BALTIMORE (AP) — Quite by design, there were plenty of familiar faces on stage Saturday at the Baltimore Orioles’ annual offseason event for their fans.
The Orioles haven’t changed much since the end of the 2016 season, when they went 89-73 before losing to Toronto in the AL wild-card game.
Baltimore’s biggest move since last October was retaining major league home run leader Mark Trumbo, who agreed to a $37.5 million, three-year contract. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette also secured free-agent catcher Welington Castillo and dealt starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo to Seattle for outfielder Seth Smith.
That pretty much sums up the offseason for the Orioles.
“We’re returning not the exact same cast, but a similar strength on this ballclub for 2017,” Duquette said.
Welcome back, Manny Machado, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Jonathan Schoop, infielders who hit a collective 109 home runs in 2016.
Good to see you again in the outfield, Adam Jones, Hyun Soo Kim and Mr. Trumbo.
Farewell catcher Matt Wieters, who earned $15.8 million last year. Now a free agent, Wieters is the only starter who won’t be back.
Duquette got Castillo at less than half the price of Wieters and resisted the urge to add additional talent by swapping it for members of an exceptional bullpen.
“We did explore some interest from other clubs for some of those relievers,” Duquette said. “That’s something we can have an open mind about, but that’s a real strength for the ballclub and I’m happy we have that strength intact going into the season.”
After suffering through 14 straight losing seasons, the Orioles have reached the postseason in three of the last five years. The message conveyed to the more than 15,000 people who attended FanFest was that the goal in 2017 is to go the distance.
“I keep telling the fans today, and the players know it, that just being competitive and being in the playoffs isn’t good enough for us anymore,” Showalter said. “You can talk about how tough our division is and what the other clubs have done. But our guys have heard that every year.”
Showalter appreciates having Trumbo back, especially because it extends a trend. Trumbo joins Davis, Jones and reliever Darren O’Day as players who have signed long-term deals to remain with the Orioles.
“There’s some continuity there,” Showalter said. “They’re very much the same theme: There are ways to stay here, and we can make it happen.”
Davis, who hit 38 homers last year, intends to be playing baseball deep into October this season.
“That’s really the attitude and mentality of everyone in the clubhouse,” he said. “We’re not just out there to slide in at the last minute. Obviously, if we have to play a wild-card game, we’ll do it. But we want to win the division.”
Although spring training begins next month, Duquette isn’t done working. Like it or not, arbitration hearings with catcher Caleb Joseph, reliever Brad Brach and starter Kevin Gausman loom.
“It’s not our first choice. We’ve tried to get a deal with all the players, but we weren’t successful at this point,” Duquette said. “I expect that we’ll go to trial.”
In seeking to fill out the roster, Duquette will be looking for speed in the outfield and another pitcher or two. He acknowledged making an offer to free agent Vance Worley, who went 2-2 with a 3.53 ERA in 22 games with Baltimore in 2016.
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