More on the Kimbrel signing and other Orioles business at the Winter Meetings

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NASHVILLE – Did Craig Kimbrel save the Winter Meetings for the Orioles?

A closer’s work is never done.

News of Kimbrel’s agreement yesterday on a $12 million contract for next season that includes a $1 million buyout on a $13 million club option broke a little over five hours before the Orioles’ ditched their digs at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.

Much better than dropping it on the media during the Southwest flight home, but still a bit late. The countdown had started. Fan agitation over the failure to make a move was growing in some circles.

If “X” is a circle.

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Elias on Kimbrel: "I think it's a great deal for all sides"

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NASHVILLE – The Orioles began negotiations with closer Craig Kimbrel on the first night of the general managers meetings. They reached agreement with him Monday night and signed him earlier today after he passed a physical.

They identified their target and hit the bull's eye.

Kimbrel receives $12 million in 2024 and has a $1 million buyout on a $13 million club option. He’s tabbed as the replacement for Félix Bautista.

“I think he brings what he does to this team,” said executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias. “He is one of the best closers in baseball history at this point. He’s still got a lot in the tank and he had a really solid season (this) year and we see a lot of things from a scouting perspective going forward that has us placing a pretty big bet that this guy’s going to have a really good season for us.”

The first conversation that Elias had at the GM meetings involved Kimbrel’s representative.

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Orioles in agreement with Kimbrel, decline to make selection in major league phase of Rule 5 draft

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NASHVILLE – Reliever Craig Kimbrel has passed his physical and signed a contract with the Orioles for the 2024 season that also includes an option for 2025.

Multiple reports had the deal done, and an industry source confirmed it to MASNsports.com.

The New York Post reported that Kimbrel will receive $12 million next season and has a $1 million buyout in 2025 on a $13 million club option. The deal guarantees $13 million and will be the largest from the Orioles since Mike Elias became the club's executive vice president/general manager, overtaking the $10 million deal Kyle Gibson got last winter.

A late-inning reliever was a top priority for Elias, with closer Félix Bautista out next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October.

Kimbrel, who turns 36 in May, ranks eighth on the all-time saves list with 417 over his 14 seasons. The nine-time All-Star posted a 3.26 ERA, 1.043 WHIP, and .611 OPS against this year with the Phillies, registered 23 saves and averaged 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

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Boras talks about conversations with Elias regarding contract extensions

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NASHVILLE – Scott Boras drew the usual massive throng of media this morning to the ballroom area on the Delta side of the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. Reporters and cameramen camped out, the agent’s representative attempting to clear a path to create room for Boras to reach his designated spot.

A Winter Meetings tradition like no other. The loudest lobby buzz of the week.

Boras usually has little or nothing to say about the Orioles, especially with Chris Davis retired, but representing Gunnar Henderson and Jackson Holliday makes him a must-listen for the local beat crew.

Henderson was named the American League’s Rookie of the Year and finished eighth in Most Valuable Player voting. Holliday, the first-overall selection in the 2022 draft, is ranked as baseball’s No. 1 prospect.

Other teams are signing their young stars to huge contract extensions. Have the Orioles reached out to Boras about their dynamic duo?

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Orioles closing in on Kimbrel

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NASHVILLE – The Orioles might leave the Winter Meetings later today without a signed contract from a free agent, an agreement with a trade partner or a selection in the Rule 5 draft. However, the quest for a closer appears to be reaching its conclusion.

Stand by.

Multiple reports have the Orioles nearing an agreement with veteran Craig Kimbrel on a contract for the 2024 season. An industry source confirmed that discussions intensified and a deal could get done.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias arrived in Nashville with pitching as his main priority. He’s in the market for a starter and an “anchor,” as he worded it, for the back end of the bullpen.

Félix Bautista will miss next season while recovering from ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow, leaving a huge void that Kimbrel can at least partially fill.

