The Baltimore Orioles have gone into Spring Training with a new look in their rotation.
In the past week, Baltimore has signed free agent pitcherAndrew Cashner and re-signed longtime Oriole Chris Tillman. In addition, there has been some important questions asked by Orioles beat writers such as the possibility of an extension for players and personnel whose contracts will expire in the next few seasons, Manny Machado and Tim Beckham swapping places in the infield, the possible rotation moves and among other things, will the team compete or attempt to re-build this season?
To answer some of those questions, FOX Sports 1340 AM welcomes Matthew Sroka of Section 336, an Orioles podcast which can be found on PressBox Online under the Radio > Podcast tabs and Section336.com.
Kyle Andrews: Could you give me a bit of a description on what you do with Section 336 and how the podcast came to be?
Matthew Sroka: About 5 years ago we were at some family gathering and me, my brother Josh, and my brother-in-law Bert, were just hanging out talking Orioles baseball like we always do. And someone, I don’t who, though it was probably, Josh suggested recording our conversation and turning it into a podcast. I know it wasn’t me who suggested this because prior to starting the podcast I had never listened to a podcast and barely knew what one even was. Anyway, we were terrible at first, but despite our inexperience, people responded positively, and it grew from there. I mean the show is just three brothers who also happen to be die-hard Baltimore Orioles fans talking (mostly) about Orioles baseball with the occasional Ravens talk, and some other nonsensical topics that tend to emerge throughout our show.
KA: Adam Jones recently said “It’s not about money, it’s about winning,” when speaking about possibly re-signing with the team. How important is it for Baltimore to retain Jones in free agency?
MS: I don’t know if it’s important to retain Jones because I don’t know what the plan is. With all the expiring contracts I’m not sure if the plan is to get younger and re-tool (I know they don’t like to use the word “rebuild”), then it doesn’t really make sense to resign Jones when you have some quality minor league outfielders ready to fill his shoes. However, if the Orioles are still trying to win now, I would think Adam Jones is an important component.
KA: The Orioles signed starting pitchers Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman in the last week. How much does this improve their rotation?
MS: I think Andrew Cashner’s floor is quite as low some of the other options like [Alec] Asher and [Gabriel] Ynoa and [Mike] Wright. His ceiling however isn’t very high. If he can pitch to an ERA of around 4 I think the Orioles (and fans!) would be very happy. Tillman is a trickier case. Everyone keeps on saying that he looks healthy, and the fastball control is back, and his arm angle is better. But this is all after watching a couple bullpen sessions. Let me this Tillman pitch in some games and then we can have a conversation about how much he improves our baseball team because if he pitches like last year I want him no where near my team, but if he can pitch like he did in 2014 or 2016 then of course that would be a significant boon to the team.
KA: Despite signing Tillman, Baltimore may not be done yet when it comes to acquiring starting pitchers. Which available starters would make the most sense in free agency or a trade for Baltimore to acquire?
MS: If you can’t get [Lance] Lynn,[Alex] Cobb, or [Jake] Arrieta (which apparently the Orioles can’t) then I don’t the Orioles to acquire anyone else. The Orioles have enough mediocre pitchers, and I don’t see the follow of bringing in more mediocre pitchers, and outside of those three guys I mentioned, the rest our mediocre.
KA: All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson was designated for assignment by the Tampa Bay Rays. Does he fit with a Baltimore outfield that already hosts Trey Mancini in left field and the aforementioned Jones in center field?
MS: Sure, because we still need a right fielder. Any scenario that helps assure me that I will never have to watch Mark Trumbo play another inning in right field I’m a fan of that move. Though I don’t know what it will cost, and I assume the Rays have a couple suitors for his services. I have a little trouble answering this question because I’m still annoyed and frustrated that the Orioles missed out on the opportunity to sign the left handed outfielder I really wanted, Jarrod Dyson.
MS: Well we aren’t going to make the playoffs because of our pitching. I know everyone likes to point out how bad our pitching was last year, but finished 16th in baseball in runs scored. Now if you are going to build your team around the offense, then your offense has to do better than 16th in runs scored. And the two guys most to blame for the lackluster offense performance of the Orioles are Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo. If at least one of these guys (most likely both of them) don’t have a bounce back year, then we have no shot at playoff contention.
KA: With Zach Britton’s Achilles injury, it could allow Baltimore to keep at least two of their Rule 5 draftees. Of the three pitchers (Nestor Cortes, Jose Mesa Jr. and Pedro Araujo), which one intrigues you the most?
MS: And this isn’t even including Anthony Santander who is Rule 5 for the first part of the season. Cortes seems to be the frontrunner because he was selected first, he’s a lefty, and he’s pitched successfully in the high minors. Between Mesa and Araujo, I think they’re both unlikely to make the team and one of them would really need to impress to stay on the team.
KA: Baltimore has three players in Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list (catcher Chance Sisco, outfielder Austin Hays and infielder Ryan Mountcastle). Which player will make the most impact in 2018, either as a starter or contributor?
MS: Ryan Mountcastle is the guy least likely because he’s the youngest, has the least experience in the upper level of the minors, and has the most work to do defensively. So Hays or Sisco? Not sure if either guys makes it out of spring training. I would say Sisco has a better chance to make the club out of Spring Training. However, a wildcard to watch that could have a bigger impact than all of these guys is DJ Stewart. The kid has speed, has always kept a great on base percentage, and is left-handed. Watch out for him to be a big contributor in 2018 and beyond.
KA: Of all of the pending free agents currently on the club, who is the most likely to be re-signed? Who are the players that could be traded? Which ones will they let walk in free agency?
MS: This has been the most frustrating part of this offseason; the realization that Orioles have not approached any of these pending free agents and talked extension. Right now from where I’m sitting it looks like the Orioles won’t resign any of them and I’m not even sure if the Orioles will trade any of them either. So I’m setting myself up to think the Orioles won’t trade or resign any of these guys, which would of course be the worst possible outcome.