roll of the dice, so the Orioles could be willing to simply go year-to-year with Britton.
- Orioles pitching coach Dave Wallace, who retired from his full-time role earlier this week, will be missed, Rich Dubroff of CSNmidatlantic.com writes. Wallace had no connections with Buck Showalter or Dan Duquette when the Orioles hired him three years ago, but his hiring turned out to be a boon for Orioles pitchers like Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen and Brad Brach, along with younger hurlers like Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. Perhaps the best orange and black feather in Wallace’s cap is that of Zach Britton, who transformed from a struggling (and out-of-options) starter to a dominant closer soon after Wallace arrived.
The DFA of Janish is largely procedural, as the Orioles non-tendered him last December and had already outrighted him back off the 40-man roster once this summer before selecting his contract again late in the year. He wasn’t likely to be carried on the 40-man roster throughout the offseason, though if he again clears waivers — which is likely — he could re-sign a minor league pact to return to the organization with which he has spent the past two seasons. The 34-year-old Janish is a standout defender at shortstop and a nice depth piece for any organization, but his upside at the plate is limited; he’s a career .216/.284/.289 hitter in 1277 big league plate appearances and slashed .248/.333/.280 with Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate this season.
As for Bradley, the former top prospect and first-round pick (15th overall by the Brewers in 2011) made his Major League debut with Atlanta this season, yielding four runs on seven hits and six walks (two intentional) with four strikeouts in seven innings for the Braves. Bradley’s career never took off as the Brewers hoped, as he moved from the rotation to the bullpen in the minors and struggled a great deal between Double-A and Triple-A in 2015. However, Bradley logged a 3.09 earned run average with 108 strikeouts against 40 walks in 107 2/3 innings between the rotation and bullpen at Triple-A this year (13 starts, 22 relief appearances) and will give the Orioles some needed left-handed depth in the organization if he survives the winter on Baltimore’s 40-man roster.
- The Orioles announced yesterday that pitching coach Dave Wallace has decided to retire from his role as a full-time Major League coach. Wallace could remain with the organization is a less-demanding role, writes MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko, possibly operating as a roving instructor. Bullpen coach Dom Chiti will get some consideration for the new coaching vacancy, per Kubatko, though he adds in a second piece that his expectation is that the Orioles will go outside the organization to replace Wallace, who had been the club’s pitching coach since 2013. Zach Britton took to Twitter to offer praise and appreciation for Wallace’s work in Baltimore: “Sad to see Dave Wallace go. Very grateful for all he has done for me and my family. Any success I’ve had is a credit to DW and Dom Chiti.”
- MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the Braves will not exercise their option on pitching coach Roger McDowell’s contract. McDowell has spent the past 11 seasons as Atlanta’s pitching coach and drew praise from veteran arms and young pitchers alike, but the Braves determined that they’d prefer a new voice to help usher in their next wave of pitching prospects. Specifically, the team appeared to have some concerns stemming from inconsistencies in Mike Foltynewicz and struggles from Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair. With a slew of young pitching on the way, the Braves understandably want to have full confidence that their pitching coach can get through to younger talent. Bowman adds that Wallace was a mentor for McDowell, pointing out a possible link between McDowell and the Orioles’ newly created vacancy.
- Veteran outfielder Michael Bourn is open to returning to the Orioles in 2017, although he says he says his mind is currently on the team’s playoff chase, Rich Dubroff of CSNmidatlantic.com writes. “I’ll keep that in the cards, no doubt. I like the organization, good team to be a part of,” Bourn says. Nonetheless, he adds, “We’re in the pennant race right now. By now, that’s my main focus.” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said yesterday (again via Dubroff) that he’d like to keep Bourn and that Bourn was “more than a fourth outfielder.” Next year, Bourn will no longer be receiving checks from the four-year, $48MM contract he signed with the Indians prior to the 2013 season. That deal has mostly been a disaster, but Bourn has been effective down the stretch in Baltimore, batting .275/.333/.450 in 47 plate appearances heading into today, when he’s had a single and two walks.
- Speaking of Wieters, the veteran isn’t looking too far ahead with regard to his future with the Orioles, Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com writes. Wieters was a free agent last season, and ended up accepting the Orioles’ qualifying offer, an outcome he says he couldn’t have predicted months before. “It was different than I would have thought the process would have been last year and it’ll probably be different this year then I think it will be this year,” he says. “I don’t like thinking about things that I actually have no idea how they are going to go.” The 30-year-old Wieters hasn’t had a strong season by his standards, batting .241/.301/.395, although he’s stayed healthy enough to accumulate 456 plate appearances. He likely has more on his mind than free agency right now anyway, given that the Orioles are still fighting for a Wild Card spot.