Crucial offseason decisions lie ahead for O's

Will Trumbo be in Baltimore's 2017 Opening Day lineup?

Crucial offseason decisions lie ahead for O's

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles' 2016 season ended abruptly in the American League Wild Card Game loss to the Blue Jays. While the O's exceeded many expectations, they didn't meet their own, and Baltimore will head into next year eager to once again prove people wrong.

That will again be a tough task as the Orioles face some tough offseason questions. Can they convince slugger Mark Trumbo to stay? Who will catch if Matt Wieters departs? And the reoccurring question regarding the team's rotation will also be in play all winter.

But it's never too early to start thinking about Opening Day. With that in mind, here's a preliminary look at 2017 for the O's.

The Orioles will open the season against a Blue Jays club that ended their brief 2016 postseason appearance. This is a pivotal offseason for Toronto, which stands to lose several key players to free agency. The teams will square off on April 3 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Unless the Orioles go out and add a front-line guy, expect Chris Tillman to get the nod, though Kevin Gausman could make a strong case with a good spring.

Losing Trumbo and Wieters would be a blow to a homer-happy Orioles team, with designated hitter Pedro Alvarez also a pending free agent. If the O's don't get another big bat, they could try to move Adam Jones, who spent a lot of time as the leadoff batter, down in the order depending on what happens at DH. Joey Rickard, who was a Rule 5 Draft pick last December, will return. The O's have major holes at catcher and in the outfield. Hyun Soo Kim recorded some big hits for the Orioles and, provided he has an OK spring, deserves more playing time out of the gate. Jonathan Schoop put together a nice year and could be relied on more if Trumbo and Wieters do indeed leave. And there's September callup Trey Mancini, who could be a DH or outfield option.

1. Kim/Rickard, LF
2. Jones, CF
3. Manny Machado, 3B
4. Chris Davis, 1B
5. TBD, DH
6. Schoop, 2B
7. J.J. Hardy, SS
8. TBD, C
9. TBD, OF

1. Gausman. The righty is coming off a solid year (9-12, 3.61 ERA), and the O's may depend upon him more in 2017.

2. Zach Britton. Still under team control, still ridiculous to watch pitch in the ninth inning.

3. Mancini. A bright spot at the end of the season. What will Mancini do next spring? And, more importantly, where does he fit in?

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.