Mar. 15, 2017
Is the Orioles Window Really Closing After This Season?
The Baltimore Orioles are once again going into the 2017 season with their sights set on the playoffs although many outside of Baltimore won't even give them the attention they deserve. At best, most believe that the Orioles will likely finish the 2017 regular season out of the playoff race and will once again be stuck in the middle of the pack due to a potent offense, but less-than-desirable starting rotation.
Since that is the case, is Baltimore's window for contention really closing after this season? After all, every team's window eventually closes and their hopes of making the postseason fade away, but where do the Orioles sit in that equation?
Following the 2017 season, Baltimore will lose starting pitchers, Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, and Wade Miley, all to free agency along with outfielders, Hyun-soo Kim and Seth Smith and recently signed outfielder, Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez of course signed a minor league deal with the team this past weekend, while Smith was acquired via trade with the Seattle Mariners in exchange of starting pitcher, Yovani Gallardo, this offseason.
From that list of free agents, the biggest hit will obviously be within the Orioles starting rotation, which has always been a weakness for the team. In fact, dating back to 2011, there has only been one season in which the Orioles starting rotation finished with a cumulative ERA below 4.00. That year was in 2014 when the starting staff posted a 3.61 ERA in 953.2 IP. The worst year out of those 6 seasons was in 2011 when the starting staff finished dead last in the MLB with a cumulative ERA of 5.39 in 881.0 IP.
Turning back to the current Orioles, what happens following this season will likely depend on how well the team performs in 2017 and what necessary adjustments need to be made. The biggest qualities of the Orioles lye within the backend of their bullpen as well as around the diamond with various talented, position players.
Regardless of the direction Baltimore heads in, they will always have their centerpeice in first baseman, Chris Davis, who is locked down with the team through 2021. In addition, Baltimore has centerfielder, Adam Jones, under contract through the end of the 2018 season before he hits free agency and shortstop, J.J. Hardy, has a $14 million dollar club option for next season prior to hitting the free agent market before the start of the 2019 season.
Also, both third baseman, Manny Machado, and reliever, Zach Britton, will both be eligible for arbitration following the 2017 regular season before they hit the free agent market in 2019.
If the Orioles do end up contending this season, they will likely hold onto all of their pieces until they are officially out of the playoff race. If they don't, then we could end up seeing a few of those pieces traded for prospects in return to help beef up a farm system that continues to be one of the worst in the game in regards to impact players who can help at the major league level.
Obviously, Baltimore will have some decisions to make regarding the future and how long they want to keep their window open, but those decisions will come with a hefty price tag and one where the team might have to depart with certain players, while retaining others.
For now, the Orioles have their sights set on the 2017 season and hope that it is one that brings October baseball back to the city of Baltimore. After all, they still have plenty of talent and a very competent manager and front office staff to keep that window open and make a run for it all.