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Orioles will need deeper bullpen in 2016


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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Orioles finally hire Brandon Hyde as new manager

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Orioles finally hire Brandon Hyde as new manager

The Orioles have finally found their man.

After entering the Winter Meetings without having yet hired their new manager, a rarity in this era of baseball, the Orioles announced Friday that they had hired Brandon Hyde to fill the role.

Hyde joins the organization after spending half a decade in Chicago under Joe Maddon, and many years prior with the Marlins. He has a long background in player development, something that was important to new Orioles GM Mike Elias, which makes sense considering the state of the organization and their upcoming rebuilding process.

Hyde is 45, so he’ll have the opportunity to stick in Baltimore for a long time if he finds success, however, Elias defines it, in the next few seasons. Many times, the manager leading a team as it embarks on an organizational rebuild is not the same one who leads them back into contention, but the Orioles front office will certainly hope Hyde is up to both tasks.
“After conducting an intensive search, I believe that we have found the ideal leader for the next era of Orioles baseball,” said Mike Elias, Orioles Executive Vice President and General Manager, in a statement released Friday.

“Brandon’s deep background in player development and Major League coaching, most recently helping to shape the Cubs into a World Champion, has thoroughly prepared him for this job and distinguished him throughout our interview process. I look forward to introducing him to our fans next week and to working together with him to build the next great Orioles team.”

Elias was thought to have preferred someone with Major League experience, so as to avoid saddling an up-and-coming manager with multiple 90-plus loss seasons inevitably on the horizon in Baltimore. Hyde technically has experience coaching in the big leagues, though it comes in the form of a single game. The Marlins lost his one game as acting manager 2-1 to the Rays, and Jack McKeon was named interim manager the next day.

Maddon has developed a reputation as a stellar communicator and somebody open to analytics, and it stands to reason that Hyde would follow a similar style of leadership, especially considering how critical those traits are in the eyes of Elias.

Hyde replaces Buck Showalter, a beloved figure in Baltimore after his 8 ½ seasons at the helm brought winning baseball back to a city desperate for relevancy. Showalter’s contract was not renewed at the end of this past season, an understandable decision given his age and how long it will be until the franchise is ready to compete again.

Reports swirled about Hyde being named the 20th manager in franchise history as early as Tuesday at the Winter Meetings, though Elias and the front office were quick to emphasize that nothing was official at the time. In the end, Hyde does end up accepting the job, and he’ll be introduced at a press conference Monday.

Nationals bench coach Chip Hale was, along with Hyde, one of six finalists who interviewed for the position, so the Nats won’t be losing a valuable piece of their staff.

The Orioles are in the honeymoon phase of the rebuild, where hope springs eternal and the losses to come haven’t set in yet. Hyde checks all the boxes for what Elias was looking for, and despite his relative inexperience, he’s someone who should excite, if not necessarily inspire, the fanbase in Charm City.

Orioles fans won’t have many exciting acquisitions to cheer on in the near future, but they may have just made one of their most impactful. The O’s finally have their GM-Manager combination set for the foreseeable future, and they’ll hope to experience as much success and more as the previous regime.

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Orioles GM Elias calls reports of Brandon Hyde being next manager "premature"

USA Today Sports

Orioles GM Elias calls reports of Brandon Hyde being next manager "premature"

Orioles new general manager Mike Elias is a busy man out in Las Vegas. Not only is he looking to add much needed talent to Baltimore's roster but he is also searching for a new manager. Elias interviewed six candidates, including Nationals bench coach Chip Hale, for the vacancy. On Monday, Elias said they were “pretty far along in the process.”

Then the reports surfaced on Tuesday that the Orioles had found their man. 

For a second straight year, Joe Maddon's bench coach has landed a managerial job (Davey Martinez). 

But, in the words of College Gameday's Lee Corso "Not so fast my friend!"

Does that mean Hyde is not the manager? Not necessarily. It likely means Elias wants the news to come out on his terms.