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Orioles Face Second-Half Decisions On Five Key Players

July 13, 2017
The Orioles begin the second half of the season at home against the Chicago Cubs July 14. With the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline looming, the team will soon have to make decisions on five high-profile players. 
 
1. Welington Castillo
 
The Orioles' starting catcher ended the first half in a 2-for-29 slump, but he has some impressive defensive numbers. Castillo has thrown out 46 percent (12 of 26) of baserunners in 45 games. That's better than he's done in any season.
 
When Castillo signed with the Orioles last December, he agreed to a one-year contract with a $7 million player option for 2018. Castillo is probably the most tradable Oriole, and a catcher-needy team looking at him should realize he'll probably be a rental.
 
If the Orioles decide to keep Castillo, they'll likely lose him at the end of the season -- unless his offensive slump continues, and he could opt-in for next season.
 
If that's the case, the Orioles could have a sticky situation with Castillo, Caleb Joseph, who's an adept backup, and Chance Sisco, the young catcher currently at Triple-A Norfolk, all on the team.
 
2. Wade Miley
 
Miley has a $12 million club option for 2018 that could escalate to $14 million if certain incentives are met.
 
If they're in the postseason conversation, they'll probably keep Miley. If they do, that would mean they're seriously considering him as a starter for 2018 as well.
 
While Miley's 4-7 record and 4.97 ERA may not seem worthy of a $12 million salary for next season, the Orioles have only right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman as established starters for 2018.
 
With Miley, and right-handers Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Tillman as looming free agents, the Orioles may want to make sure they have a third established starter on hand.
 
3. Chris Tillman
 
Tillman had an awful first half. After missing the first month of the season with a right shoulder injury, Tillman labored to a 1-5 record and 7.90 ERA. He averaged 14.5 hits per nine innings.
 
The Orioles are hoping Tillman will markedly improve during the second half. If he does, Tillman could still be an attractive commodity on the free-agent market.
 
If he doesn't, Tillman may have to lower his sights and re-sign with the Orioles on a one-year contract far below what he could have received had he been a free agent after the 2016 season.
 
4. J.J. Hardy
 
The Orioles won't get their steady shortstop back for perhaps another month, maybe longer. Hardy is recovering from a broken right wrist as well as a cracked rib.
 
Though Hardy's numbers (.211 average with three home runs and 21 RBIs) are far below his career averages, they're still better than Ruben Tejada and Paul Janish, who have started most of the games at shortstop while Hardy's been out.
 
The Orioles don't have an obvious organizational replacement for Hardy unless they move third baseman Manny Machado or second baseman Jonathan Schoop there -- and that would create another vacancy.
 
Manager Buck Showalter started Schoop at shortstop July 8, the first time the All-Star played there in the majors.
 
If Hardy returns and has a late surge, perhaps the Orioles will consider offering him a 2018 contract. His current deal vests for next season with 600 plate appearances, but that won't happen.
 
5. Hyun Soo Kim
 
With first baseman Chris Davis expected to be activated July 14 after missing a month with a strained right oblique, the South Korean outfielder is likely to see his playing time curtailed.
 
Trey Mancini moved from left field to first base with Davis sidelined, while Kim and Joey Rickard received more playing time in left.
 
Kim, who hit .196 (9-for-46) since Davis was injured June 12, had just four RBIs in the slugger's absence and hasn't had an extra-base hit since June 2. He's had just four extra-base hits in 118 at-bats this season.
 
It would be interesting to see how much value Kim, who had a .382 OBP a season ago, retains now that his OBP has plummeted to .301.