When I decided to take the plunge and write Beyond the Box Score’s 2020 Baltimore Orioles preview I told myself to avoid the negative. Well, not all the negative, but at the very least I wanted to try and avoid excessive negativity. Let me tell you something folks, that’s not easy when it comes to a team like the Orioles. A 2020 team preview is about what’s happening this season, not the hopes and dreams of years yet to pass. Adley Rutschman isn’t coming to save the day just quite yet. While they wait for the team’s proposed savior Orioles fans can expect lots and lots of pain.
Before we get to the pain let’s dole out some positives. Trey Mancini was quite the big bopper in 2019. He should provide more of the same in 2020, albeit with the caveat that a lot of his production depends on the ball Major League Baseball decides to put into play. If the aeroball from last season returns then Mancini should blitz past his Steamer projected 1.9 fWAR.
If the ball ends up even slightly deadened Mancini could revert to his more average pre-2019 form. There’s nothing wrong with that slightly lesser version of Trey Mancini and the Orioles front office may be in favor of such a regression from their lone remaining kind of star.
A detour is in order, so I can’t bring up the front office and stay positive. I wanted to, but it doesn’t really matter what I see in John Means, José Iglesias, or others. The Orioles are tanking; that’s the reality of this team, and that’s what any 2020 preview should focus on. If Mancini gets super hot and plays at or better than his 2019 production he’ll be dealt as soon as possible because this front office does not want to win.
Orioles General Manager Mike Elias had no qualms placing Jonathan Villar and his 4.0 fWAR on outright waivers before trading him to the Miami Marlins this offseason. Elias gave an ambiguous quote about strategic objectives to justify trading the best player on the team. At one point Elias offered up that Villar was fun and a good guy, yet all the same, Elias didn’t feel that Orioles fans deserved to experience a fun player and good guy amidst all the losing he knows is going to befall the Orioles in 2020.
There will be more moves that are part of the strategic objectives for the Orioles. All that means is any player who isn’t under cheap cost control is available to another team if they make a decent offer. The Orioles’ front office is both stockpiling prospects and money. This Orioles team has been put together with one express purpose, to lose as much as is possible.
They’ll do exactly that and Elias will continue to use the ruthless efficiency he learned while working under former Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow to work towards a nebulous goal of winning at some point in time. How many fans will the Orioles lose as they enter the middle of their multi-year tanking plan? I don’t know, but I also don’t blame any Orioles fans for giving up on a team that has given up on them.
I tried Orioles fans, but the truth of the 2020 Orioles is that they are going to lose often. They will be in the running for the worst team in baseball and their front office thinks that is a good thing. Enjoy Mancini and Means while you can or go enjoy a movie or day at a public park instead. The Orioles can amass all the money and prospects in the world, but will it matter if when they are finally ready to win again the fans have left the team behind? Orioles fans deserve better than their 2020 squad, and heck, baseball deserves better than this complete and utter tank job.