30 Clubs in 30 Days: Baltimore Orioles

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear meeeeee, happy birthday to me. It’s my 22nd birthday, that’s what the song was referencing. But that’s neither here nor there since nobody cares about anybody’s birthday after their 21st so let’s get to some baseball. Not only is today the first day that MLB teams will face other MLB teams in Spring Training, but today we’re talking about the Baltimore Orioles, who I think are the most intriguing team of the 2018 season mainly because they could be a team that could compete for the playoffs but they could also find themselves in the division cellar and that leaves a lot of implications for a certain superstar infielder. So let’s get into the Baltimore Orioles for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

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2017 Results:

75-87, last in the AL East, 18 games behind Boston Red Sox, 10 games behind Minnesota Twins for final Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: OF Colby Rasmus, OF Alex Presley, RP Josh Edgin, SP Andrew Cashner

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Wade Miley, C Welington Castillo, 2B Johnny Giavotella, SS JJ Hardy, IF Pedro Alvarez, 2B Ryan Flaherty, SP Jeremy Hellickson, SP Ubaldo Jimenez

Best Offensive Player: SS Manny Machado

Best Pitcher: CP Zach Britton

Depth Chart

C-Caleb Joseph, Chance Sisco

1B-Chris Davis

2B-Jonathan Schoop

3B-Tim Beckham

SS-Manny Machado, Engelb Vielma

LF-Trey Mancini, Alex Presley

CF-Adam Jones, Colby Rasmus

RF-Joey Rickard, Mark Trumbo (DH)

SP-Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Chris Tillman, Andrew Cashner, Gabriel Ynoa

Bullpen-Zach Britton (CP), Brad Brach, Mychal Givens, Darren O’Day, Miguel Castro, Josh Edgin, Richard Bleier

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Buck Showalter (8th season with Orioles)

Hitting Coach-Scott Coolbaugh

Pitching Coach-Roger McDowell

1st Base Coach-Wayne Kirby

3rd Base Coach-Bobby Dickerson

Bench Coach-John Russell

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The Orioles may have finished in last place in the AL East last season, but they were tied with the Oakland A’s for best record amongst last place teams last season at 75-87. There’s a lot of talent on this team, particularly on offense. They boast one of the best infielders in the game in Manny Machado, an underrated hitter in Jonathan Schoop, two of the deadliest power bats in Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, and that’s without even mentioning the guy that has been doing it all for the Orioles for the longest time in Adam Jones. However the Orioles did not live up to their offensive ability last season as they finished just 16th in runs scored. Here’s how the team is expected to line up this season.

1. Joey Rickard-RF

2. Adam Jones-CF

3. Manny Machado-SS

4. Chris Davis-1B

5. Jonathan Schoop-2B

6. Trey Mancini-LF

7. Tim Beckham-3B

8. Mark Trumbo-DH

9. Caleb Joseph-C

Now, Trumbo and Davis have been inconsistent over the last couple of years but when they’re on, they’re two of the deadliest bats in the game and can take pretty much any ball out of the yard. Jonathan Schoop is also probably the most underrated second baseman in the game and in 2017 he took his play to new heights, hitting .293 with 32 home runs, 105 RBI, 2 DRS, and being worth 4.1 WAR. Trey Mancini is another guy teams shouldn’t sleep on. In his first full season in the Majors in 2017, Mancini hit .293 with 24 home runs and 78 RBI as he finished in third place for AL Rookie of the Year behind the better-known Aaron Judge and Andrew Benintendi. Last season’s Trade Deadline acquisition Tim Beckham really came into his own after arriving in Baltimore from Tampa Bay. The former #1 overall pick had been considered a bust for quite some time, but upon joining the Orioles, he appeared to start to realize his potential as he hit .306 with 10 home runs and 26 RBI in 50 games. He’s going to be the everyday third baseman in Baltimore. But wait, you ask, isn’t Manny Machado the third baseman there? Not anymore, as he’s finally moving back to his natural position of shortstop, which is a weird thing to call it considering how good of a third baseman Machado is. Machado has been arguably the most exciting third baseman in baseball since his debut in 2012 but he’s made it very well known that he’s a shortstop by trade. It’ll be interesting to see how the transition goes. Machado’s a good shortstop, as he’s been able to showcase his abilities when JJ Hardy spent time on the DL. But he is so good at third base that most teams wouldn’t dare try and move him away from there. He’s never had a DRS below 6 in his career (it was as high as 35 in 2013) and he’s won two gold gloves and a platinum glove at the position. But as good as Machado is in the field, one could argue he’s even better at the plate. He did have a down season in 2017, hitting a career-low .259, but he was able to keep up his power stroke by hitting 33 home runs and driving in 95 RBI, his third straight season of at least 30 home runs and 85 RBI. Machado is easily Baltimore’s best player, however he’s also their biggest question mark, but I’ll get into that a lot more when I delve into the Orioles’ season outlook at the end of the blog.