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Orioles staying quiet as Winter Meetings nearing conclusion

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NASHVILLE – The Winter Meetings conclude later today with the Rule 5 draft. The Orioles hold the 29th selection in the first round but can move up as teams ahead of them pass.

Probably won't matter.

The Orioles have made a selection every year in the major league phase since pitcher Alfredo Simon in 2006. They traded Simon to the Phillies for catcher Adam Donachie and cash considerations.

Donachie never played in the majors. Simon was returned to the Rangers but later signed with the Orioles as a free agent in 2008 and 2009.

The rest of the club’s Rule 5 picks were as follows:

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Notes on Orioles' draft slots, Rule 5 update and more

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NASHVILLE – The Orioles weren’t eligible for today’s draft lottery but moved up two spots for next year’s first selection.

They went from holding the 24th to the 22nd because of luxury tax penalties imposed on the Yankees and Padres.

“That’s a pretty high pick coming off a 101-win season,” said executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.

It’s the lowest for the Orioles since pitcher Cody Sedlock was taken 27th overall out of the University of Illinois in 2016.

They also have the 32nd selection, a prospect promotion incentive pick for Gunnar Henderson winning the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award, and the 34th in the Competitive Balance A round.

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Elias says it's "definitely a very strong possibility" that Holliday makes the club in spring training

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NASHVILLE – Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said he’s had a “productive day” of meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. Can’t get into particulars, but a lot of good conversations with so many attractive free agents remaining on the board and plenty of trade partners.

Jackson Holliday isn’t just untouchable in those discussions. He could be on the roster when the team breaks camp.

“It’s definitely a very strong possibility,” Elias said. “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but he had an historic first full season in the minors. You probably 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 he did well. He’s now going to be back in spring training. He just turned 20 (yesterday), so to me that’s a big year of development, 19 to 20. You get taller, you get heavier, you get more mature. There’s a lot of good things that happen. So we just want to see what he looks like.”

Holliday was invited to spring training last year and impressed with his skills and attitude before the Orioles assigned him to the minor league side and the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds. He won’t be on the clock in 2024, waiting to be called into manager Brandon Hyde’s office with the inevitable news.

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Hyde on playoffs: "That was a great experience for us but we want to go further”

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NASHVILLE – Orioles manager Brandon Hyde can’t let it go completely.

The sweep in the American League Division Series isn’t causing him sleepless nights, but he said today that “it hasn’t eased for me.” The time hasn't healed the wounds.

“There was a lot of disappointment,” Hyde said during today’s media session at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. “I’m really proud of our season. I don’t want to take that for granted. To win our division, to win over 100 games, to have the individual performances and team performances that we had, it says a lot about our roster and our guys. We have some really good players, but you do that and then you fall short like we did, it takes a while to go away.

“It hasn’t gone away for me yet.”

The Orioles posted the best record in the American League, but they need to push further. Perhaps it happens through roster upgrades. Or maybe it’s just a natural progression after experiencing the rigors of October baseball.

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Winter Meetings leftovers for breakfast

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NASHVILLE – The question almost made Mike Elias recoil.

How does the Orioles’ executive vice president/general manager view the state of his rotation with its improved depth and the potential influence on trade and free agent negotiations?

“I definitely don’t like to talk about starting pitcher depth with the baseball gods always within earshot,” Elias replied.

He assumed the risk and kept going. Can’t always play it safe.

“We’ve got a decent group that’s returning,” he said. “A lot of successes last year. We feel pretty good about some of the numbers that we had. But I think 30 of these suites right now, there’s teams talking about, we’re out looking for pitching and pitching depth. So, it’s a very competitive market.

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Elias on urgency, attempts to find pitching, bargaining with top prospects, and more

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NASHVILLE – Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias cited his No. 1 priority earlier today as making the team better, with more avenues to do so on the pitching side because the group of position players is almost entirely back. And more are coming.

The miles traveled from Baltimore didn’t disrupt the team’s plans or rearrange its goals. Only the time zone changed.

