This, that and the other

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The Orioles completed most of their arbitration business on Friday and made another sizeable splash two days later in the international market.

There isn’t much left to do besides get the camp roster ready for spring training.

Austin Voth is the only player among the six arbitration eligibles who didn’t agree to terms. He’s seeking $2 million and the Orioles countered at $1.7 million.

A hearing could be held in late January or February, with a three-person panel determining the salary. There are no compromises if it reaches this stage.

Voth would be an interesting case given the splits in his season between the Nationals and Orioles. The 10.13 ERA and 2.143 WHIP in 19 relief appearances versus the 3.04 ERA and 1.229 WHIP in 22 games (17 starts) for a team that contended until the final week.

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Sifting through spring training storylines as report date nears

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The offseason is melting away like Frosty. Not quite a puddle, but it’s getting mushier.

(I’m still wondering why Santa Claus left Karen on the roof of her house rather than dropping her off at the front door. She should have demanded to speak with his manager. But I digress …)

The report date for Orioles pitchers and catchers is exactly one month away. A few days earlier for Dillon Tate (Team USA) and Dean Kremer (Team Israel) as they ready for the World Baseball Classic and are marked as absent in camp.

The Orioles already have them pegged for the 26-man roster on opening day. The only concern is how they’ll ramp up earlier than normal, which in theory could make them more vulnerable to an injury. Manager Brandon Hyde will wave goodbye with fingers crossed.

Knowing how close we are to a Sarasota dateline creates another round of camp curiosities, which I’m formulating this weekend between NFL playoff games.

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Taking the Orioles rotation for another spin

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The depth in the Orioles rotation stacks up “pretty well,” one talent evaluator phrased it recently, when tracking starter candidates fourth through seventh. The back end and overflow.

Potential exists for higher grades. And to be in good hands from top to bottom if small sample sizes prove accurate in the longer term.

The Orioles are hoping that there really is strength in numbers.

They don’t have an established No. 1, 2 or 3 starter, but they want to further explore the group that includes Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, Tyler Wells, Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall. This can be done with or without another veteran acquisition to go with Kyle Gibson, who’s normally a fourth or fifth.

The club is maintaining its quest for someone with previous experience as a 1, 2 or even a 3, judging by the range of its search. Michael Wacha is the most appealing of the remaining free agents and the Orioles have kept their interest in him. He’s coming off an 11-2 season with a 3.32 ERA and 1.115 WHIP in 23 starts for the Red Sox, but maintaining good health and staying on the mound has been an issue.

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Orioles send De La Cruz to Mets to complete McCann trade

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The Orioles completed last month’s trade for backup catcher James McCann by sending minor league infielder/outfielder Luis De La Cruz to the Mets today as the player to be named later.

De La Cruz, 20, spent the past two seasons in the Dominican Summer League. He appeared in 33 games in 2022 and batted .291/.396/.349 with five doubles and 12 RBIs in 101 plate appearances.

De La Cruz was part of the July 2019 international signing class at age 16, the first under Mike Elias and Koby Perez.

McCann was acquired on Dec. 21, with the Mets picking up $19 million of the $24 million remaining on his contract over the next two seasons.

Adley Rutschman was the only catcher on the 40-man roster before McCann’s arrival.

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Deadline day for Orioles to reach agreements with arbitration players (updated)

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The Orioles have reached the point today where they must agree to contract terms with six arbitration-eligible players or risk hearings to determine 2023 salaries.

Outfielders Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander and Austin Hays, infielder Jorge Mateo and pitchers Austin Voth and Dillon Tate were tendered contracts at the deadline. They remain under team control, the most important order of business.

It’s unlikely that the Orioles sign all six players before exchanging figures, but they’re expected to announce some agreements later today. I’m placing the over/under at three.

Make it rain.

Hearings typically are set during spring training. The Orioles have joined other teams operating under the file-and-go approach, but they make exceptions, with Trey Mancini and John Means serving as examples last year.

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Information on Orioles spring training report dates (and O'Hearn update)

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Major League Baseball announced this afternoon that Orioles pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Sarasota on Feb. 15, with the first workout held the following day.

Position players are due on Feb. 20. The first full-squad workout will begin the morning of the 21st.

The first exhibition game is Feb. 25 against the Twins at Ed Smith Stadium. The Orioles finish with a March 27 home game against the Cardinals, a late addition to the schedule.

The Orioles will face nine different opponents, with 11 of 31 games against American League East rivals.

Six games will be played against the Pirates, three in Sarasota and three in Bradenton. The Orioles also will host the Braves, Tigers, Phillies and Twins.

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Latest on where Orioles stand with roster as spring training nears

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The latest removal of Lewin Díaz from the 40-man roster and the approaching resolution on Ryan O’Hearn didn’t move the Orioles forward in their offseason plans for first base.

They may have already arrived.

The club has sought a left-handed hitter to back up Ryan Mountcastle, and it’s been collecting candidates since November. The first time it claimed Díaz off waivers, on the same day that it signed Franchy Cordero to a minor league deal. Four days before it signed Josh Lester, also to a minor league contract.

