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Orioles will need deeper bullpen in 2016

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Orioles will need deeper bullpen in 2016

Chris Davis, Darren O’Day and Matt Wieters all picked a great time to become free agents. It’s also a good time for Wei-Yin Chen.

Davis, O’Day and Wieters are the best in their position available on the free agent market. While Chen isn’t the best left-handed pitcher, he’s one of the better ones.

Had O’Day been a free agent a year ago, he would have been slotted behind his teammate Andrew Miller (four years, $36 million) and David Robertson (four years, $46 million).

Miller hadn’t been a closer at that point, but there wasn’t much doubt he could be, and Robertson had deftly succeeded Mariano Rivera as the Yankees’ ninth inning man.

Last year, Luke Gregerson, who had a profile not dissimilar to O’Day’s, received three years and $18.5 million from Houston.

Without an established big-time closer on the market, O’Day is ready to cash in.

Let’s compare him with Gregerson. While Gregerson was 30, three years younger than O’Day at the time he signed, he had 19 saves. Baseballreference.com says O’Day is the 10th most similar pitcher to Gregerson.

O’Day allowed fewer hits per nine innings last year than Gregerson (6.5 to 7.1) and struck out many more (11.3 to 8.7). Both had excellent strikeout to walk ratios and WHIPs under 1.

Neither had been a closer before free agency, but Gregerson had 31 saves for the Astros. O’Day has just 14 saves with six coming last season when Zach Britton wasn’t available.

There’s little doubt that O’Day could easily slide into a closer’s role.

Manager Buck Showalter has used him judiciously, never pitching him even 70 innings in a season.

O’Day should be able to at least match Gregerson’s money and easily exceed another sidearmer, Joe Smith’s deal. Smith, who had just three saves before signing with the Angels in 2013, inked a three-year, $15.75 million deal at 29.

If the Orioles retain O’Day, and the guessing here is that they won’t, they’re going to have to add to their bullpen.

While Britton, O’Day and Brad Brach were excellent, there are many questions about it for next season.

Mychal Givens was outstanding in his audition, but he only pitched 22 games, about a third what Showalter earmarks for his top relievers.

Brian Matusz may have priced himself out of the Orioles’ market.

And there are many questions about the others in the pen: Oliver Drake, Chaz Roe and Mike Wright.

T.J. McFarland wasn’t as good in 2015 as he was the year before, and Jason Garcia isn’t expected to start the season with the Orioles.

Dylan Bundy is, and while the Orioles would love to see him as a starter, his lack of innings and their inability to option him to the minors, will force him to the bullpen to begin 2016.

If you look over the free agent reliever list, O’Day has every reason to be excited about his chances for a lucrative deal.

Some on the list were great relievers in the past: Jim Johnson, Joe Nathan, Fernando Rodney and Joakim Soria, but none combine his health and productivity with relative youth.

Johnson has been with four teams since leaving the Orioles while Rodney is 38 and Nathan 41. While Soria is nearly two years younger than O’Day, he has had injuries and not been nearly as effective as he was earlier in his career.

The Orioles are likely to add relievers en masse this offseason.

Many of those on the lists are either former Orioles (Johnson, Matt Albers, Tommy Hunter, Ryan Webb) or have been talked about in the past year or two (Craig Breslow, Neal Cotts, Edwin Mujica).

Breslow is an intriguing name. Near the end of the season, he pitched four excellent innings in the first start of his career against the Orioles.

Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is very familiar with Breslow, who is 35 and went to Yale. The left-hander had two stints with Boston.

Showalter is always intrigued by relievers who have had good track records, but are coming off a bad season. He has confidence that pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti can find out what went wrong.

The 2012 and 2014 postseason teams featured deep bullpens. Last year’s was not quite as deep.

While the Orioles know their starting pitching must improve in 2016, their bullpen must get stronger, too.

NOTE: One free agent the Orioles won’t be signing is South Korean slugger Byung-ho Park. They were outbid by another major league team. The Nexen Heroes accepted a $12.85 million bid for the 29-year-old first baseman. The winning team now must negotiate a contract with Park.

[RELATED: Orioles need a better 2016 from Tillman to contend]

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Manny Machado pens goodbye to O's fans on Instagram

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Manny Machado pens goodbye to O's fans on Instagram

Days after being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a deal that captivated much of Major League Baseball, former Oriole Manny Machado took to Instagram to thank the only organization he's ever known. 

The 26-year-old's contract expires at the end of this season, which the Orioles chose not to renew as the last-place club enters a rebuilding phase. 

Machado put up big numbers in the team's first 97 games totaling career-highs in home runs (24), RBIs (65), OBP (.387) and OPS (.962). 

He is expected to play shortstop for a Dodgers club which finished the first half of the season 10 games above .500 in a competitive, tight NL West. 

The Dodgers will pay Machado $6.3 million. 