Conversations have picked up lately in attempts to upgrade the rotation and back end of the bullpen. However, Elias isn’t driven by a sense of urgency to complete any deals before leaving the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

“I’ve never been one to view these meetings as some type of compressed time frame where you’ve got to do something. It’s just not the way we approach these meetings,” he said this afternoon while meeting with local media in his suite.

“I think they’re very efficient from an interaction and info gathering. I think in our business it’s kind of hard to get all your executives and scouts and manager in the same room, and so it tends to speed up trade conversations, idea generations, some creativity. Sometimes that leads to deals here. Most of the time it doesn’t. But we’re not worried about making any deals while we’re here.

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Winter Meetings this, that and the other

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NASHVILLE – Major League Baseball’s annual charity auction at the Winter Meetings to support “Stand Up to Cancer” is honoring executives Billy Beane and Catalina Villegas, who are undergoing treatments following their diagnoses.

Beane, a former outfielder, is MLB's senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion. Villegas is director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Beane needs a bone marrow transplant as he battles acute myeloid leukemia, as reported earlier in USA Today. Villegas underwent breast cancer surgery and six aggressive rounds of chemotherapy.

The auction is live at MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction until Thursday at 10 p.m. Items and experiences have been donated by all 30 clubs, more than a dozen minor league teams, the office of the commissioner, MLB Network and the Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum.

The Orioles are offering four complimentary tickets to a game in 2024, and an opportunity to watch batting practice and meet executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, and an autographed baseball from manager Brandon Hyde.

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Winter Meetings are starting and Orioles still seek pitching

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NASHVILLE – Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias is arriving this morning at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, transferring some of his phone conversations to face-to-face discussions. Matt Blood, vice president of player development and domestic scouting, Sig Mejdal, vice president and assistant general manager, and Koby Perez, vice president of international scouting and operations, were counted among team officials who flew into Nashville yesterday.

The Winter Meetings are underway.

The multiple lobbies, miles in between them and hordes of families wandering through the hotel make it challenging to decipher the buzz. It’s beginning to look a lot like chaos in this holiday-themed establishment.

I like to pass along what I’m hearing, with the caveat that it isn’t necessarily confirmed. Just what scouts, agents and others in the industry are saying about the Orioles. Their hot takes on the club's business.

The interest in trading for Dylan Cease is legitimate. The Orioles are among the teams in discussions with the White Sox.

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Passing along possible Winter Meetings questions (Leyland elected to Hall of Fame)

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This morning marks my last story minus a Nashville dateline until probably Friday. I’m boarding a flight in a few hours and landing into the next phase of baseball’s offseason.

The Winter Meetings are held this week at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, a space so large it has its own mayor. Families come from all over the country to check out the holiday decorations and ask, “Has anyone seen my kid?”

The Orioles are searching for starting and relief pitching.

The first media session with executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias will be held Monday afternoon in his suite, and all 30 executives will be available Tuesday afternoon. Manager Brandon Hyde will have his own scrum Tuesday afternoon in "Delta Lobby A," which I'm hoping is within a 25-mile radius of the workroom.

(I’ll stop complaining about the location today. That’s my promise to you.)

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More thoughts on Winter Meetings as Orioles prepare arrival in Nashville

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The clock is ticking louder for the start of baseball’s annual Winter Meetings, which were held virtually in December 2020 due to the pandemic and canceled in 2021 because of the lockout. The in-person sessions returned last year in San Diego.

Long flight but a short walk from the media workroom to the lobby and back.  

The Orioles reached agreement on a one-year deal with starter Kyle Gibson on the weekend before those meetings, with his signing made official after we arrived. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias provided more details, confirming the $10 million cost.  

The next few days played out in typical Orioles fashion.

They signed right-hander Ofreidy Gómez to a minor league deal on Dec. 5 and outfielder Nomar Mazara and infielder Josh Lester the following day, and selected pitcher Andrew Politi from the Red Sox in the Rule 5 draft. Internet searches were conducted, stats consumed like hors d’oeuvres.

