A handful of Orioles questions that remain unanswered

The Orioles experienced a quiet Friday in terms of transactions.

There were none.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias has been in contact with a large number of agents and executives throughout the offseason, and it’s hardly the kind of news that qualifies as “breaking.” This is front office due diligence that we often talk about, even if a player is likely out of its price range.

Doesn’t hurt to check the market unless the cringing causes a headache.

I’ve got some lingering questions, to be expected in the third week of December, that probably are shared by many people in the industry and the team’s fan base. The first one went from a possibility to unlikely to perhaps in the discussion again.

Would the Orioles double back to Jordan Lyles?
That door was left ajar after they declined his $11 million option, a decision influenced at least in part by the early date of the deadline. A reluctance to make the financial commitment without really exploring the possibilities in free agency and having a better grasp of the economics.

Kyle Gibson received a $10 million contract after Lyles, his friend and former teammate, really sold him on the organization and clubhouse culture. Lyles seemed to seal his own fate in the process.

Or did he?

Lyles remains unsigned and the Orioles remain interested in acquiring a second veteran starter while drawing some sort of line in the sand regarding contract length and cost. It hasn’t been explained in full, but it’s there.

Elias stated at the Winter Meetings that the club made multi-year offers to some of the free-agent starters. Lyles likely would accept another one-year proposal with an option.

And then, stand back for the Opening Day assignment free-for-all after calculating your own odds. No one is flashing No. 1 credentials, but some track records are longer than others.

Is a trade for a starting pitcher more likely than a free agent signing?
That type of deal seems like the only way to get a true No. 1 starter.

The Orioles would need to be willing to surrender some prospects or subtract from their projected 26-man roster. The former feels like a more likely scenario.

Otherwise, the Orioles are rumored to have interest in Michael Wacha and Rich Hill, former teammates with the Rays in 2021 and Red Sox in 2022. MLBTradeRumors.com predicted a two-year, $16 million contract for Wacha.

Hill turns 43 in March. I don’t see any six-year deals in his future.

What happened to the big middle-of-the-order bat?
It might not come from outside the organization.

The Orioles have sought to upgrade the lineup and provide more thump. Again, the free-agent market doesn’t seem to be cooperating, and shorter-term deals are a harder sell for many impact hitters unless they’re seeking a pillow contract.

A soft landing spot before heading back out to free agency.

A hard reality that the Orioles might not execute one of those, either.

Elias isn’t done checking on available hitters, but the Orioles also are banking on the benefits of getting full seasons from Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and perhaps Kyle Stowers, the ascension of other prospects and more consistency from the likes of Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays.

Who’s next to come off the 40-man roster?
A full 40-man requires the Orioles to make a corresponding move if they sign someone else to a major league contract.

We can finally say with no fear of looking stupid later that it won’t be a catcher.

Does first baseman Lewin Díaz hold onto his spot after being a Dec. 2 waiver claim from the Pirates?

Twenty-five pitchers are on the 40-man: Keegan Akin, Bryan Baker, Mike Baumann, Félix Bautista, Kyle Bradish, Yennier Canó, Noah Denoyer, Kyle Gibson, Logan Gillaspie, DL Hall, Seth Johnson, Joey Krehbiel, Dean Kremer, John Means, Cionel Pérez, Andrew Politi, Grayson Rodriguez, Drew Rom, Dillon Tate, Chris Vallimont, Nick Vespi, Austin Voth, Spenser Watkins, Tyler Wells and Bruce Zimmermann.

At least a few seem vulnerable.

When the heck do pitchers and catchers report to spring training?
Still don’t know.

We usually find out when the schedule is released, which was Aug. 31 this year.

There’s a curiosity about whether the World Baseball Classic will lead to earlier dates.

Pitchers and catchers reported on Feb. 16 in 2021. They were supposed to arrive this year by Feb. 15, but the 99-day lockout pushed back everything.

Is Vespi going to pitch in the World Baseball Classic?
This isn’t really a lingering question.

Vespi announced on Twitter yesterday that he’s been selected to represent Team Italy. I wanted to pass it along to anyone who missed it.

“It is an honor to support my family’s heritage while playing the game I love,” Vespi wrote.

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