The second half of the season has not been particularly kind to the Baltimore Orioles.
Offensive production has been down, and pitching has been sub-par at best, especially since the beginning of August. Baltimore (65-72) has posted a 13-22 record since then, including two six-game losing streaks and have lost 15 out of its last 18 games.
The Orioles, who held a half-game lead in the AL East on July 1, trailed the New York Yankees by six games at the end of July, and now trail the Toronto Blue Jays by 13 games, placing them in a tie for fourth place in the division.
With Baltimore’s chances of making the playoffs nearly impossible at this point in the season, it’s time for Baltimore and its fan base to start looking ahead to what is a very important off season.
At least 10 players who have been very important to the Orioles success both this year, and in the past few years, will either become free agents, or be up for arbitration at the end of the season.
I am going to go through each of those players and give you my opinion on what the Orioles should do.
Chris Davis, 1B
Chris Davis has, oddly enough, been one of the Orioles most consistent threats offensively this season. His 40 home runs leads all of baseball, his 101 runs batted in is second in the American League to Josh Donaldson, and his .256 batting average is 60 points higher than what it was last year.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is he also leads all of baseball with 182 strikeouts.
Davis fits the mold of the Orioles well. He hits for a lot of power but a low average.
Baltimore should re-sign their big slugger to a two- or three-year deal. However, if the O’s don’t re-sign Davis, they have to get a power bat of similar (or better) production in return.
Manny Machado, 3B
I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time trying to convince you or the Orioles that they need to re-sign Manny Machado, who is eligible for arbitration at the end of 2015.
He’s one of the best young players in baseball, a stud at third base, and has been a Godsend at the lead off position.
Yes, the Orioles need to sign Machado to a long-term deal and keep him in Baltimore for a long time.
Gerardo Parra, OF
It’s a shame that the Orioles have faltered down the stretch of the season, because had they been able to stay in the playoff picture and make it to the post season, the signing of Gerardo Parra would’ve been a big reason why.
He fixed a need for a corner outfielder, and for another bat at the top of the lineup.
Personally, I still would like to see Parra take over the lead off spot in the batting order and have Machado hit second for a more conventional lineup.
Parra is a player you don’t have to pay a great deal of money to, so I would like to see Baltimore bring him back, at least for the 2016 season.
Steve Pearce, Utility
When Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop was injured early on this season, I had no idea who was going to play second base in his absence. Steve Pearce became the answer to the question, and played surprisingly well at the middle infield position.
Pearce was a big part of the team’s success in 2014, however his bat never really showed up this season.
Personally I like Pearce, I think he can provide a spark to the team when needed, however, he just hasn’t been getting it done at the plate this year.
I don’t see the Orioles re-signing him.
Matt Wieters, C
Deciding whether or not to re-sign Matt Wieters will be one of the hardest decisions Dan Duquette and the Orioles front office has to make in the offseason.
Wieters has been a big part of the team since arriving on the scene in 2009.
He’s a switch-hitting catcher that plays exceptional defense behind the plate and has a cannon for an arm. When healthy he is a top-tier catcher in the majors.
However, he demands a lot of money. The 29-year-old will make $8.3 million this season.
Also, Caleb Joseph has shown huge signs of improvement this season.
Joseph is playing well behind the plate, and is hitting well at it. His .247 avg may not seem like much, but he is consistent towards the bottom of the lineup and has proven his worth either with men on base or in two-out situations.
With all things considered, I don’t believe the Orioles should bring back Wieters. They can get very similar production out of Joseph for not nearly as much money as what they would have to pay Wieters.
Zach Britton, CP
In a season for the Orioles where pitching has been okay at best from both the starting rotation and the bullpen, Zach Britton has been the most consistent pitcher to come out of the pen for the ‘Birds this year.
Britton has 30 saves, a very low WHIP, and a good 1.96 ERA.
There’s nothing overly special or out of the ordinary about Britton, but he’s been reliable since taking over the closer role at the beginning of last year.
If I’m Duquette, I re-sign Britton to a one-year deal, simply to see if he can have another season of nearly 40 saves, or if he will suffer the same fate as a lot of closers have over the past few seasons when they quickly go from being untouchable to unusable.
Wei-Yin Chen, SP
Wei-Yin Chen is the most consistent, and flat out best starting pitcher the Orioles have. He’s a ground-ball pitcher that doesn’t give up a ton of runs.
Just like with Machado, I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about such a quality pitcher like Chen.
The Orioles have to re-sign him, hopefully for at least three years.
Brian Matusz, RP
The Orioles have tried Brian Matusz in a number of roles in his seven-year career. He began his career as a starting pitcher and has since been converted into a reliever that normally is called on in the seventh or eighth inning.
No matter what the situation is that he enters the game in, Matusz still scares me. Bases empty or bases loaded, when Matusz is on the mound I have a hold my breath in fear with every pitch.
With that being said, I don’t believe the Orioles should re-sign him. I believe they can either sign or call up a player of similar or better talent for less money.
Darren O’Day, RP
Darren O’Day quietly is one of the better relief pitchers in the American League. The submarine pitcher throws the ball with deception that has been keeping AL East batters off balanced for the past four seasons.
I don’t see a scenario where the O’s don’t resign him to resume his role as a key late-inning reliever.
O’Day will be back in orange and black next year.
Chris Tillman, SP
Besides deciding on what to do with Matt Wieters, deciding whether or not to give Chris Tillman a new deal will be the hardest decision for Buck Showalter and company in the Orioles front office.
Tillman is a decent starting pitcher, but the O’s need an ace, and Tillman is no ace. Not bringing Tillman back next year would tell me that Duquette has his eyes set on an ace for the future – one that is NOT Kevin Gausman. However, if the Orioles do bring back Tillman, that would tell me Baltimore is not going to go after a big-name pitcher to front line the rotation.
I think the O’s will end up re-signing Tillman, but I believe that if I was Duquette I would not.