While there have definitely been some shining moments this year, the season for the Orioles has been a bit of a disappointment as they finished the year up with a 69-93 record. Despite that, Stacey Long over at Camden Chat has been helping to cover the ups-and-downs, and was kind enough to take time to answer our questions about the team.
On the Minors:
SL: So far everything about Manny Machado has been impressive. His hitting prowess has been heralded since he was drafted, but it was encouraging to hear the reports that he is further along defensively than anyone expected. If he can stick at shortstop instead of having to move to third base, that would be great for the organization. He did have trouble at the plate upon his promotion to the Frederick Keys, but an 18-year old in high A ball isn't going to get it right away.People who follow the minors closely will know the name Jonathan Schoop, but he's not yet a known name in broad circles. Signed out of Curacao, Schoop came on strong with the Delmarva Shorebirds in his second year in professional baseball, hitting .316/.376/.514 before getting promoted to Frederick in mid-season. Like Machado, Schoop struggled at Frederick, but he's also still young, just 19 years old. Schoop just won the Brooks Robinson Award, which recognizes the organization's position player of the year, and his name should might showing up on top fifty prospect lists this offseason.
My Thoughts: Schoop's name has been coming up a lot, and the fact that he was given that award tells me that he's definitely an up-and-comer. He was playing shortstop at times, but they have also been playing him at 2B and 3B to make sure that both Machado and Schoop were playing consistently.
Read Stacey's thoughts about the struggles of the O's young pitching staff, the Erik Bedard trade, and more after the jump.....
On Moves Made By The Team:
MLBDD: The team clearly hoped that adding Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, and Vladimir Guerrero would help the anemic offense, but they really haven't been the addition the team wanted. What do you think the team needs to do this offseason to help the offense?
SL: They need to stop relying on old, overpriced veterans. They need to stop paying guys for their name rather than their on-field talent. They got better production from Nolan Reimold than Vlad, but he was stuck on the bench because of the $8M being paid to Guerrero. They need to work on building their farm system and on their international scouting instead of trying for quick fixes. That's not a very direct answer, but it's the best I've got.
My Thoughts: I couldn't agree more. With the behemoths in the AL East with them, they absolutely have to build for the long-term, even if it means that the team on the field may suffer. The hard part is that they still need to try to be competitive to bring fans in, but it's hard to have imagined that at the start of the season, the team believed that these additions would get them that much closer to the playoffs.
On the Struggles of the Pitching Staff:
MLBDD: One of the most troubling things this season has been the struggles of the young pitchers, especially Brian Matusz. What would you like to see the team do to help their pitching staff?
SL: The struggles of the young pitchers have been the most difficult thing to watch this season. I think consistency in coaching would be a good start. Matusz and the other young pitchers liked Rick Kranitz and worked well with him, but he was replaced with Mark Conner, who was replaced a month into the season with Rick Adair. I don't know how much that affects the pitchers, but it does seem to have done something.
Additionally, for the good of the team more than the individual pitchers, the team needs to stop relying on every prospect to pan out. Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Britton were all good prospects, but pitching prospects flame out all the time. They need to build up their volume of good prospects so that when they do have prospects fail, they have another one who might not.
My Thoughts: I can't honestly remember seeing a group of young pitchers struggle so much as a group, but I also did not realize that the coaches had changed so much this year. It doesn't necessarily explain what the problem is, but having 3 different coaches with 3 different styles all trying to fix the problems may not have helped. What they really could use for next year is a solid pitcher who can really take on a mentoring role. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I see a free agent-to-be that really fits that bill.
On the Search for A New General Manager:
MLBDD: With GM Andy MacPhail's contract expiring at the end of the season, do you think he will be back for 2012? If not, what would you like to see in the next general manager?
SL: It's all but certain that he won't come back. I'd like for the next general manager to be someone who focuses more on international scouting (MacPhail has been quoted as saying it's not worth the investment), who doesn't pay big bucks trying to build a bullpen, and someone who is willing to acknowledge the systemic failures of the Orioles and really be willing to make the changes necessary to turn this franchise around.
My Thoughts: I'm not sure who they are going to go out and get to replace MacPhail, but Stacey's right - they need someone who is willing to try all avenues, because they simply do not have the revenue base to compete with the rest of their division by trying to spend with them.
On the Erik Bedard Trade, Three Years Later:
MLBDD: It has been nearly 3 years since the Erik Bedard trade, and it clearly was a win for the Orioles. How do you feel about the trade now, along with the players received?
SL: I liked the trade when it happened, and I like the trade now. Jones hasn't turned into a superstar, but he's a very solid player. The Orioles built up George Sherrill's value by turning him into a closer and got Josh Bell for him. Bell hasn't panned out, but it was a good risk to take. The jury is still out on Chris Tillman, and they used Kam Mickolio to get Mark Reynolds. It was a very good trade. The problem with it is that those improvements weren't enough for the team to get good enough to contend, and Andy MacPhail didn't do enough in addition to that move for it to matter in the long run.
My Thoughts: This one looked good for the Orioles at the time, and it turned out to be great for them long term. Jones seems like he will have seasons where he will play like a superstar, even if he doesn't do that every year. The rest of the pieces that they received in return still have the potential to help the team quite a bit, so it's hard to argue with the return, especially considering how much Bedard has not pitched since then.
Thanks to Stacey for taking the time to answer our questions. You can find more about the Orioles from Stacey over at Camden Chat.