BALTIMORE, MD – The annual offseason event that the Baltimore Orioles throw every year at the Baltimore Convention Center is over. What did we learn, if anything, from Saturday? Here are three important takeaways from FanFest.
1. No major updates on contract negotiations
As the 2017 regular season approaches, there are several big name Orioles that are either in their contract year or are very close to it. These Orioles include infielder Manny Machado, and pitchers Chris Tillman & Zach Britton.
Tillman is the most notable of the four, as he is the only one of the group entering a contract year in 2017. Even though pitchers and catchers report in just a few weeks, Tillman did not seem encouraged about contract talks possibly opening up before that time comes.
“I haven’t heard anything,” Tillman said. “I like to pitch once the season starts, I’m not focused on much else.”
Beyond 2017, Machado and Britton will be free agents after the 2018 season. For a long time now, Orioles fans have clamored for Baltimore to give Machado a long-term contract before his already steep price climbs even more. However, once again, it does not seem like those contract talks with the 24-year-old superstar have started.
“So far nothing has come up,” Machado said. “This is the organization that I want to play for, and I am open to talking. I would rather win a ring than sign a long-term contract.”
With urgency building to lock players like Machado up, it will be interesting to see if general manager Dan Duquette gets these talks going soon.
2. Jones wants improved outfield defense
One of the areas in which the Orioles struggled last season was outfield defense, particularly in the corners. Duquette addressed that need this offseason, trading pitcher Yovani Gallardo to the Seattle Mariners for outfielder Seth Smith. Mark Trumbo was also signed to a new three-year deal, but it seems like Trumbo will see more time at designated hitter and occasionally at first base instead of playing right field again.
These moves improved Baltimore’s outfield depth, but there is still a lack of speed in the corner outfield spots. Center fielder Adam Jones had to cover a lot of ground last season, and he made it clear that more needs to be done if the Orioles want to improve their outfield defense.
“We need to improve defensively, in the outfield,” Jones said. “[We need to] get more speed, more athleticism out there.”
Jones’ window is beginning to get smaller, as he is now 31-years-old and only has two years left on his contract. It’s clear that he wants to win a championship with Baltimore, but he feels that more needs to be done this offseason if that is going to be possible.
3. No heat on Showalter for Wild Card blunder
The national media and Orioles fans alike were calling for the head of manager Buck Showalter after he did not use closer Zach Britton in Baltimore’s 5-2 Wild Card loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. The game went into extra innings (11) before the Orioles’ demise came at the hands of Ubaldo Jimenez, who had barely been used in a relief role all season. Showalter was heavily criticized after the defeat, and even acknowledged that not using Britton “wasn’t very good.”
Despite this puzzling blunder by Showalter, who has been an expert in using his bullpen throughout his career, Orioles fans gave the skipper a huge ovation on Saturday. It is a warm feeling for the Orioles after much of the criticism of Showalter by the media and fans was more emotional than anything. Showalter is a three-time manager of the year, most recently in 2014, and is still one of the top managers in baseball. He made a bad mistake in a playoff game a few months ago, but the Orioles are lucky to have him as the manager of this ball-club.