The question of do the Orioles more need a starting pitcher or a reliever may well be asked but isn’t the answer probably “both.” And can’t they get both?
Not only can they, they probably will. They surely can multi-task and it’s very unlikely that any one addition will keep them from making another. Even in the same spot on the roster, that spot being the pitching staff.
What is their biggest need is subjective to all of us pondering the question and whatever we come up with may or may not match the team’s thinking and that is the one that counts the most.
And unless they make a major expenditure here and sign someone to a larger than expected contract, adding someone as a starter or reliever is not likely to impact the addition of the other.
When it comes to the market, how that plays out may also determine in what order the Orioles proceed here. It takes two to tango and sometimes players and their agents want to wait to see others sign before as they say, “setting the market.”
As it relates to both the bullpen and the Baltimore starting rotation, which got much better in the second half, right-hander Tyler Wells and southpaw DL Hall are big factors. How will the Orioles use this pair? The answer to that could also be tied to which player or players they add here. If the Orioles added a quality starter, whoever that turned out to be, to add to Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, John Means and Dean Kremer, that is five starters before we even get to other names.
Kyle Gibson and Jack Flaherty are free agents and sort of assumed gone until and unless they are not. Gibson did enough well for me to come back if the team goes in that direction. Cole Irvin is a nice starter insurance policy and the fact he is left-handed for me makes his arbitration decision an easy one.
At some point you start to do the math and see more than five starters and it starts to get crowded. Then you realize you always need more than five and you always need the depth. You can always use pitchers with options, but Irvin doesn’t have any left heading into 2024. Hall and Wells do, meaning not only does the team have the option to use them in the bullpen or in the rotation, but they also have the option to send them to the minors if need be.
It is just nice roster flexibility to have.
With Félix Bautista out for the entire 2024 season, acquiring late-inning bullpen depth seems a pretty strong need for next season. Does that mean a proven closer or just someone to add to the mix of closer possibilities, we are going to find out. The first one will likely cost more.
The Orioles have nice candidates for the bullpen late innings to include Yennier Cano, Danny Coulombe, Cionel Pérez and Mike Baumann to name a few. But they are going to need more depth here, so we'll see what addition or additions they make.
I have noted a few teams already this offseason that the Orioles pitchers finished fifth in the AL in team ERA in 2023 at 3.89. They finished first in team ERA in the AL after the All-Star break at 3.58, which was third-best in all of MLB.
The pitching ended the year in pretty solid shape. Several young starters pitched more innings than ever before and that should help for next year.
But additions are coming, we know that. The intrigue will be at what cost in dollars and prospects and if they can prove to be real difference makers for next season.