As the Orioles wrap up a difficult campaign, there’s still some ongoing tension between executive VP of baseball ops Dan Duquette and skipper Buck Showalter, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription req’d). But there’s no indication that “strained” communications will lead to any major changes, and Duquette suggests that he’s heading into the winter preparing once again to build a winning roster — with a particular focus on starting pitching.
In conversations with Rosenthal and also with Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com, Duquette indicated that he’s optimistic about some young players that are reaching or nearing the majors. While filling out the rotation will be a “big challenge,” says Duquette, “it’s been done here before.”
We’ve heard previously that the O’s believe they need to add at least two new starters, and that certainly seems to be the case after a miserable 2017 performance. “There’s no major league team in the business that’s going to withstand three of their starters not pitching up to the level that they established for themselves,” said Duquette, referring to the struggles of Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Wade Miley.
Of course, those veterans all had some concerns entering the season, and it’s fair to wonder whether and how Baltimore will find more reliable arms this time around. As Connolly notes, while Duquette expressed optimism about some prospects, it doesn’t seem any are waiting in the wings to take a rotation spot out of camp.
With a big commitment to Chris Davis on the books and several core player slated to depart after the 2018 season, the O’s will need to be cautious of long-term commitments in free agency. Unless owner Peter Angelos really opens up the pocketbook, adding veteran pitching through the open market may be challenge. (MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently broke down the starting pitching market by certain indicators.)
The trade market doesn’t necessarily seem an easier route. With the Orioles likely relying on position-player prospects to cover for the possible losses of Manny Machado, Adam Jones, and eventually Jonathan Schoop, they’ll be hesitant to deal from that stock. While Connolly hints that the club might consider trying to swap out Mark Trumbo for an expensive hurler from another organization, that may be easier said than done.
Despite the obvious difficulties, Duquette insists he can build a quality staff around Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. Those two make for a good starting point, to be sure, though Bundy will be looking to sustain his performance after a big innings jump and Gausman struggled badly over the first half of 2017. Even assuming that pair is healthy and effective, it’ll be a tall order to put together a productive five-man unit (not to mention ensuring adequate depth behind it).