Shohei Ohtani got crazy dollars, but won't be coming to the AL East at least

Ohtani at OPACY

Hey, O’s fans look at it this way – the O’s Opening Day opponent just became a weaker team. The O’s host the Los Angeles Angels on March 28 to start a new season. And look at it this way – Shohei Ohtani is not coming to the American League East.

Juan Soto is headed our way, but Ohtani is not after agreeing to a staggering deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers for 10 years and $700 million.

When free agency began it was thought Ohtani’s deal might start with a five in front of it. But not a six, right? Well right, it was not a six.

While we wait to find out if this deal does indeed include a massive amount of deferred money, the $70 million dollar average annual value tops the Oakland Athletics entire season payroll for 2023 of $62.2 million per Sportrac. The Orioles, per that outlet, were at $71.1 million for last season.

Ohtani’s deal is such a whopper it doubles the combined totals of the previous two biggest MLB free agent contracts which were the Aaron Judge deal last year of nine years for $360 million and Bryce Harper’s Phillies deal of 13 years for $330 million.

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The O's run of No. 1-ranked prospects is both amazing and unprecedented

Jackson Holliday

Analysts have used words like "astounding" and "amazing" while noting that the Orioles have had three straight players move to the No. 1 spot on the national top-100 prospects lists. Adley Rutschman went to No. 1, and then so did Gunnar Henderson. And during the 2023 season, Jackson Holliday ended the year at No. 1.

Rutschman, Henderson and Holliday, all going to No. 1. The first two are already productive major leaguers. The third could join them on Opening Day 2024.

Talk about building an elite talent pipeline. You can’t get more elite then No. 1.

During the Winter Meetings, I interviewed Jonathan Mayo, prospects analyst. He talked about this remarkable run of No. 1 prospects by the Orioles.

“It is really astounding,” said Mayo. “Adley and Jackson being No. 1, that is sort of how it’s supposed to be when you have the No. 1 pick. But they have not missed on the No. 1 pick. At least not yet. Jackson Holliday has not played an inning of big league ball, so we don’t put the cart ahead of the horse. I think we all expect him to be a good big leaguer. They didn’t miss on those, and people miss on No. 1 picks often. Even if they end up being OK big leaguers, they don’t wind up becoming that No. 1 prospect.

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The O's turned the AL East upside down in '23 and the big boys were not pleased

Mountcastle celebrates

Hey 2023 Baltimore Orioles, this is all your fault.

We could be thinking that when the Orioles turned the American League East upside down by going from 110 losses in 2021 to 101 wins and the division championship in 2023. The Orioles finished in first place for the first time since 2014.

To the delight of Birdland, the Boston Red Sox finished last with 78 wins and the New York Yankees were in fourth with 82 wins which was their fewest in a full season since 1995. They missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

All this upheaval in the AL East has the big-market, big spenders not too happy perhaps with the 101-win Orioles and 99-win Tampa Bay Rays. If anyone thought they would sit idly by and watch the O’s and Rays take over this division without throwing more money at their problems, you were sadly mistaken.

Juan Soto, welcome to the AL East. Shohei Ohtani, would you like to join him? Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who might get $200 million dollars, might not be far behind.

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O's get their man for the bullpen at the Winter Meetings

Craig Kimbrel NL All-Star jersey

NASHVILLE – It was a 2023 Winter Meetings where the Orioles did not come home with a Rule 5 draft pick but did head home with a new closer for the 2024 season.

Right-hander Craig Kimbrel, 35, agreed to terms with the Orioles on Wednesday. It was reported via several outlets to be a one-year deal worth $12 million with a team option at $13 million for 2025 that includes a $1 million buyout. The Orioles officially announced the signing in the afternoon yesterday.

The team checked a big box with this move, added to the back-end of their bullpen and now they can move on to the continued pursuit of a starting pitcher to join the top half of their rotation. If they check that box, that would be a nice 1-2 punch to the Baltimore offseason. A team that won 101 games last year, is close to set to take on the competition and try and repeat their AL East title.

Kimbrel led the National League in saves four straight years with Atlanta from 2011 through 2014. He is a nine-time All-Star that ranks eighth on the all-time saves list with 417. He is just three saves shy of Kenley Jansen, five behind Billy Wagner and seven back of John Franco.

This deal gives the O’s added late-game bullpen depth and a proven closer who converted his first 16 saves chances in 2023. Opponent batters hit .181/.273/.337/.611 off him. He got out both left (.608 OPS against) and right-handed hitters (.612).

