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What moves can return the Orioles to postseason in 2017?

What moves can return the Orioles to postseason in 2017?

In 2017, the Orioles will try to accomplish something they haven’t done in 20 years, play in the postseason in consecutive seasons.

While the Orioles have the most wins in the American League over the past five seasons (444), they played in the postseason in 2012, 2014 and 2016, but didn’t in 2013 and 2015. 

Before each of the postseason years, the Orioles made key moves, whether it was in the traditional offseason months or at the beginning of spring training. In the years they didn’t qualify, their postseasons weren’t terribly active at all. 

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When Dan Duquette took over nearly five years ago, his first offseason included the signing of Wei-Yin Chen, trading Jeremy Guthrie for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom as well as drafting Ryan Flaherty. 

He made some other moves during spring training and during the season, signing Miguel Gonzalez and Nate McLouth that became huge successes. 

Following the 2012 season, the Orioles had a young and inexpensive team, and their only major moves were nontendering Mark Reynolds and re-signing McLouth. 

The Orioles won 86 games in 2013, but finished out of the playoffs. 

While Duquette was heavily criticized for inaction during the winter, he saw two players, Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez that offered good values, and he signed them early in spring training. A trip to the American League Championship Series followed. 

In the offseason that followed, Duquette was rumored to be the next president of the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Orioles quickly lost Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller with no suitable replacements. A .500 season followed. 

Last season featured Duquette making moves early and often—securing Matt Wieters for another year after he accepted a qualifying offer, trading for Mark Trumbo, signing Hyun Soo Kim, and re-signing Darren O’Day and Chris Davis. 

In spring training, Yovani Gallardo and Pedro Alvarez were added. 

This offseason, the Orioles don’t seem to have as many holes as they did a year ago, but for one of them, they must decide quickly what they’re going to do. 

Wieters is again a free agent, and the Orioles must decide whether they’re going to seriously pursue him, or if he leaves whether they’ll fill the catching vacancy internally or externally. 

There won’t be many quality catchers on the market, and the Orioles should move expeditiously to either sign or trade for someone who could start in 2017. 

They could decide they think a combination of Chance Sisco and Caleb Joseph can handle the job, but that decision must not linger. 

The Orioles must improve their depth so that manager Buck Showalter feels comfortable in resting Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop. 

While the Orioles may try and re-sign Wieters and Mark Trumbo, they won’t be chasing after big ticket free agents early in free agency. 

There are few quality pitchers on the prospective market, but there are some quality hitters including Alvarez, Trumbo, Jose Bautista, Carlos Beltran, Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Desmond, Edwin Encarnacion, Dexter Fowler, Kendrys Morales, Mitch Moreland, Colby Rasmus, Josh Reddick and Michael Saunders.

It’s not Duquette’s way to try and outbid other teams, but there are so many good hitters that perhaps one or two of these names, or ones from the second tier fall into the Orioles’ price range. 

In order to improve their depth, the Orioles will likely again be active in the Rule 5 draft, but unless they move a pitcher or two from their current crop, it seems unlikely they can be flexible enough to keep a drafted pitcher on hand. 

In 2015, the Orioles drafted Jason Garcia and Logan Verrett. They ended up keeping Garcia and sending Verrett back to the Mets. 

Having Garcia on the staff complicated manager Buck Showalter’s use of the bullpen, and he was sent to Bowie to start in 2016, but didn’t raise many eyebrows. 

Joey Rickard, the outfielder drafted last December, proved to be a useful addition who filled in for Jones and platooned with Kim before he was hurt. 

If the Orioles find a pitcher they like they’d have to include him on a prospective staff that already includes starters Gallardo, Jimenez, Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Wade Miley and Chris Tillman as well as relievers Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Mychal Givens, Donnie Hart, and Darren O’Day. 

It’s more likely that a Rule 5 pick would be a position player. 

While the early part of the offseason may include a series of smaller moves with bigger ones waiting for the market to settle, fans will undoubtedly criticize what they see as Duquette’s seeming lack of action. 

They shouldn’t because in the end if he has a decent start to free agency, he usually has a strong finish—and so do the Orioles. 

 

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Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

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USA Today Sports

Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

BALTIMORE  -- Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman will wear No. 34 next season as a tribute to Roy Halladay, who was killed in a plane crash last month.

Gausman announced the switch Thursday on his Twitter account. The right-hander wore No. 39 last year.

Gausman and Halladay are both from Colorado, and the Orioles pitcher said he followed Halladay's career closely and idolized him.

In a post next a photo of his new jersey, Gausman wrote: "Roy gave me the inspiration that I could fulfill even my biggest of dreams -- being a pitcher just like him."

