Twelve Orioles thoughts counting down to start of spring training

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With pitchers and catchers set to report to Sarasota for the start of spring training in under two weeks, I’ve offered a dozen Orioles thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A third straight boring offseason is a reminder of the difficulty in stomaching a rebuild. The organization doesn’t get an unconditional pass for slashing costs at every turn and has had opportunities to be more aggressive, but Mike Elias never claimed this process would be easy.

2. Felix Hernandez saw his ERA and FIP worsen every year from 2014-19, but I’ll take a flier on a former Cy Young winner on a club depending heavily on young pitching. I do have admiration watching a once-great player try to figure out how to succeed despite diminished skills.

3. Though the cynic immediately labels the Alex Cobb trade a salary dump, the Orioles covering $10 million of his 2021 pay to “buy” former top 100 prospect Jahmai Jones departs from recent swaps. They’re still saving $5 million, but seeing Elias aim for more than lower-level lottery tickets was encouraging.

4. Cobb’s departure was a final reminder of how woeful the results were of signing middle-tier starters in free agency in the Dan Duquette era. Just think how little the Orioles got out of buying Cobb, Ubaldo Jimenez, Yovani Gallardo, and Andrew Cashner. That’s why you need to develop your own. 

5. Though I was disappointed to see the MASN departures headlined by Gary Thorne, the bigger issue was how poorly those were handled. Networks cut costs and pivot to new voices frequently, but losing someone like Thorne is rough for an on-field product not exactly easy to watch in recent years.  

6. With so much cost cutting from the Orioles and MASN, the announcement of a new lease for Camden Yards would be a meaningful show of good faith for a fan base bracing for a fifth straight losing season. Regardless of reassurances, that lingers as an issue until it isn’t anymore.

7. The club asking to defer some of his $4.75 million salary was disconcerting if not ridiculous and he shouldn’t be untouchable in trade discussions, but any scenario not involving Trey Mancini on the Opening Day roster would be heartbreaking. I’m looking forward to seeing him back on the field.

8. Last season brought the rookie arrivals of Ryan Mountcastle, Dean Kremer, and Keegan Akin. In 2021, outfielder Yusniel Diaz and pitchers Michael Baumann, Zac Lowther, and Alexander Wells are among those I anticipate seeing at some point. Slowly but surely, we’ll be watching more prospects and fewer placeholders.

9. With that in mind, I’m interested to see the effects of a 2020 that brought a “development by concentrate” approach at the alternate training site in Bowie. With so much discussion focused on the pitching side, the Orioles hope to see progress with their innovations in the hitting department.

10. It’d be disingenuous not to acknowledge MASN finally offering streaming to in-market subscribers, but the network being available on a more affordable streaming service such as Hulu or YouTube TV would really move the meter. It’s still good to see progress, however.    

11. If owners had pure intentions about delaying the season, talks would have begun weeks ago and not when players have already increased activity for spring training. Expanding the playoffs cheapens the regular season and is bad business for players with many clubs already barely spending to win as it is.

12. We’re approaching Chris Davis spring redemption season, but this is a reminder that February and March results are irrelevant for a player who is nearly 35 and has performed below replacement level for four straight years. It’s difficult taking ownership seriously as long as this on-field marriage continues.

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