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Close on a closer: O's search for bullpen help may be nearing the end (updated)


NASHVILLE – The Orioles' search for a back-end-of-the-game reliever and a starting pitcher may now be down to just a search for a starter. The club is, according to numerous reports, closing in on a deal with free-agent right-hander Craig Kimbrel, a pitcher who is a nine-time All-Star with 417 career saves.

Even at 35, Kimbrel could be impactful for the Orioles in the later innings and could wind up as the 2024 closer with all that experience saving games on his resume.

For the 2023 Philadelphia Phillies, he went 8-6 with a 3.26 ERA and 1.045 WHIP in 71 games covering 69 innings. He recorded a 3.7 walk rate and 12.3 strikeout rate. He allowed just 44 hits over 69 innings for an average of 5.7 hits allowed per nine innings.

Kimbrel pitched three scoreless innings in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but yielded four runs over three innings when the Phillies lost the National League Championship Series to Arizona, and he took two losses in that series.

Opponent batters hit just .181/.273/.337/.611 off Kimbrel, who recorded 23 saves for the Phils with a save percentage of 82.1, which was a bit under the percentage of O’s closer Félix Bautista at 84.6. Bautista will miss the entire 2024 season after Tommy John surgery, so Kimbrel’s addition, when and if it becomes official, would deepen the Baltimore bullpen and allow Yennier Cano to move back into a setup role. The O’s would also have the likes of Danny Coulombe, Cionel Pérez and Dillon Tate for late-game innings. Pending their roles, Tyler Wells and DL Hall, among others, could also pitch significant bullpen innings.

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A door is ajar: With Elias' comments, O's provide Jackson Holliday a path to Opening Day roster

Jackson Holliday white jersey

NASHVILLE – The Orioles made news of sorts yesterday without making any signings or trades. The news was that there is “very definitely a strong possibility” that No. 1 ranked prospect Jackson Holliday will be on the Opening Day roster March 28. That is how O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias answered when asked about the possibility of the kid being there for the opener. 

Earlier in the winter, Elias was indicating the O’s were open to his chance to make it on Opening Day but also that they would make that decision during spring training. Yesterday’s pronouncement gives Holliday, who turned 20 Monday, a great chance to be there for the opener against the Los Angeles Angels at Camden Yards.  

"It's definitely a very strong possibility,” Elias said during an interview session at the Winter Meetings. “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but he had a historic first full season in the minors. Probably you have to go back into like the 80s or 90s to find something similar to that in my opinion for an American kid out of high school. Got to Triple-A. Wasn’t there a huge amount of time, didn’t tear the cover off the ball, but he more than held his own and did well.”

Holliday rose four levels, from Low Single-A to Triple-A, batting .323/.442/.499/.941 while rising to become the No. 1 prospect in the sport and he also played in the All-Star Futures Game in July.

“He’s now going to be back in spring training. He just turned 20. To me that’s a big year of development – 19 to 20. You get taller, you get heavier, you get more mature. Just a lot of good things that can happen. We just want to see what he looks like,” said Elias of Holliday, who led all of the minors scoring 113 runs and he was fifth in on-base percentage.

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O's Matt Blood talks about his new role with the club and Anthony Villa's promotion


NASHVILLE – In late October, coming off a season that produced 101 wins, an American League East championship and a top-rated farm that produced the No. 1 prospect in the sport for the third straight year, the Orioles made several promotions in their scouting and player development departments.

Matt Blood was promoted from director of player development to vice president of player development and domestic scouting. Joining Blood to help head up player development now will be Anthony Villa, 29, who has been with the Orioles since the 2020 season. He is Blood's replacement as director of player development. Villa was first an O's minor league hitting coach, then a minor league hitting coordinator for the lower levels of the farm and last year he was hitting coordinator for the entire system.

His promotion was first reported here on

A 19th-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2016, Villa played in the minors for three seasons. He's been a fast riser in the O's organization. Now he'll have even a larger role in player development. 

“First of all, Anthony and I have been working closely on running this player development system for a while," said Blood. "He’s one of the leaders of our hitting department, but he also has great energy just toward the well being of players and their development. He has always had great ideas and thoughts on how we can do better by our players.

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O's Mike Elias on weighing trade possibilities and MLB Network's Dan O'Dowd on the Orioles

Jordan Westburg white jersey

NASHVILLE – Saying you “have to give something to get something,” Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias is in somewhat of an enviable position when it comes to making a trade. Whether it would happen here at the Winter Meetings or later.