Gausman concluded: "The loss of Roy is tragic and saddening, but I feel honored to have watched everything he achieved."

Halladay died on Nov. 7 when his small plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He played 16 big league seasons, winning the Cy Young Award in each league and being named an All-Star eight times.

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Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

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USA TODAY Sports

Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

HOUSTON (AP) -- Home runs kept flying over the wall at Minute Maid Park, on line drives up toward the train tracks, on fly balls that just dropped over the fence.

Seven more were hit in Game 5, raising the total to a World Series record 22 -- with two possible more games to play. Twenty-five runs were scored in a game started by the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and the Astros' Dallas Keuchel, Cy Young Award winners regarded as among baseball's best.

After a season when sluggers outpaced even their steroid-era predecessors for home runs, some are convinced that something is amiss with the baseballs.

"The main complaint is that the balls seem a little bit different in the postseason, and even from the postseason to the World Series balls," Justin Verlander said Sunday, two days before he takes the mound in Game 6 and tries to pitch the Astros to their first title. "They're a little slick. You just deal with it. But I don't think it's the case of one pitcher saying, `Hey, something is different here.' I think as a whole, everybody is saying, `Whoa, something is a little off here.'"

A record eight home runs were hit in Game 2, including five in extra innings, and Game 5's seven long balls would have tied the old mark. The 13-12, 10-inning Astros' win Sunday night was the second-highest scoring game in Series history.

Keuchel was quoted as saying after Game 2: "Obviously, the balls are juiced."

Not so obvious to everyone, even amid the power surge.

"I haven't personally noticed anything. I haven't tried to think about it either," Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow said after giving up two homers in Game 5. "It's not something you want to put in your own head."

Same for Kershaw, even after giving up his record eighth homer of the postseason Sunday.

"I don't really pay attention to it," Kershaw said. "I just assume that both sides are dealing with it, so I'm not going to worry about it."

This year's long ball assault topped the 21 of the 2002 Series. Anaheim hit seven and Barry Bonds and his San Francisco Giants slugged 14 over seven games. That was the year before survey drug testing.

Speculation that something has changed includes a study claiming to have found differences in the size and seam height of balls since the 2015 All-Star break.

"I know there was talk about different sizes and some of the baseballs were slightly bigger and some were smaller. Some of the seams were higher, some of the seams were lower. But, no, it's been consistent," said Rich Hill, who will start Game 6 for the Dodgers. "I think that just has to do with conditions -- if it's colder it's going to be slicker. If it's a little bit warmer out or humid, I think you're going to find that you're going to have a little bit more of moisture to the baseballs."

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred insists nothing nefarious is going on.

"I'm absolutely confident that the balls that we're using are within our established specifications," he said Friday.

Verlander rejected that assertion.

"I know Mr. Manfred said the balls haven't changed, but I think there's enough information out there to say that's not true," he said.

Verlander also does not think it's an issue of how balls are rubbed up before games.

"I know baseball uses the same mud for every single ball for every single game that's played," he said. "I think there's a broader issue that we're all missing."

On the day he become commissioner in January 2015, Manfred said, "I'm cognizant in the drop in offense over the last five years, and it's become a topic of conversation in the game, and it's something that we're going to have to continue to monitor and study."

Offense started rebounding during the second half of the season, and a record 6,105 home runs were hit this year, 2.4 percent more than the previous mark of 5,963 set in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era.

"I think it's pretty clear," Verlander said. "I think our commissioner has said publicly that they wanted more offense in the game. I'm pretty sure I'm not fabricating a quote here when I say that. I think it was already All-Star break of `15, or right before, when he said that."

San Francisco's Johnny Cueto and Toronto's Marcus Stroman also think the balls have changed, with Stroman blaming slick balls for a rise in pitcher blisters -- an affliction which has struck Hill a few times in the past couple seasons, too.

Houston's Brent Strom and the Dodgers' Rick Honeycutt, the World Series pitching coaches, both were quoted by Sports Illustrated on Sunday as saying the slickness of the ball made throwing sliders difficult.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I don't see a ton difference, but I'm not going to get in a verbal war with coaches and players who think otherwise."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had a similar view but acknowledged the power records got his attention.

"The pitchers talk about it feels different in their hand. The one component is the slickness and guys at different ballparks rub it up differently," he said. "Sort of feels the same to me. But it's hard to argue the numbers. You know there's more velocity. Guys are swinging harder. I know in Los Angeles the air was light. It was hot. The ball was flying, carrying more than typically. But I hesitate to try to give you any insight because I really don't know."

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