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Starting pitching has been a major issue for the Orioles for a long time. It’s not from a lack of talent, it’s more a lack of overall production. Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are two of the most talented pitchers in baseball but they haven’t put together the consistency needed to solidify the pitching staff. Last season, the Orioles finished 27th in the majors in team ERA at 4.97 and it’s not like this has been a one-time problem, it’s seemingly every year that the Orioles rank lowly amongst pitching staffs. For a while, they were trotting out Chris Tillman as their ace, a guy who probably wouldn’t even crack the Red Sox 25-man roster. While you could do a lot worse than Tillman, he is certainly not the guy who should be the best pitcher on your staff. Gausman and Bundy are the two guys the Orioles are going to need to really break out if they’re going to have a chance to reach the postseason in 2018. Gausman has had some success before as he had a pretty solid 2016 season where he pitched to a 3.61 ERA. However that number jumped a whole run in 2017 and he hasn’t been striking out batters the way you’d hope a guy who throws 97 MPH would. He strikes out about 8 batters per 9 innings, which isn’t bad but it’s pretty low for a guy with his repertoire. Bundy had slightly better numbers than Gausman last season, as he pitched to a 4.24 ERA with roughly the same strikeout rate but his talent is similar to that of Gausman’s. If these two guys can reach their potential, the Orioles will have a 2-headed monster that could rival the likes of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling (a bit of a bold statement, but these guys really are extremely talented).

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The bullpen has been a strength for the Orioles over the last few years but they’ve taken a significant blow in regards to their closer, Zach Britton. Britton missed most of last season and will miss the start of this season due to injury after a downright ridiculous 2016 season. How good was Britton in 2016? He allowed 3 earned runs in April. He allowed 1 the rest of the season. That equates to an ERA of 0.54 and quite frankly, if I had a Cy Young vote given the group of guys that the American League was putting out there that season, I think I would’ve voted for Britton to win despite him being a reliever. The Orioles should be in good shape without him, though. It will likely be Brad Brach who takes over the closer role in Baltimore in Britton’s absence and he does have an All Star appearance on his resume. Darren O’Day is another guy who can be really tough to hit. I would know, he’s by far my least favorite pitcher to face when I’m playing MLB the Show. His sinker and slider are deadly and couple that with the fact that he’s a submarine pitcher and you’ll be all out of sorts. Mychal Givens is also a quality arm out of the bullpen for the O’s.

The 2018 season is going to be huge for this front office. The lineup is very talented provided they hit the way they’re capable of but the pitching rotation will cost them many games. This will lead to a very difficult decision if the Orioles are hovering around the brink of a playoff berth because Manny Machado will become a free agent after this season and given his talent and the fact that he’ll be 26 when he hits the market, he’s going to command an INSANE contract that the Orioles simply won’t be able to afford. So if they find themselves sputtering and on the outside-looking-in for the playoff race when the Trade Deadline rolls around, I expect them to blow up the team and it’s going to start by trading Machado for a plethora of prospects. Reportedly the White Sox and Yankees have already contacted the Orioles about Machado and both teams do have the prospects to offer for his services. I’d consider the Yankees a long shot simply because it is widely believed within the Orioles’ organization that they don’t want to trade Machado within the division. However if the Orioles play to their abilities and are in the thick of the playoff race, they may decide to keep Machado with a chance to go on a deep playoff run. But if that’s your plan, you’d have to be World Series-or-bust because there’s very little chance that the O’s will be able to bring him back. So I can already tell you that the most intriguing team when the Trade Deadline rolls around on July 31st will be the O’s.

Projected Finish: 81-81, 3rd in the AL East

That projected record is kind of a place holder because what they do at the Deadline is going to be a huge barometer about how I project this team. If they trade Machado and other players on the roster, that record is going to drop like a ton of bricks. If not and their pitchers pitch to their capability, then we could see that first number in the 90’s. That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I preview the Boston Red Sox, who look to win a third consecutive division title for the first time in franchise history. Let me know what you think of the Orioles’ chances and send me some birthday wishes in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NBA Trade Deadline Recap

I should probably rephrase that title. It should read more on the lines of “Cavaliers completely overhaul their roster.” But let’s take a look at what specifically happened during the Trade Deadline because there were some juicy moves.

Cavaliers trade Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye to the Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance.