He doesn’t feel pressure to make a trade. Just because he has probably the deepest farm system in baseball doesn’t mean he has to deal from it. During his press update with local media Monday, he talked about making good trades that are balanced and indicated just because you can outbid others for a deal doesn’t make it the right deal.

But he also knows when you cannot outspend clubs to sign free agents you may to have to outbid them with prospects in trades.

“We are as well-equipped as any team to rattle off prospect packages for any player,” said Elias. “That doesn’t mean that we want to do that just because we have the No. 1 farm system, and we could theoretically outbid any team. At some point it becomes a trade that you don’t want to do. It equips us to get involved in every conversation. But there is more to making trades than just being the high bidder. The trade has to make sense. A lot of our prospects are so close to the majors if they are not there yet. These are guys that are going to help the 2024 O’s too. We have to keep all that in mind.”

I asked Elias if the Orioles are prepared to lose some of their best prospects?

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MLB Pipeline analyst talks O's prospect depth for possible trades (plus Hyde on Holliday)

cowser debut

NASHVILLE – When you have one of the deepest and maybe the deepest farm systems in baseball, making trades from that prospect depth is a good way to add to your major league roster. For the Orioles, it’s a big change from the rebuilding years when they were trading to acquire prospects in dealing players such as Trey Mancini, Dylan Bundy and, going even farther back, Erik Bedard.

Now the Orioles are rumored to be looking to acquire a pitcher such as right-hander Dylan Cease via a trade. Cease has two years of team control left, at a cost of perhaps around $25 million. That is a pretty low dollar amount for two seasons of a pitcher of that quality, one who finished second for the American League Cy Young Award in 2022, going 14-8 with a 2.20 ERA. A pitcher projected to get $8.8 million this year via arbitration.

If, as reports indicate, his trade market is “robust,” it might take a team with numerous quality prospects to pull off that deal. A team like the Orioles could also offer one of several young veterans who already have a proven major league track record.

Jonathan Mayo, who covers prospects for and, shared a few thoughts this morning on the Orioles' prospect depth. Is now the time for Baltimore to pull the trigger on a deal to use prospects to get something to help the 2024 club?  

“That is what it is pointing to, not being privy to the conversations going on,” Mayo said. “They have infield and outfield depth and have choices, where they can make a trade and a team like the Chicago White Sox can get someone they can put right into their Opening Day lineup. Guys that are just about ready, and (the Orioles) bring in a starting pitcher like a Dylan Cease. And they could do it without completely stripping the system bare.

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The pursuit of pitching could pick up steam as Winter Meetings begin today

Dylan Cease

NASHVILLE – With the understanding that the MLB Winter Meetings and what happens here or doesn’t is not any finish line to the offseason, but just one milestone, the Orioles' front office contingent has arrived ready to seek pitching additions and perhaps make other tweaks to their big league roster.

The Winter Meetings began here last night and run through Wednesday.

The Orioles seek pitching and that has not changed. With closer Félix Bautista out for all of 2024, they could use an arm to add to the back-end of their bullpen. If that turns out to someone with closing experience, all the better. They would like to also add a starter that fits in the top half of their rotation. A pitcher who could join the likes of Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez and John Means (a current projected front three) to produce a formidable rotation to carry a contending team through the rigors of the 162-game season.

I interviewed O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias after the early November General Managers' meetings in Arizona.

In that interview then he made it clear that a late-inning reliever is at or near the top of his wish list. Bautista, who posted a 1.48 ERA and 33 saves with a 16.2 K rate, underwent Tommy John surgery Oct. 9.

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Still robust and impressive: The O's top 10 prospects list

jackson holliday

With the release of a new top 10 O’s prospects list this week by Baseball America comes confirmation of what we already knew: the O’s system remains loaded. They currently hold the title of top farm system in all of baseball.

The new top-100 prospects lists are likely to come out sometime in January and February. But on the latest lists from Baseball America and, the Orioles have six top-100 prospects.

Here is how Baseball America ranked them this week on its new team top 10.

1) Shortstop Jackson Holliday: Did we expect anyone else? The player drafted No. 1 overall by the Orioles on July 17, 2022 has lived up to the hype and then some. He played at four levels last summer – ending the year at Triple-A Norfolk – and hit .323 with a .941 OPS and led all minor league players in runs scored, with 113. He played above-average defense and has 60-grade speed. He was the O’s Minor League Player of the Year and Baseball America’s National Player of the Year after a season in which he played in the All-Star Futures Game. Speaking of the future, his day in Baltimore could be close. Holliday will celebrate his 20th birthday tomorrow.

