Nobody gave the Orioles much of a chance in the one-game Wild Card playoff against the Rangers last Friday, so it’s not surprising that they entered the ALDS as the underdogs against the big bad Yankees. However, this series followed a very similar path to how their regular season played out. They surprised, they overachieved, they made the Yankees sweat. But ultimately, they fell a little short.
The Orioles lost to the Yankees 3-1 this evening in a decisive Game 5 at Yankee Stadium. They just couldn’t get much going against CC Sabathia, collecting just four hits while striking out eight times. They had their best chance in the eighth inning, but failed to capitalize on a bases-loaded situation.
Save for a rough ninth inning by closer Jim Johnson in Game 1, the pitching wasn’t the problem for the Orioles in this series. They allowed three runs or less in four out of the five games. None of their starting pitchers allowed more than two runs. But their bats didn’t show up. Aside from Nate McLouth, that is. It’s tough to win when you hit .187 as a team. To name some prominent examples, Adam Jones went 2-for-23 (.087) while Matt Wieters went 3-for-20 (.150) and Mark Reynolds went 3-for-19 (.158). One wonders how this series might have played out had Nick Markakis been healthy.
While the Orioles fell a little short in this series, it doesn’t diminish what they accomplished this season. Buck Showalter’s group managed to breathe life back into a fan base at a time where many long-suffering fans in the Baltimore/D.C. area were tempted to switch their allegiance to the Nationals. It’s unlikely that the Orioles will be able to repeat their historic success in one-run and extra-inning games next season, so if they are going to win again, they will probably need a new formula. But the franchise is alive and relevant again. And that’s a good thing for baseball.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.