There was a “legitimate possibility” of the Orioles exercising Wade Miley’s $12MM club option for the 2018 season before a late collapse, writes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, but the team now looks likely to buy that option out for $500K. Baltimore will be on the hunt for a left-handed starter this winter, but as Encina points out, the free-agent market is hardly rife with appealing options. Most of the lefties available are reclamation projects or back-of-the-rotation starters, with 35-year-old Jason Vargas and 37-year-old CC Sabathia representing the southpaws that enjoyed the most success in 2017. Encina notes that the weak crop of lefty starters may force the O’s to really evaluate whether they’d like to “balance” out their all-right-handed rotation or simply set their sights on overall quality regardless of handedness. Of course, it should be noted that even the offseason crop of right-handed starters carries more question marks than sure things, and the O’s will need to add a minimum of two starters. Suffice it to say, GM Dan Duquette will have his work cut out for him.
More out of Baltimore…
- The O’s don’t look likely to make any significant additions to their lineup, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Catcher Welington Castillo is expected to decline his modest $7MM player option on the heels of a terrific all-around season, but Baltimore may simply hand catching duties over to top prospect Chance Sisco and Caleb Joseph. In the outfield, Adam Jones will return in center field, with Trey Mancini and young Austin Hays the favorites to work in the corners. (Mark Trumbo, then, would be the DH.) However, Kubatko does note that Hays, a 2016 third-rounder who skyrocketed through the system, won’t merely be handed a job. Inferring a bit, that’d suggest that the O’s could add a veteran outfield option to push Hays and possibly handle some corner work early in the year of Hays proves to need more development time.
- While the Orioles’ farm has long been ranked among the bottom minor league systems in the game, they’ve made some significant progress in that regard as of late, writes MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski. Melewski spoke to MLB.com’s Jim Callis and both J.J. Cooper and John Manuel of Baseball America in recent weeks, with each suggesting that the Orioles now rate more as a middle-of-the-pack farm (in the 15 to 20 range throughout MLB). The improvements come largely based on Hays’ breakout and the presence of Sisco, both of whom will likely exhaust their rookie status early in the 2018 season. But 2017 first-rounder DL Hall, 2015 supplemental rounder Ryan Mountcastle and a once-again healthy Hunter Harvey have helped bolster the top end of the farm for the time being. There’s still a lack of pitching help in the upper levels, however — an element that is particularly troublesome given the current state of the big league roster.