The Orioles are going with a quantity approach, and they’re counting Anthony Santander, who worked out at first base last summer but didn’t play in a game. I’ve heard that he’ll do more of it in spring training.

Santander made nine starts with Single-A Lynchburg in 2016. It’s been a while.

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Orioles acquire Hernandez from Red Sox and DFA Díaz

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Lewin Díaz is on the move again, with the Orioles again removing a left-handed hitting first baseman from their 40-man roster but also increasing their bullpen depth with the corresponding move.

Left-handed reliever Darwinzon Hernandez was acquired from the Red Sox this afternoon for cash considerations. Díaz was designated for assignment again – his fifth time since the conclusion of the 2022 season.

Hernandez, 26, appeared in 91 games with the Red Sox over parts of four seasons and compiled a 5.06 ERA and 1.734 WHIP in 85 1/3 innings. He’s walked 73 batters but also struck out 133.

The 2021 season was encouraging for Hernandez despite an oblique strain that cost him more than a month, with the Venezuelan native posting a 3.38 ERA in 48 games, but he pitched in only seven last year and allowed 16 earned runs (17 total) with eight walks in 6 2/3 innings. He had a 5.73 ERA  and 1.485 WHIP in 23 games at Triple-A Worcester.

Hernandez was the Red Sox’s No. 4 prospect in 2019 and made his major league debut in May. He was optioned to begin the 2022 season, underwent knee surgery and didn’t rejoin Boston until July. His last appearance was Aug. 10, and the Red Sox designated him for assignment on Friday after signing free-agent infielder Justin Turner.

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Some possible caravan questions for Orioles

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While waiting for an announcement that Carlos Correa’s deal with the Twins fell through and he’s signing with the Sugar Land Space Cowboys …

The return of the Birdland Caravan next month reconnects fans to the players, but also provides the media with easier access to them.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias hosted three sessions in his suite at the Manchester Grand Hyatt during last month’s Winter Meetings in San Diego. Brandon Hyde was available during the managers’ scrums, and a group of us also had breakfast with him one morning during the annual off-the-record gathering.

A large plate of scrambled eggs and bacon, and plenty of small talk.

The four-day caravan tour, making stops in Baltimore City, Bel Air, Bowie, College Park, Columbia, Frederick, Odenton, Salisbury, Towson, Westminster and York, Pa., brings Adley Rutschman back into a spotlight that he’d otherwise wish to avoid. As if a talent of this magnitude, with all its hype tagging along, has any choice.

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Orioles announce 2023 promotional schedule

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Bobbleheads featuring Adley Rutschman, Ryan Mountcastle, Félix Bautista and Hall of Famer Eddie Murray highlight the Orioles’ 2023 promotional schedule, which they released early this morning.

The Oriole Bird also gets his own bobblehead figure during Kids Opening Day on April 9.

Murray will be honored on Aug. 5 as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of the 1983 World Series championship, the last won by the Orioles.

Rutschman’s bobblehead on June 10 is inspired by Captain America, as the Orioles delve into their first Marvel Super Hero Night.

Some of the most popular items are returning to Camden Yards, including floppy hats on June 30, Hawaiian shirts on July 1, soccer jerseys on July 15.and lightweight hoodies on Sept. 30.

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Waiting on Vallimont, O'Hearn and more

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Another day begins for the Orioles with two players still uncertain where they’re headed. Do they stay or do they go?

Pitcher Chris Vallimont was designated for assignment Jan. 3 after the Orioles acquired first baseman/outfielder Ryan O’Hearn from the Royals for cash considerations. O’Hearn was designated for assignment two days later after the Orioles again claimed first baseman Lewin Díaz off waivers.

An update on Vallimont could come later today since it’s been a week.

The Orioles claimed him off waivers from the Twins on May 25, with left-hander Alexander Wells moving to the 60-day injured list. Vallimont made three starts with Double-A Bowie and allowed one run in 13 innings, and he had a 5.38 ERA and 1.333 WHIP in 16 games (12 starts) with Triple-A Norfolk.

The constant movement with pitchers between the majors and minors couldn’t nudge Vallimont toward the Orioles. His debut remains on hold since the Marlins drafted him in the fifth round in 2018 from Mercyhurst University.

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Information on next month's Birdland Caravan

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The Orioles are bringing back their Birdland Caravan, a four-day winter tour that runs from Feb. 2-5 at multiple locations throughout the region, with some notable participants including executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, manager Brandon Hyde, catcher Adley Rutschman and pitcher Grayson Rodriguez.

Included is autograph sessions and happy hours at three locations with current players, top prospects, members of the front office, broadcasters and the Oriole Bird.

The caravan will make stops at Bowlero College Park and Topgolf Baltimore, providing fans with an opportunity to interact with players and staff while they bowl and tee off. There’s also a community service project with the Maryland Food Bank, which is closed to the public, and fan rallies at Bel Air High School, Wilde Lake High School and Winters Mill High School.