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What a rough go of it IT had in Cleveland. Injured for the first half of the season, then when he came back everybody hated him after he started butting heads with some of his teammates and the media. It’s hard to watch, being a Celtics fan because IT meant so much to the Celtics’ rebuild despite the fact he was only in green for about 3 and a half years. He went from one of the most beloved athletes in Boston to one of the most hated in Cleveland. But I think this trade is good for both sides. It became a pretty toxic situation in Cleveland so now one of the problems is out of the way and Thomas can get a fresh start with a Lakers team that could genuinely use him. Plus, IT was at his best when the Celtics were his show. Now he’s in a place in LA where he can be “the guy” while Lonzo Ball develops. I definitely think things will go better for him in LA than it did in Cleveland. Plus, IT is a free agent at the end of the season, which could open up a ton of cap space for the Lakers to make a run at another Cavaliers player… In return, the Cavs get some high-quality role players in Clarkson and Nance, who I think can really provide a huge spark off the bench, depending on who the Cavs decide to go with at point.

Cavaliers trade Dwyane Wade to the Heat for a Protected Second Round Pick

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This was pretty surprising to me since Wade and LeBron are as close as they are. But Wade goes to a place that probably never should have let him go in Miami. Sure his skills have deteriorated, but he is and always will be the face of Miami basketball after what he did with the Heat. It’s good to see him return. That’s all I really have to say on the matter, it’s more of a feel-good thing for me than a legitimate impact trade at this stage in Wade’s career.

Three-Way Trade Between the Cavaliers, Kings, and Jazz. Cavaliers Receive Rodney Hood and George Hill, Kings Receive Joe Johnson and Iman Shumpert, Jazz Receive Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder

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A lot to unpack with this one. Let’s start with what the Cavs are getting. Rodney Hood has gotten better and better with each season he’s been in the league and I think he’s going to replace Wade as the starting 2 guard. Hill could wind up getting the majority of minutes running point when LeBron doesn’t have the ball and I think he could wind up being a valuable asset, as he’s much more of a traditional point guard than IT is. He won’t be taking shots away from LeBron like IT has been, rather he may create even more shots. The Kings getting Joe Johnson kind of falls under the Dwyane Wade thing, Johnson is past his real usefulness and I don’t really understand the deal, except as I typed that sentence it was announced the Kings would be buying out Johnson’s deal, making him a free agent. Early reports are that the Celtics, Warriors, and Rockets are all interested. Shumpert will likely be a major part of their rotation as he immediately becomes arguably their best player, considering the overall lack of talent on the Kings’ roster. The Jazz receiving Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder is interesting to me. The Jazz are in the thick of a playoff race, currently sitting at 2.5 games out of the 8 seed in the West. This appears to me to be them more tanking a little bit and rebuilding around Donovan Mitchell than anything, as even if the Jazz make the playoffs, you can guarantee they won’t get far. They’d probably end up with the 8 seed and face the Warriors in the first round, which guarantees they won’t win a playoff game, let alone reach the second round. So it’s better to tank so you can get a higher draft pick than get a mid-first rounder and not have any chance of going anywhere in the foreseeable future.

Three Team Trade. Knicks Receive Emmanuel Mudiay, Nuggets Receive Devin Harris and a 2nd Round Pick, Mavericks Receive Doug McDermott

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This is a lower-profile trade but I still believe in Mudiay’s potential when put in the right circumstances that I feel like this could be a steal for the Knicks. I think once Kristaps Porzingis returns from his unfortunate ACL injury, he could elevate Mudiay’s play and vice versa. Harris and McDermott are more of depth for the Nuggets and Mavericks. The Mavericks are playing for the #1 pick at this point in the season while the Nuggets are surprisingly the 6 seed in the West. But I don’t think Harris is an upgrade over Mudiay so the move doesn’t really make sense for me unless the Nuggets are trying to lose their way out of a playoff position to try and land a top prospect in this year’s NBA Draft, which right now looks pretty stacked with talent.

Magic Trade Elfrid Payton to the Suns for a 2nd Round Pick

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This trade makes no sense to me from the Magic’s perspective. Payton is, in my opinion, an underrated point guard who I think could really excel if he’s got teammates to work with. He’s certainly worth more than a 2nd rounder. I actually think that Payton is an upgrade over Tyler Ulis and once Devin Booker is fully healthy again, I think he and Payton could form a formidable duo.

Trail Blazers Trade Noah Vonleh to the Bulls for the Draft Rights to Milovan Rakovic

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This trade is mainly just something that gets the Trail Blazers under the luxury tax as Vonleh is no more than a decent bench player. I’m mostly including this because not only did Vonleh play at Indiana, but he actually played against my high school a few times. I got to see him play twice as a high schooler. First time he absolutely whipped us, the second time we put on a full court press and totally frustrated him into a bunch of turnovers.

That’s going to do it for my trade deadline recap. The Cavaliers look totally different and this may be what they need to get themselves back on track. Also, in football news, congratulations to Jimmy Garoppolo on his 5-year $137M deal with the 49ers, the largest annual contract in NFL history. That’s what 5 starts can do for you. As a Patriots fan, watching Garoppolo succeed is like watching my son succeed. Let me know what you think of the NBA Trade Deadline in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. Your move, MLB.