Michael Bourn is still waiting for some love

Michael Bourn is still waiting for some love

Considered by many as the No. 2 free agent hitter available this winter, Michael Bourn has now gone three months with seemingly no market developing for his services. The Braves struck early to sign B.J. Upton to replace him. The Phillies also targeted Upton and then traded for Ben Revere after coming up short. The…

MacLellan hints at increased roles for Wilson, Orlov

jay_beagle_3rd_line_centerrefframe_1.jpg

MacLellan hints at increased roles for Wilson, Orlov

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan went on a little radio blitz on Tuesday, appearing on the Grant and Danny Show on 106.7 The Fan and again on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio.

Much of the discussion centered around the Capitals’ intention to improve their speed and quickness on the third line, along with the continued development of 22-year-old right wing  Tom Wilson and 24-year-old defenseman Dmitry Orlov.

Since entering the NHL as a 19-year-old in 2013-14 under Capitals head coach Adam Oates, Wilson’s offensive numbers have modestly increased, from three goals and seven assists (151 penalty minutes) as a rookie to four goals and 13 assists (172 PIM) in Year 2 and seven goals and 16 assists (163 PIM) this season. His ice time has also increased, from 7:56 as a rookie, to 10:56 last year and 12:54 this season.

MacLellan says he thinks the Caps’ decision to promote Wilson to the NHL instead of letting him play one more season with the WHL Plymouth Whalers was a mistake.

RELATED: 2015-16 SEASON IN REVIEW: TAYLOR CHORNEY

“I’m optimistic with him,” MacLellan told NHL Network Radio. “I think, in hindsight, we probably started him in the NHL a year early.

“I think sometimes guys are physically mature and they can handle the physical part of it, but you know, big guys would be well-served playing a power play or playing a top-six role in a lower level versus a fourth-line role at the NHL level.

“I think maybe that first year didn’t do him any good. This year, I thought he made a lot of progress. He’s turned himself into a really good penalty killer. We played him in a third-line role most of the year, and he did a real good job killing penalties

“It would be nice to get him a little more offensive, you know maybe get on the second power play. But I think he’s coming. I think it’s just harder for him to get touches with the puck when you’re playing in a bottom-six role, and we anticipate putting him in more of an offensive role going forward.”

MacLellan told 106.7 The Fan that Orlov could find himself in the top four defensive rotation next season, with veteran Brooks Orpik possibly taking a reduced role as a third-pair defender with Nate Schmidt.

That could mean Orlov is paired with Matt Niskanen next season, with John Carlson and Karl Alzner being reunited.

“There’s an offensive upside to Orlov and there’s ability for him to move up in our lineup, and we’ve got to be careful that we don’t limit him in his ability to move there,” MacLellan said.

Orlov recorded a career-high eight goals and 21 assists in 82 regular season games while averaging 16:01 of ice time. That ice time decreased to 13:18 in 11 playoff games, where Orlov posted one assist and was pulled out of Game 2 against the Penguins.

“I would count on him developing and getting to that next level,” MacLellan said. “The idea would be, Brooks Orpik plays a little less minutes and Orlov plays a little bit more, maybe he moves into the top four for part of the time. That would be ideal situation, but we’ll have to see how he comes into camp.”

MORE CAPITALS: WILSON COULD LEARN A FEW THINGS WATCHING WARD, BROUWER

Orioles struck out late and often against Astros

showalter052316orsulakrefframe_1.jpg

Orioles struck out late and often against Astros

Everyone knows the Orioles are going to strike out. I could say they’ll strike out early and often, but in Tuesday night’s game, they fanned 19 times in 13 innings, and most of those strikeouts were late in the game,

How bad was it? 

According to Elias, Houston Astros relievers set a team record by striking out 16 Orioles in 7 1/3 innings. 

Nine of the 12 Orioles’ outs in extra innings came on strikeouts.

At least it wasn’t an Orioles team record. On Sept. 12, 1962, Washington’s Tom Cheney struck out 21 Orioles in 16 innings. In a 1996 Division Series game, they struck an amazing 23 times in 10 innings, and still won. 

When the season began, there was hope that the Orioles weren’t going to strike out as often as in 2015, but even in their season opening seven game winning streak, they were fanned 10 or more times twice. 

In their more recent seven-game run earlier this month, they didn’t strike out in double figures at all. 

Over their last five games, they’ve struck out 54 times. In their 3-1 win on Saturday night, they struck out 13 times. 

As Adam Jones told reporters in Houston after Tuesday night’s game, it’s in the Orioles DNA to strike out.

Overall, the Orioles are only eighth in the American League in strikeouts. In their 43 games, they’re averaging 8.23 strikeouts a game, but they’re 11th in walking, getting an average of three bases on balls per game. 

Their on-base percentage has fallen since their torrid offensive start, but it’s still .322, which ranks fourth in the league, and well above recent years. 

But, they have players who strike out a lot. Chris Davis is on pace for his second straight 200 strikeout season. Mark Trumbo could strike out more than 180 times. Manny Machado, Joey Rickard and Jonathan Schoop are all on pace to strike out more than 100 times this season.