2) Catcher Samuel Basallo: He turned 19 in August. He is a super-fast riser that has become the shining star of the O’s international program. He rose three levels last year, producing 20 homers and a .953 OPS. He played four games at the end of 2023 at Double-A Bowie, where he will likely start the 2024 season. It could end for him at Triple-A. The tools and production are loud for this guy. While Holliday is the third straight O’s farm player to be No. 1 in prospect rankings, Basallo could be the fourth. Yes, impressive by the Orioles. 

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Baseball America's deep dive into minor league pitching data produced interesting O's results


It is no secret that on those top 30 prospects lists, the Orioles have many more hitters than pitchers. But a recent article in Baseball America was interesting and enlightening about the O’s pitching on the farm. In several spots, Baltimore's farm pitchers scored well.

It was Baseball America’s Farm System Statcast Pitching Rankings, co-authored by Geoff Pontes and Dylan White. It is a deep dive into minor league pitchers, aggregating full-season pitchers data, metrics and stats for hurlers between ages 17 and 26.

The BA goal was “to more accurately understand which organizations have the highest quality of overall pitching talent.” And they were attempting to “view the developing pitching talent in each organization, not the team’s ability to stock quality MiLB free agents into Triple-A bullpens.”

In an all encompassing stat called “Stuff+” per BA it “is a blended metric of each organization’s STF+ (based on their internal model), per pitch Run Value, xwOBA, and pitch quality metrics such as in-zone whiff% and chase %. The resultant number was then scaled on a wRC+ scale where 100 is average and a standard deviation is 10 points.”

The Orioles organization ranked tied for third with the New York Yankees with a score of 114, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers at 116 and Tampa Bay Rays at 119.  

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What could be coming in starting pitching on the Orioles' farm


If you look at the Roster Resource section on, they list their current projected pitching rotations for each club. It might surprise some to note that the Tampa Bay Rays, a team known for producing good pitchers and solid pitching development, does not have one homegrown pitcher listed among its top five.

Tyler Glasnow, Aaron Civale and Shane Baz were added via trades, Zach Eflin in free agency and Zack Littell was added on waivers.

Of the O’s listed five, just John Means and Grayson Rodriguez were drafted by the Orioles. Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer and Cole Irvin – listed fifth right now – all came via trades.

So, for the top two AL East teams from last year, 80 percent of their current rotations came from outside their own organization.

The bigger message is get good pitching wherever and whenever you can. At the end of the year, they count only wins, not wins generated mostly by homegrown talent.

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John Means' September return was a 2023 highlight for the Orioles

John Means city connect jersey

When lefty John Means pitched on the night of April 13, 2022, against Milwaukee, we headed into that game assuming it was just another night watching a pitcher emerging as one of the league’s best take the mound for the Orioles.

No one could have known then he would not take the mound in another major league game until Sept. 12, 2023 – that was 517 days later.

Means had one long road back.

He underwent Tommy John surgery in April of 2022 and the hope was he could be back by midseason in 2023. But last May he had a setback – a strained muscle in his upper back and it would be longer before he made it back.

But Means finally returned to pitch in a rehab game for Double-A Bowie on Aug. 10. He would throw in six rehab games between Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, going 1-1 with a 3.74 ERA in 21 2/3 innings. That led to Means' Sept. 12 return to the Orioles, and he made four starts down the stretch.

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The free agent market has been slow so far, but the pursuit of pitching is there

Dylan Cease black jersey

It has been rather quiet thus far in baseball free agency. Unless you are the St. Louis Cardinals, who have added three of the five starting pitchers signed to this point.

If you are just looking for a juicy rumor involving the Orioles, you may have a long wait. The team seems to work hard at keeping its business close to the vest and Mike Elias has often said essentially it is of no benefit to the team to put such information out there.

While rumors of signings and trades can be good for the game overall to keep fans talking about the sport 12 months a year, some already do that even without any good rumors.

But most teams don’t seem to want to generate rumors about which players they are talking to and pursuing. It could get their fanbase excited for a brief time, but signings, not rumors, truly excite fans.

Here are the few signings that have taken place thus far on free agent starting pitchers.

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It sure looks like a home run: The MLB rule changes

Cedric Mullins white jersey

We found out during the 2023 MLB regular season that we could watch a game lasting two and half hours again and it would not be completely rare. We found out we could survive a game played without defensive shifts. We found out we could be completely okay with scoring and base stealing on the rise.

