SCHMUCK: Status quo just won't cut it for 2016 Orioles
Because the Orioles are in the middle of the brief exclusive bargaining period when teams can retain their pending free agents, it's fair to focus on their effort to re-sign some of the fan favorites who are eligible for the open market.
Who doesn't want to see the O's make a legitimate attempt to bring back Chris Davis and the other upper-tier players who will have to be replaced if they decide to sign elsewhere as free agents?
Trouble is, the Orioles needed a season-ending five-game winning streak just to end up at .500 and close to within 12 games of first place in the American League East.
Even if they could convince every key player to stick around — which is not going to happen — the status quo isn't going to cut it.
The cost of keeping Davis alone calls into question whether the Orioles would be able to muster the payroll necessary to do what it would take to strengthen the starting rotation and fix what ails the inconsistent offensive attack.
That, and the likelihood that nothing terribly significant is going to happen inside this five-day window, makes what happens outside of it over the next few weeks more important to the club's chances of re-establishing itself as a solid playoff contender in 2016.
Duquette may be more proactive: Baseball operations chief Dan Duquette, who completed the construction of the 2012 and 2014 playoff teams very late in the offseason, has indicated that he will be more proactive this year. And there have been reports that ownership is willing to spend more money this winter to avoid the further competitive decline that might follow a large free-agent exodus.
That would certainly help reassure skeptical fans who watched their team shift into reverse after the front office let Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis get away and tried to replace them with a parade of bargain players.
Predictably, there has been a lot of buzz over the past couple of days about the way the small-market Kansas City Royals dominated the New York Mets in the World Series, and how that might impact the way other teams go about building their rosters this winter.
The Royals might give some teams cover for staying on budget, but the Orioles don't need to take a lesson from anybody about that. If they want to take something from the Royals, how about a few of their key players?
Going after Royals?: It's a happy coincidence that the most likely free-agent departees from Kansas City all would fit nicely in the Orioles' plans for 2016. Outfielder Alex Gordon holds a player option worth $12.5 million for next season and almost certainly will decline it to file for free agency. In-season acquisitions Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist also will be available.
Gordon is a solid on-base guy who has won four Gold Gloves and made the All-Star team each of the past three seasons. He was out two months this year with a severe groin injury, but played in at least 151 games in each of the previous four seasons.
Zobrist is a versatile and durable player who also is a good contact hitter and would be a Buck Showalter kind of guy on a flexible roster. He'll turn 35 next season, so he probably would not require a long commitment, but he's going to get paid.
Cueto would land right at the top of the Orioles rotation, but that might be a fantasy. He'll be 30 years old and is one year removed from a 20-win season for which he finished second in the National League Cy Young Award voting. He went into a serious funk for three weeks in late August and early September, but will be one of the top starters on the market and undoubtedly will command dollars and years the Orioles are not accustomed to paying for pitching.
Lots of competition: Of course, there will be lots of competition for all of those players and the Orioles aren't the only team that might like to steal a little of the Royals' mojo.
If the Orioles could re-sign outfielder Gerardo Parra and add one of those Kansas City outfielders, that would go a long way toward solving their on-base problem. If they can hold onto reliever Darren O'Day, they can concentrate on getting some real help for the rotation. If they can do all that and keep Davis, they will be back in strong contention in 2016.