No one will complain about the strikeouts if they hit home runs and win. Their 65 home runs are tied with the New York Mets for the most in baseball, and until last night, they’d been at the top of the division for the bulk of the season. The Orioles are now in second place, and for the first time, they trail Boston by a full game. 

RELATED: ORIOLES LOSE THEIR LONGEST GAME OF 2016 IN 13 INNINGS

Pros and cons of Wizards targeting free agent Nicolas Batum

webversion_wiz_rebuild_seg_2refframe_1.jpg

Pros and cons of Wizards targeting free agent Nicolas Batum

The Washington Wizards must add plenty of bodies this offseason with only five players currently under contract. J. Michael and I tasked each other with filling out the roster as we see fit while assuming Kevin Durant isn't an option. We both said keep restricted free agent Bradley Beal, but our decisions swerved from there. Next on my priority list, Charlotte Hornets swingman Nicolas Batum. Here are the pros and cons of that potentially delicious and delusional call.

Pro: I'll start by sharing some thoughts from NBA analyst Matt Moore's mid-season article titled, "The Hornets' Nicolas Batum is the modern NBA wing every team needs." His game has looked more versatile and effective than ever. Everything about his game is fluid and smooth. He's slim and impossibly long, with a reported 7-4 wingspan. He's always been the kind of player that lights up scouting reports due to his combination of size, length and skill. He can handle, he can shoot, he can drive and finish, he can pass and defend. Batum may not be the top tier star of a team, but he is certainly a guy you want playing on the wing for your team."

Yes, what he said. The Wizards have a dynamic backcourt assuming Beal stays with John Wall. Marcin Gortat gets it done at center. Markieff Morris added needed athleticism at power forward. What they lack right now: A proven two-way NBA wing for the modern game.

Con: What the Wizards have at small forward now is Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre Jr., otherwise known as their last two first round draft picks. Adding a hefty max contract player would seemingly put a high dollar roadblock on their road to developing. Porter becomes a restricted free agent next summer.

Pro: A creative coaching staff can figure out to use all three often and perhaps at times together. We're watching Oklahoma City use lengthy lineups to flummox Golden State's offensive machine. Ponder the full court possibilities with a pair of 6-foot-8 forwards in Batum and Porter Beal (6'5") and Wall (6'4") in the backcourt with Morris (6'10") at stretch-5. Everyone can sink 3's and run. Each perimeter player made at least 35% of their attempts from beyond the arc last season. Put in Oubre, who still needs to prove he should receive heavy minutes, and this small ball lineup gets even longer.

Con: With the salary cap projected around $92 million next season, an eight-year veteran like Batum is eligible for a per season max contract around $26 million. (Beal, entering his fifth year, would max out around $22-23 million). The Wizards can make that figure work and pay Beal, but then the back half of the roster would include a host of minimum contract players. That's a risky proposition considering all the bumps and bruises over an 82-game regular season.

RELATED: WHEN IS THE 2016 NBA DRAFT DEADLINE?

Pro: As OKC is demonstrating, those 10-12 player rotations found during the regular season often shrink to eight or so in the playoffs*. If you play fewer players and don't have a true elite option or a dynamic duo (Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook) or a Big 3 (Cavaliers), then you better have as much playmaking talent as possible within that eight. Batum's ability to play all over court helps offset any depth chart/injury issue.

(* Seeing as the Wizards didn't make the postseason in 2016, talking about playoff rotations defines putting the cart before the horse. Doesn't mean you don't think big picture and plan accordingly, especially since a coaching upgrade and good health puts Washington into top 2-4 seed mix.)

Con: If we're saying Batum isn't an elite player, then why pay him like one? Of the players truly on the open market this summer, the 27-year-old is a top 10 free agent and not all of those players are poised for max deals based on age. With more than half the league armed with oodles of cap space, Batum gets paid if he wants the full Brinks truck treatment. Even if he leaves a little on the table so a team can spend on others, that's still big bucks.

Pro: Batum's presence can help Washington's best player and the Wizards when that best player sits. He's not a point guard, but Batum's 5.8 assists ranked behind only Draymond Green and LeBron James among forwards. Add that type of threat and Washington can give Wall, who is coming off knee surgery, more of a blow during games and the season. The ball movement in general often declined when Wall watched from the bench.

Con: Pay Batum and Beal -- combined zero All-Star nods -- and now Wall becomes Washington's third highest paid player. Yeah, that could lead to chemistry issues if the three-time All-Star lets it.

Analysis: Stylistically, Batum is where the game is going. Add his versatility alongside the interesting talents on the roster and the Wizards will truly enter the modern NBA. Money, however, is an issue. Washington has enough, but so do others. Charlotte can pay him the most. The Wizards aren't going to spend over the luxury tax so add Batum and it's a fantasy football strategy of (no offense future Wizards)"stars and scrubs." But stars win in the NBA. Maybe Batum isn't elite. He'll make all better, including Wall and Beal. That's because he's the modern NBA wing every team needs. That's something worth considering.

MORE WIZARDS: WHAT WIZARDS' VETS CAN DO TO BETTER LOCKER ROOM CULTURE