Baseball’s offseason moves into a new month later this week, inching closer to the Winter Meetings, also known as the worst assignment of the year. Stretch out those hamstrings to chase rumors, whether legit or loony, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville.
Stretch them out to cover the hundreds of miles separating the media workroom from the lobby area and elevators.
You literally are handed a map at the front desk to navigate the premises, accompanied by wishes of “good luck.” And with my sense of direction, I’m liable to wander into Memphis while searching for a men’s room.
Take the free bottled water if offered. It may be the difference between survival and dying from dehydration.
Fans are dying to know what the Orioles will do with their roster.
The tinkering has been minimal so far, with the last addition outfielder Sam Hilliard on a Nov. 1 waiver claim from the Braves. He followed left-hander Tucker Davidson, an Oct. 25 waiver claim from the Royals.
The Orioles signed Davidson to a contract for 2024 and outrighted him Nov. 14. They also outrighted infielder Terrin Vavra on the same day, the final items on the club’s transactions page.
(I'm not counting left-hander Jakob Hernandez's minor league deal last week and assignment to Triple-A Norfolk after seven years in the Phillies' system.)
The 40-man roster is frozen at 36 players, leaving room for selections in the Rule 5 draft that’s held Dec. 6. An afternoon event now that the meetings conclude a day earlier than in the past.
Vacancies at pitching coach and assistant pitching coach could be filled this week. Or announced, with the hires already settled. Helps with recruiting free agents who might want to know which coaches they’d be working with next season.
I’m not dying to know, but there’s curiosity.
This is a slow build to today’s topic. What else am I curious about regarding the 2024 Orioles?
Glad I asked.
Here are a few that I’ll share besides wondering whether the Orioles sign or trade for a starter to slot near or at the top of the rotation, and whether they trade an outfielder and/or infielder to alleviate a crowded situation.
Does Kyle Bradish build on 2023?
Bradish wasn’t a fluke. Not with that stuff. Not with that repertoire.
But he’s tasked with following a 2.83 ERA that ranked fourth in the majors, a 1.04 WHIP that tied for third, and a fourth-place finish in Cy Young voting in the American League - earning the Game 1 start in the Division Series.
Maybe the Opening Day assignment, too, if the Orioles don’t make a bold move over the winter.
Bradish became the first qualified Orioles starter with a sub-3.00 ERA since Mike Mussina (2.54) in 1992. That doesn’t happen by accident.
Are there some crazy one-year wonders? Steve Stone winning 25 games and the Cy Young in 1980 is cited as an example, but he did post a 2.98 ERA in 27 games with the Giants in 1972. He had some success, just not to that extreme. And he was done after 15 appearances with the Orioles in 1981.
Bradish is penning a different kind of story. He should be good for a while, turning 27 in September and scratching the surface of what he’s capable of being and doing.
Does Jordan Westburg play every day?
Westburg made his debut on June 26 and appeared in 68 games. A total he should easily exceed next year.
But can he avoid a platoon situation and become a regular at second base? Or at least do the back and forth between second and third the way Gunnar Henderson did between third and short?
Westburg shared second with Adam Frazier, who’s a free agent. The Orioles could sign another veteran to reduce the pressure on the younger infielders and make the club less reliant. That was part of the thinking with Frazier. To be less dependent on Vavra handling a bigger workload after the rookie made his first Opening Day roster.
Westburg was a much higher rated prospect during his period of eligibility and seems deserving of a larger role next season. He can make an impact at the plate and in the field.
Give him second/third base responsibilities in the infield shuffling. The movement will become more necessary after Jackson Holliday has his contract selected from Triple-A.
Does Cole Irvin bounce again between two roles?
Irvin received only three April starts before the club optioned him for the first time. A shorter leash than expected after the Orioles traded for him.
What resulted were 24 appearances divided between rotation and bullpen.
How the Orioles use Irvin next season could depend on their offseason moves. They’re determined to add at least one starter and already have Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, John Means, Dean Kremer, Tyler Wells and DL Hall.
Irvin didn’t allow an earned run or walk a batter in his last four relief appearances spanning 7 2/3 innings. He posted a 3.26 ERA and 1.190 WHIP out of the ‘pen.
He’s also out of options, which changes what the Orioles can do if he struggles.
There are worse ideas than letting Irvin compete for a starting job and using long relief as a fallback. Someone has to do it, and Wells and Hall could be late-inning guys if they aren't in the rotation.