The Baltimore Orioles are most likely going to spend the remainder of the 2021 MLB season in the basement of the American League East.
Baltimore was not expected to contend this season, and that expectation has indeed panned out.
Having said that, there is a path toward competing in 2022, and it looks something like this.
3. Replace Maikel Franco
Maikel Franco has been unserviceable this year, batting .194 with a .574 OPS and a -0.8 WAR.
I like to remember the simpler times, like when people were excited about the Maikel Franco signing for some reason
— Matt Kremnitzer (@mattkremnitzer) May 22, 2021
Franco is a free agent this winter which will be addition by subtraction.
If the Orioles are serious about contending next year, they could bring in a player like Kris Bryant to replace Franco at third base.
Bryant will hit free agency after the season and would provide a monumental upgrade over Franco.
Bryant is in the midst of arguably the best season of his career, batting .312 with a 1.009 OPS.
If those numbers hold, they’d be career-bests for Bryant, topping his MVP season in 2016.
2. Replace Freddy Galvis
Freddy Galvis will be a free agent after the year too, and the Orioles would presumably entertain the idea of bringing him back, but they might have to choose between doing that or trading him at the deadline.
Galvis has been solid this year, posting a .270 average and .816 OPS, and that’s why he will likely be dealt to a contending team.
Marcus Semien would provide an affordable yet solid replacement at shortstop.
Semien never really turned it on as a hitter until his seventh year in the league in 2019.
That year, he posted a .285 batting average and .892 OPS to finish third in the MVP race.
He came back to Earth slightly in 2020, but has been great this season with a.283/.348/.535 slash line.
1. A Rotation Makeover
To be blunt, the Orioles have an embarrassing rotation situation.
The good news first: John Means has developed into a legitimate staff ace.
The 28-year-old has a 1.79 ERA to go along with a league-leading WHIP (0.75) and a phenomenal ERA+ (244).
We’ve never seen this sort of dominance from the lefty, and it comes as a complete shock to many.
Means was underwhelming last season with a 4.53 ERA and 5.60 FIP across 10 starts.
It was a slight regression from his strong rookie campaign in 2019 when he put up a 3.60 ERA, was named an All-Star and finished second in the Rookie of the Year race.
But this season has been a different story all around.
Means has the highest WAR in the American League at 3.2 (which puts him on a 9.6 WAR pace), he threw a no-hitter earlier this month, and he’s going to be in the Cy Young race all year long
He could even wind up in the MVP conversation at this rate.
Now, the bad news: Baltimore’s rotation beyond Means is in shambles.
How bad has the Orioles rotation been?
Even with John Means leading the league in ERA, Orioles' starters have still allowed 119 earned runs — tied for the most in baseball.
— Joe Trezza (@JoeTrezz) May 20, 2021
Bruce Zimmerman has the second-best ERA on the staff, and it’s a 5.59 mark.
It’s impossible for a team to contend with that kind of starting pitching.
This offseason, the Orioles will need to reload in free agency.
Fortunately, the upcoming free agent class is plentiful in the starting pitching category.
Not every signing has to be a blockbuster signing, especially considering the Orioles have some exciting pitching prospects who aren’t too far away from breaking into the league.
Baltimore realistically will need to bring in at least two new starting pitchers to give themselves a chance in 2022.