On the day after the regular season ended, Dan Duquette reviewed 2015 and looked ahead to 2016.
“We're going to have a good team when we start the season. I don't know who exactly will be on it,” Duquette said.
Looking outside Saturday morning, it’s hard to believe, but in 26 days the Orioles pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota.
Between now and Feb. 18, work will be done, but Duquette and Buck Showalter have a much better idea of who is going to be on their team now than they did on Oct. 5.
At that time, Duquette said that he hoped to sign a couple of the team’s free agents. Many people bet that the couple would be Gerardo Parra and Steve Pearce.
The Orioles didn’t show much interest in either, and Parra went to Colorado for three years and $27 million and Pearce agreed to a one-year contract with Tampa Bay on Thursday.
You may have missed that news because Thursday was when Chris Davis’ new contract was officially announced.
Davis was Peter Angelos’ main priority even though Duquette said at that talk, the club would be looking for pitching.
The biggest loss the Orioles sustained over the winter was Wei-Yin Chen, whose five-year $80 million deal was clearly out of the club’s comfort zone.
A seven-year, $161 million contract seemed out of the team’s comfort zone in October, too, but the team has come to realize that this is a new age in baseball salaries, and if the Orioles are going to compete, and yes, make their fan base happy, they’re going to pay a huge price to keep their stars.
In between getting another starting pitcher and a right fielder, the Orioles may try and negotiate an extension for Manny Machado, who will be impressed by the size of the Davis deal.
Showalter, who has been key, in convincing Angelos that the Orioles needed to change their philosophy on free agents, has some big decisions to make.
Unless the team signs a right fielder who’s a no-brainer choice as a leadoff hitter, Showalter will have a hard choice about who to lead off with.
While he’d prefer to have Machado lower in the lineup, there might be a lot of pressure on Hyun Soo Kim, the South Korean the team signed to play left. Kim was an on-base machine in Korea, but he hasn’t played in the U.S., and he’s a mite heavy for a leadoff man.
Duquette seemed to back away from Yovani Gallardo in a radio interview on Friday, saying that the team doesn’t want to surrender its top draft choice for signing him.
Everyone around the Orioles knows this year’s draft will be key. The 14th pick will be the team’s highest in four years, and it gets extra picks in the early rounds for losing Chen, the failure to sign second round pick Jonathan Hughes and a competitive balance pick.
Gallardo is the only top shelf pitcher remaining, and assuming he signs elsewhere, the team can concentrate on Doug Fister, Mat Latos and some others.
“There are some pitchers out there we like, and we’ve also talked to some other teams about pitching,” Duquette said on Thursday night.
“The problem in the pitching market is that there are more teams chasing fewer pitchers. There are not enough to go around. That is an-age problem, but it was very acute this winter.”
The Orioles have had a productive off-season. They brought back Matt Wieters for another season for the $15.8 million qualifying offer, added another power hitter, Mark Trumbo for 2016 at minimal cost, and re-signed Davis and Darren O’Day.
They also signed a number of their key arbitration-eligible players including Machado, Trumbo and Chris Tillman without rancor leaving only Zach Britton and Brian Matusz unsigned.
It would seem unlikely that either Britton or Matusz go the arbitration route.
But, through all these accomplishments, and they are impressive, many are still skeptical about the team.
The bullpen should be strong, and so should the defense. The starters must pitch better than they did last year, and if that’s the case, maybe there’s a chance in 2016.
Duquette said he wasn’t shocked that half of the team’s free agents are returning in 2016.
“I know that the players that are returning here enjoy playing her. You heard Chris talk about the atmosphere that Buck has created and the way fans welcome them into the community in Baltimore and how the players contributed to the community,” Duquette said.
“All that is good and hard to find. This is a great baseball town. The fans love the players. It didn’t surprise me and we have something that we can build on here.”
MORE ORIOLES: Is it time for Orioles to forget Gallardo?