Posted on March 22, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
Despite a last-place finish in 2017, the Baltimore Orioles decided to reload for 2018 instead of starting a rebuilding project. However, the club didn’t have much money to spend on upgrades. Will the moves they made over the winter be enough to get the Orioles back in the playoff race in 2018 or will Baltimore suffer another losing season?
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Baltimore had the worst rotation in the American League last year. However, they finally addressed that problem late in the offseason by signing Alex Cobb. The Orioles desperately needed a pitcher like Cobb. After coming back strong from Tommy John surgery in 2017 by posting a 3.66 ERA, Cobb is the type of pitcher who can lead Baltimore’s rotation.
The addition of Cobb should help take some pressure off Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. Both are competent big league starters, but neither would have been great in the role of ace. The signing of Andrew Cashner earlier in the offseason should give the Orioles another reliable arm.
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Of course, beyond that quartet, there are some questions about Baltimore’s rotation. Chris Tillman had a disastrous and brief 2017 season because of shoulder trouble. He has a decent track record but there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to get back on track. The Orioles will also be relying on largely unproven pitchers like Gabriel Ynoa, Miguel Castro, and Nestore Cortes Jr. to help round out their rotation and provide depth if they need it.
The bullpen was one of the bright spots for the Orioles last year, and they’ll need another strong effort from their relievers in 2018. Closer Zach Britton is set to miss the early part of the season after also missing time due to injuries last season. Fortunately, the presence of Brad Brach and Darren O’Day should help the Orioles get by until Britton returns. Mychal Givens, Donnie Hart, and Richard Bleier are all coming off strong seasons and should give the Baltimore bullpen an impressive amount of depth.
The Orioles did not reach their potential offensively last season, but they continue to have a deep and talented lineup on paper. It starts with Manny Machado, who figures to have a big season as he heads into free agency next winter. The same should be true for center fielder Adam Jones, who continues to be a steady force in Baltimore’s lineup.
Meanwhile, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo are expected to provide plenty of power in the middle of the order. Of course, both were somewhat disappointing last season, and if both continue to show signs of decline, the Orioles could be in trouble. Fortunately, second baseman Jonathan Schoop has established himself as a productive member of Baltimore’s lineup and should provide some consistency.
The Orioles also have several x-factors worth watching this year. Trey Mancini had a breakout season last year and could continue to be an impact player. The same could be said of Tim Beckham, who was finally productive last season. The addition of Colby Rasmus could also give the Orioles some much-needed help in the outfield. However, he’s still a bit of a wild card after sitting out most of last season.
If everyone in Baltimore’s lineup has a good season, the Orioles could end up having one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball. However, with a few key players having down seasons in 2017, it may be unrealistic to expect that to happen.
The Orioles may have made a mistake by not trying to rebuild this past winter. Even with Cobb, they don’t have the kind of rotation that will measure up in the AL East. Odds are, the Orioles will struggle to stay competitive, leading them to trade Machado and others this summer. Look for the Orioles to finish 71-91 this season, which will force them to re-evaluate things next winter.