If an offseason can be filled with intrigue and drama, this one could for the Orioles.
After an 83-win season, 31 more than the previous year, the Orioles are a winning team. Now we begin to find out how they take what they have impressively built to get to this point, to get to the next stage.
To get to where they can win 90 to 100 games, to not only contend for the playoffs, but for division championships with a team that could make a deep postseason run. And do it year after year after year. That is the long-range goal for the Orioles, and now we begin to see if they can realize it.
They have done such a great job just to get to this point.
They have a low payroll and plenty of flexibility with that moving forward. They have a top-ranked farm both to produce players to contribute to the big league club and players that could be involved in some key trades this winter.
The pipeline is flowing. Spirits are high in Birdland as the fall and winter arrive.
They cleared some big hurdles to get to this point, and now there are more in the road ahead. They will play fewer games next season against the American League East, but they will still be competing with those heavyweights in the standings every day.
O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias held his season-ending press conference before yesterday’s doubleheader. He pledges to make additions to make the team better. But even he is not sure yet exactly how that will be done, or at what positions or how with roster spots.
He has a lot of options and a lot of different ways he could go.
“We’re going to look at any and all ways to improve our chances at making the playoffs within the budget that we’re going to be working with, and that’s going to depend on what the market gives us, and I think there are a number of areas where we can supplement this team,” Elias said.
“I don’t have a specific prediction about which position any major league acquisitions are going to come in. I think one thing that makes this a little bit tricky is that we have very interesting internal candidates for almost every single job, so it’s not necessary that we go target one particular part of the team.
“I think we’re going to look to supplement and upgrade, and how that fits into the whole roster, that’s going to be case-by-case.”
The Orioles will look to get better, but that could come in many ways. We could see trades, as the Orioles have so-called prospect capital to deal. They are developing a surplus of prospects with a strong top 30 list now. They could deal young talent and still have plenty remaining. That is what a healthy, winning organization looks to do.
“Want to echo our belief in the strength of our minor league system,” said Elias. “We had a No. 1 overall pick make a successful, very impressive debut this year. We had the No. 1 prospect in baseball come up and make a successful major league debut. And our top 10 prospects list is as deep as I’ve been around in my career. We’re very excited about that and will keep it going.
“We have to keep drafting and developing well in a very competitive business, and we’re trying to keep our edge in the Warehouse. We’ll continue to do that. We also broke ground on a Dominican facility and a pitching lab, and we want to continue to make the infrastructure in this organization on par with the best in the league, and our partnership group supports that goal as well. I think we’ll continue to see infrastructure investments and it will always be an area of focus of mine and something we have to balance against player personnel investments as well. We will try to do both as well as we possibly can.”
Elias is also realistic, as he noted yesterday that 83 wins this year doesn’t ensure they will have more in 2023. They will have to earn it all over again, starting next spring.
“It doesn’t mean we will take for granted it’s going to happen again next year,” he said. “Or that we’re going to have a better record next year. We have these other four teams (in the AL East) that make great moves every winter, that have huge resources and that also have good farm systems. It’s scary. So, we’re just going to continue to make good decisions and try and do the right thing for the organization.”
Elias was asked if he could foresee the O’s making an eye-popping signing and/or trade move this winter.
“Again, we don’t want to announce a budget to the agent community, nor the other 29 teams, but I do continue to view this as an offseason where we are going to have the flexibility to invest in the major league payroll in a different way than I have done since I’ve been here. We feel like the time is right from a strategic standpoint. In fact, the time is pressing to do that, now that we have the foundation of the top farm system in baseball and a major league team that is young and talented with a .500-plus record.
“This is the time to start making more significant investments in the major league payroll. Whether that comes in the form of free agency or kind of buy-side trades, I don’t know yet. But I would expect one, if not both, of those types of activities from us. Also, we are interested in bringing more fans into the park. Bringing our revenues up and making the organization more healthy from a business standpoint so we that we can continue to grow in the future. This will be a pivotal next 12 months for us in that regard.”
Elias believes the days of Confederate money are over. And that if he looks to hand out some checks this offseason, some free agents will be ready to take his call.
“I think this is a very attractive free agent destination now," he said. "We hear great compliments from our players about the clubhouse environment that (manager Brandon Hyde) has built. About the way that our players get better here and have really put that on display this year. It’s a great town. It’s a great ballpark. It’s now a great place to pitch and I think we are going to have a lot of players want to come join this team. It was a really fun vibe all year long and the whole world got to see it.”
It's been said of players that getting to the major leagues is quite the achievement, but staying there is the hard part. For the Orioles, getting to be among the winning clubs was hard, but staying there could be an even tougher act yet.
What figures to be a fascinating offseason is just starting in Birdland.