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More questions and curiosities about the 2024 Orioles

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Earlier this week, I wondered whether Kyle Bradish could build on his breakout season, if Jordan Westburg would play more regularly, and whether Cole Irvin would keep bouncing between the rotation and bullpen.

We’re a long way from getting any answers.

Here are three more while we wait for the Orioles to make a big move.

Does John Means give the Orioles a full and productive season?

Let’s start with the full part.

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Leftovers for breakfast

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The Orioles don’t need more reminders that their bullpen has a giant hole in the back. They’ve felt the impact of losing Félix Bautista. They’ve made late-inning relief a priority in the offseason.

But Bautista’s importance to the club, how much he dominated hitters this summer, was discussed again last night with his selection as the American League’s top reliever.

Bautista received the Mariano Rivera Award, with Milwaukee’s Devin Williams getting the National League’s version named for Trevor Hoffman.

A six-man panel of former relievers, including Rivera and Hoffman, handled the voting, and Bautista was the unanimous choice.

This is the latest honor for the Orioles, after Gunner Henderson was chosen as the AL’s Rookie of the Year, Brandon Hyde as Manager of the Year and Mike Elias as Executive of the Year. Henderson and Adley Rutschman won Silver Slugger Awards.

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Orioles hiring Drew French as pitching coach (Bautista wins AL reliever award)

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The Orioles are finalizing the structure of their 2024 coaching staff as they approach the Winter Meetings. Business that doesn’t influence their active roster.

According to an industry source, the Orioles are prepared to hire Drew French as their pitching coach.

French, 39, spent the past three seasons as the Braves’ bullpen coach. He’ll take over for Chris Holt, who maintains his duties as director of pitching.

Holt and executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias are familiar with French from his five seasons as pitching coach in the Astros’ organization from 2016-20. French was one of two pitching coaches at the alternate training site in 2020 before joining Houston toward the end of the regular season and playoffs to work with the club’s taxi squad.

French began his tenure in the Astros’ system as pitching coach at short-season Tri-City. He served in the same role with the 2017 Midwest League champion Quad Cities River Bandits and 2018 Carolina League champion Buies Creed Astros.

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More chatter on Orioles' pitching plans in free agency

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If the month of November seems slow or stalled for Orioles business, consider that the only player acquisition a year ago was outfielder Daz Cameron on a minor league contract. The rest of it centered on outrighting a few players and protecting others in the Rule 5 draft.

The Orioles were much more active in November 2021 with waiver claims of relievers Bryan Baker and Cionel Pérez and shortstop Lucius Fox and the signings of second baseman Rougned Odor and pitchers Spenser Watkins, Rico Garcia, Marcos Diplán and Denyi Reyes. The Nationals claimed Fox 11 days later.

Pitcher Tommy Milone was traded to the Braves in November 2020 for minor league infielders Greg Cullen and AJ Graffanino, and first baseman Chris Snow was claimed from the Giants. Outfielder Mason Williams and shortstop Malquin Canelo signed minor league deals in November 2019.

So, it’s usually a non-impactful month under executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.

Meanwhile, free-agent starters began flying off the board, at a senior citizen discount.

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This, that and the other (home game times announced)

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The Orioles are expected to break camp again next spring with 13 pitchers and 13 position players. The same even split on their 26-man roster.

Six of them made their first Opening Day rosters – starter Kyle Bradish, catcher Adley Rutschman, infielders Gunnar Henderson and Terrin Vavra, outfielder Kyle Stowers and reliever Logan Gillaspie. Gillaspie is the only one who’s out of the organization, with the Red Sox claiming him off waivers Sept. 4 and the Padres selecting him Nov. 15.

Bradish finished fourth in Cy Young voting in the American League after starting Game 1 of the Division Series. He’s the staff ace.

Rutschman was an All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner who placed ninth in Most Valuable Player balloting.

Henderson finished eighth, was voted Rookie of the Year and also won a Silver Slugger. And he’s only going to get better.

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