It’s been a long three years for Orioles fans, who’ve watched their team win just 176 games—the second-fewest in baseball—since the start of the 2017 season. General manager Mike Elias didn’t take over until November 2018, but he’s further guided the team through a rebuild that’s continued into this offseason and reduced their chances of contending in 2020 to slim-to-none.
The Orioles have made two significant moves this winter and both have taken removed talent from their major-league roster rather than add it. Baltimore traded shortstop Jonathan Villar, who represented one of their best position players last season, to the Miami Marlins two days before sending starting pitcher Dylan Bundy to the Los Angeles Angels for four prospects.
It was frustrating for a fan base that hasn’t seen its team win just one playoff series over the last 22 seasons. In an interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas, Elias stressed they were difficult decisions to make but also the right decisions that helped “put us in a better spot for when we’re ready to compete the way we want to compete.”
“When you trade somebody like Bundy or Jonathan Villar, you are taking away from the major-league team and the major-league team needs help right now,” Elias said. “But we have a goal and a vision in mind of getting our team back to a playoff caliber and being able to stay at that level and in order to do that we have to build the foundation of the organization first and that starts in the minor leagues.”
Elias said he’s heard the complaints from fans about how long the rebuild is taking but hopes they trust the team will be capable of sustained success once the process is complete.
“I think, on the whole, people understand that there is a necessity for our organization to reposition ourselves, reorganize ourselves, build our minor leagues to be elite,” Elias said. “Without that, we’re not going to be able to go very far for very long and that’s what fans want to see. I share their frustrations with how long something like this takes.”
For now, the Orioles’ sights are set toward the future.
“It will be worth it when we get through it and this is what we have to do right now,” Elias said.
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From 2012 to 2015, Chris Davis was one of the most feared sluggers in baseball.
He led the American League in home runs twice, won a Silver Slugger and finished third in MVP voting in 2013. His production earned him a massive seven-year, $161 million contract extension, and today, on the four-year anniversary of the agreement things have tailed off quite a bit.
"He's been struggling now for years," Orioles GM Mike Elias said at the Winter Meetings. "There are a lot of reasons for that and we continue to look into it but the reality is, he is under contract and it's something not to take lightly, and because of that we're going to be focused on getting the most out of him that we can. But it's a very frustrating situation for him and for us."
In the 617 games before his extension, Davis hit .257 with 161 home runs, 425 RBI and 788 strikeouts.
Since signing his deal, Davis has hit .198 with 92 home runs, 230 RBI and 745 strikeouts in 518 games.
The Orioles have finished fifth in the AL East three out of the four seasons following Davis' contract, and while it's hard to imagine things getting worse, the Orioles still have his salary on the books for another three years.
Maybe Davis has an extra gear in him to spark a career-revival as he enters his age-34 season. That would certainly help the Orioles get back to relevancy, but after two straight seasons of hitting below .200, it's hard to expect much from Davis moving forward.
But hey, at least he's using his money for good. In early November, Davis and his wife donated a record $3 million to UMD Children's Hospital to help the hospital expand.
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Trey Mancini wants to be the next Ryan Zimmerman...kind of.
Though the two play completely different positions (right field vs. first base) for two different teams, Mancini saw what Zimmerman did to help develop the Nationals into World Series champions and wants to do the same in Baltimore.
"[Zimmerman] stuck it out [in D.C.], he was their first draft pick and was there through a lot of good times and bad," Mancini said in an interview on "The Leadoff Spot" on MLB Network Radio on Wednesday. "I think there's something really admirable in that...you see what Zimmerman means to D.C."
The Orioles drafted Mancini in the eighth round of the 2013 MLB Draft; since then he's played three full seasons in the league, though 2019 could be described as his "breakout" campaign.
Last year Mancini hit .291 in 154 games, leading the Orioles with a career-high 35 home runs and 97 RBI.
Mancini plans to stay in Baltimore through their rebuild, not only because it's the team that drafted him, but also because he loves the city and all of the people in the organization.
"It's always hard to see yourself somewhere else," Mancini said. "It could make it sweeter if you're there through some rough times and through a rebuild, and come out on the other side...a goal of mine later on is to be there when we're winning again."
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