To my Baltimore family, I’ve spent the last few days trying to figure out how I would say goodbye but there wasn’t an easy way to do it. I first joined this organization at the age of 17 and these past eight years have far exceeded anything I ever could’ve imagined. Throughout the ups and downs, you embraced me unconditionally and you took a kid from Miami and brought me up as one of your own. I’ve enjoyed my time here and you all have played a big part in that!! Thank you Birdland! You are forever in my heart! To the Baltimore Orioles, it has truly been a blessing to put on that uniform every day. To the Angelos Family & Dan Duquette, thank you for making my dreams come true!!! To Buck and the coaching staff, thank you for your commitment and dedication to making me the best player and teammate I can possibly be…I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of you. To my teammates, we’ve shared some amazing times with lots of memories & friendships that I’ll cherish forever. Schoopy, I love you bro and I know you will carry the torch!!! ! Much love always, Manny #13

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Manny Machado trade rumors are dominating headlines at All-Star Game 

Orioles star shortstop Manny Machado traded to Los Angeles Dodgers 

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What exactly did the Orioles get in return for Manny Machado?

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What exactly did the Orioles get in return for Manny Machado?

So, the Orioles made some headlines earlier this week. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but minor league pitcher Asher Wojciechowski exercised his opt-out clause and is no longer with the organization. Please keep Orioles fans in your thoughts during this trying time.

As everyone reading this is undoubtedly already aware, the Orioles *also* made a trade yesterday, sending 26-year old superstar Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return for their once-in-a-lifetime talent, the Orioles received a whopping five prospects from the Dodgers’ minor league system.

Yusniel Diaz, OF, 21

It’s fitting that this trade is being compared to the Erik Bedard trade, which was also a five-for-one, because Diaz could be a poor man’s Adam Jones. He’s not the prospect Jones was, but he could end up being a really nice player.

Talent evaluators are split on his ultimate ceiling. Some describe him as a bona fide stud, and others leave him off their top 100 lists. I’ve seen him ranked as high as 31st overall (by Baseball Prospectus), which, if accurate, is a terrific main piece in a package for a star rental. 

Most consider Diaz’s main flaw as a prospect to be his in-game power, though anyone watching the 2018 MLB Futures Game would be confused by that, as he became the second player ever to hit multiple home runs in the game. It’s possible that more power develops as he matures, and he certainly wouldn’t be the first player to hit for more power once reaching the Majors, but for now, it’s not a strength. I wouldn’t expect him to top 20 home runs in most seasons.

His bat-to-ball ability is his clearest strength, as he projects to consistently hit for a high average. His batting eye, while formerly a weakness, has become a strength in 2018, as he’s actually walked more times than he’s struck out (a rarity in this day and age). That will play well with O’s fans who are tired of seeing their players challenge strikeout records.

Dean Kremer, RHP, 22

Kremer isn’t a major name, which is a disappointment for O’s fans and one of the reasons their haul felt so uninspiring. Compared to more highly-touted prospects like Dustin May, Kremer looks like the team settled.

That said, he’s currently sporting the best K/9 ratio in the minors, and could end up being a diamond in the rough. He’s come a long way since being a 14th-round pick two years ago, and you have to wonder if the Orioles’ much-maligned pitching development can pick up where the much more successful Dodgers instructors left off.

Kremer is also notable for being the first Israeli-born player ever drafted in Major League Baseball.

Rylan Bannon, IF, 22

Bannon was an 8th-rounder last year and is having somewhat of a breakout this season. He’s leading the league in home runs, though playing in a notorious band box of a home park is skewing those numbers.

Bannon is undersized, but has a reputation of a good, if not elite, fielder. He’s a third baseman, but will likely spend some time at second as well. If the power breakout is real, he could end up a solid starter for the Orioles down the road. Again, that’s about all you can hope for in trades of this nature.

Zach Pop, RHP, 21

Pop has been described as potentially a future “right-handed Zach Britton,” which every O’s fan would take in a heartbeat. Of course, he’s not ranked like a future All-Star, as even in the weaker Orioles farm system he’s likely no better than around 25th. 

Still, the filler players in big trades like this are just lottery tickets, and considering his lack of pedigree, Pop seems like a relatively “safe” pitcher with projectability. He strikes out a lot of batters and gets a lot of ground balls, and at the very least can likely become a decent middle reliever.

Breyvic Valera, IF, 26

In a best-case scenario, Valera becomes the Orioles’ Ryan Flaherty replacement. If you squint, you can see somewhat decent upside in each of the other returning players, even despite their modest prospect rankings, but Valera is a clear utility player. 

He gets on base and hits for contact well enough to stick around and has proven capable of defending multiple positions, so there actually might be a spot for him at the end of the Orioles bench.

Overall

This trade has been described as anywhere from adequate and somewhat deflating to a great haul O’s fans should be excited about. Four of the five players have decent ceilings, though the chance of all four (or even just two of them) reaching those ceilings is highly unlikely. It’s just the nature of baseball.

Ultimately, this trade will be judged on the success or failure of Yusniel Diaz, who is the clear centerpiece of the package. Whether or not he succeeds will be partially up to him, and partially up to the front office and player development team.

If this trade is the beginning of the core for the next competitive Orioles team, then it’ll have to be considered a success. If these players each bust out of the league, then it was still the correct decision to trade Machado instead of settling for draft pick compensation, but it will still sting all the more for O’s fans seeing Manny soar to new heights elsewhere.