And we found that the game was not dramatically changed in any way.

As any of us that had seen the pitch clock used in the minors already knew, fans would quickly adjust to the clock. After a few games, they would forget it was even there.

For the avalanche of criticism Rob Manfred gets as MLB commissioner – and he did not implement any of this on his own – these changes worked, and I contend they were very good for the game.

The average time of a big league game lasting nine inning was two hours and 40 minutes last season, down from 3:04 in 2022 and 3:10 in 2021. Yep, we gained a half hour. Beautiful. And needed.

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Rotation depth could push some real talent to O's bullpen in 2024

Tyler wells

There are a lot of questions to be answered for the Orioles between now and Opening Day 2024 on March 28 versus the Los Angeles Angels.

The makeup of the pitching staff and starting rotation is a big one.

If the Orioles add a starter who could slot into the top half of their rotation – something they have said they seek – it will be getting pretty crowded in that starting five.

There are already the quartet of Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, John Means and Dean Kremer who could easily take four of the five slots. A new addition could grab the last spot.

So where does that leave everybody else, including lefty DL Hall, once one of baseball’s top pitching prospects and right-hander Tyler Wells, a pitcher who had a 3.18 ERA as a starter at the 2023 All-Star break? And a pitcher who on the last day of the first-half led MLB in WHIP at 0.90.

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A few questions for the fans about their fandom throughout O's history

Brooks Robinson

Today in a unique edition and a variation on the usual "A Few Questions for O's Fans," I want to discuss not so much the present day Orioles but the Orioles of the past. For some of you, feel free to go back to the beginning of the Baltimore Orioles and their first year of 1954 if you choose.

Let's start there. For those that have that much history with the team. 

1) Not so much of a question but seeking out any fans that remember the very first year of the Orioles. What do you remember about the team moving to Baltimore and that first season of 1954?

2) Rank the Orioles' three World Series championships from most to least special. While any WS win is special, do you have a favorite? Use any reason that one WS could be your favorite, whether it was one you attended, you felt it was their most impressive win or any other reasons that are important to you.

3) Was the acquisition of Frank Robinson the best trade in O's history? Was there one that was better or more impactful?

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Appreciating Kyle Gibson's time as an Oriole

kyle gibson pitches grey

We learned a few days ago that right-hander Kyle Gibson would not be back with the Orioles for the 2024 season. He signed a one-year free agent deal with the St. Louis Cardinals for $12 million and the team holds a club option for the 2025 season.

For Gibson, this represents a homecoming of sorts. He lives near St. Louis and went to college at the University of Missouri. Reports said the Cardinals had been trying to add him for years. They’ve got him now but today we should take a moment to appreciate his numerous contributions to the Orioles last season.

He went 15-9 with a 4.73 ERA over 33 starts and the Orioles went 20-13 in those 33 games. Gibson tied for third in the AL in wins, trailing only Chris Bassitt and Zack Eflin, who had 16 each. He was one of eight pitchers in the majors with 15 or more wins and the first Oriole to do that since Chris Tillman won 16 in 2016.

The Orioles signed Gibson to a one-year deal for $10 million last Dec. 5 and he went on to tie for third in the league in wins, finish sixth in the AL throwing 192 innings, he tied for first in starts and tied for 10th in the AL with 17 quality starts.

Gibson became the first O’s pitcher in club history to start and win each of his three first appearances with the team. And he started a season 4-0 for the second time in his career, joining a 6-0 start with Texas in 2021. He became the fifth Oriole starting pitcher since 2004 to begin a year 4-0, joining John Means (4-0 in 2021), Bud Norris (4-0 in 2013), Wei-Yin Chen (4-0 in 2012), and Erik Bedard (4-0 in 2006).

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A few more surprises from the 2023 season

Aaron Hicks orange jersey

A few weeks back, I wrote about three players that surprised us in a good way with their play during the 2023 season. It was easy to note Ryan O'Hearn and Yennier Cano, both were huge surprises and so big for the 2023 Birds.

I added Kyle Bradish and not that we didn't think he could be a good pitcher. But maybe not that good. But he was and he wound up fourth in the Cy Young Award voting.

Here is that earlier blog here

Here are a few more surprises from the season. 

Outfielder Aaron Hicks: On the same day the Orioles put Cedric Mullins on the injured list for the first time - May 30 - they signed Aaron Hicks. A few days before that he had been designated for assignment by the Yankees and later released.

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