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By Ross Sutton
After a 75-87 season last year, the Orioles find themselves at a crossroads in regards to the direction of the franchise. The Orioles missed the playoffs last year and it appears that they will need to start rebuilding their roster in the next year or so. This is mainly due to franchise player Manny Machado, whose contract expires after this season. Machado is expected to sign elsewhere in free agency due to financial constraints that the Orioles have because of other large contracts on the teams roster. Many people believe that the Orioles have missed out on a chance to acquire a large haul of prospects for Machado. Now it is unlikely the team will trade him before the trade deadline in July which would only giving the team that acquires him less than half of a season of Machado, significantly reducing his trade value. That being said, it seems as if the Orioles will try to compete with the other AL east teams this year as they have continued to be active during free agency. So far this offseason the Orioles have re-signed Chris Tillman and Pedro Alvarez from last year’s team and signed Andrew Cashner and Colby Rasmus from the Rangers and Rays, respectively. Orioles players that have signed with other teams or do not appear likely to re-sign with Baltimore include: Wellington Castillo (White Sox), Wade Miley (Brewers), Jeremy Hellickson (Nationals), J.J Hardy, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Seth Smith.
Despite efforts to bolster the starting rotation by signing Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman, I believe the Orioles will struggle this year. The Orioles are already off to a bad start as closer Zach Britton is expected to be out until the All-Star break due to an achilles injury he suffered during the offseason. Britton is one of the best closers in the game and he represents another example of wasted trade value by the Orioles as the team opted to not trade him last trade deadline when he would have commanded top prospects. One of the biggest changes from last year’s team will be that Manny Machado is going to move from third base to shortstop and last year’s breakout shortstop Tim Beckham will move to third. Many believe that Machado requested to move to short in order to increase his value in the free agent market next offseason. Overall the Orioles will likely struggle to keep up with the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays in the AL east and I predict they will finish the 2018 season with a 68-94 record, and will miss the playoffs for the second straight season. I also believe the Orioles will trade Manny Machado during the season in order to at least acquire a couple of prospects before he signs with another team in free agency.
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