The following stops are confirmed: Baltimore City, Bel Air, Bowie, College Park, Columbia, Frederick, Odenton, Salisbury, Towson, Westminster and York, Pa.

Fans in Elkridge and Owings Mills can take photos with the Oriole Bird.

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Pitching in with more thoughts about the Orioles' staff

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Having spent a few days wondering about the 13 position players on an Orioles 26-man roster, it seems only fair to do a little obsessing about the pitching staff, if that ratio makes sense.

The analysis is incomplete, as well as speculative, because the Orioles could add another veteran starter. They weren’t supposed to be done after Kyle Gibson’s $10 million deal. I still think there’s another transaction coming.

Names flew off the free agent board. The first tier never was in play despite some reports and the second proved more expensive than perhaps anticipated.

The perception of how much the Orioles were willing to commit financially also turned out to be inflated.

What do we know about the rotation?

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Because You Asked - Return to the Blue Lagoon

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The mailbag will be much too heavy to transport down to Sarasota for spring training unless I empty it again.

I’m reluctant to check it with my luggage. I may not get it back until the Winter Meetings.

Here is the latest sequel to the beloved original from 2008. You ask, I answer, you ask again, I answer again. It’s bound to get old one of these days.

This mailbag is edited for profanity only. I removed all the stuff I originally put in there.

Also, my mailbag tans evenly and your mailbag has red blotches.

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Who is most impacted by recent Orioles acquisitions?

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The Orioles have made two moves since the last time that I speculated on the position-player half of the 26-man roster, acquiring first baseman/outfielder Ryan O’Hearn from the Royals on Tuesday for cash considerations and designating him for assignment on Thursday while claiming first baseman Lewin Díaz off waivers from the Braves.

O’Hearn has one minor league option remaining. Díaz has none. Both players fit the profile of a left-handed hitting backup first baseman, though O’Hearn also plays the corner outfield, with 31 of his major league starts coming in right.

The club’s thirst for a left-handed bat probably hasn’t been quenched. I’d be shocked if Díaz is the final acquisition. Then again, I didn’t think he’d be back and O’Hearn would last two days.

The only predictable component of this offseason has been its unpredictability.

Whichever player is able to secure a bench role is doing so at the expense of someone who currently projects as a member of the opening day roster.  

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Left wondering whether the Orioles have more first base work to do

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While addressing one of their offseason priorities earlier this week, the Orioles created a new question.

Are they done with left-handed-hitting first basemen?

They hadn’t satisfied their craving after claiming Lewin Díaz off waivers from the Pirates on Dec. 2. He was traded to the Braves later in the month.

Franchy Cordero and Josh Lester agreed to a minor league deals in December. They provide depth in camp and perhaps at Triple-A, but the position is relatively new to Cordero.

Ryan O’Hearn, acquired from the Royals Tuesday afternoon for cash considerations, is a first baseman first. He’s made 163 starts and appeared in 185 games at the position over his five major league seasons with the Royals.

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Orioles claim Díaz and DFA O'Hearn (Vespi undergoes surgery)

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The left-handed hitter carousel keeps spinning for the Orioles.

Lewin Díaz has made a full circle, coming back to the organization this afternoon in a waiver claim from the Braves.

The Orioles claimed Díaz from the Pirates on Dec. 2, providing another candidate to back up Ryan Mountcastle at first base, but they designated him for assignment after signing reliever Mychal Givens and traded him to Atlanta on Dec. 23 for cash considerations.

A turbulent winter continues for Díaz, who’s involved in his fourth transaction since the conclusion of the 2022 season.

Ryan O’Hearn is at least temporarily out of the running for the backup job. The Orioles designated him for assignment today to create room for Díaz on the 40-man roster.

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Three more Orioles predictions for 2023

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The Orioles can remove some of the questions hovering over them before they convene in Sarasota for spring training. Who else is competing for a spot in the rotation. Is anyone else competing for a bench role. Who could be traded to address their needs if free agency isn’t a solution.

Predicting their future is easier as more time passes, but where’s the challenge?

Here are three more:

Will the Orioles play the rotation hand they’ve been dealt?
Kyle Gibson signed for $10 million in 2023, the most lucrative deal from the Orioles since Mike Elias’ hiring as executive vice president/general manager. He wasn’t viewed as the No. 1 starter, but no one else in the group has better credentials.

The other candidates include Tyler Wells, Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall, Austin Voth, Spenser Watkins and Bruce Zimmermann.

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Will Mateo be rare returning shortstop for Orioles in 2023?

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The Orioles’ shortstop history might repeat itself in 2023.

Jorge Mateo was the starter last year on opening day and in a total of 142 games. He’s arbitration-eligible for the first time and the Orioles tendered him a contract in November, with Jan. 13 the deadline to reach agreement or exchange salary figures.

Odds set this month would have Mateo as the favorite to play the position in the March 30 opener against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. First in a field that includes rookie Gunnar Henderson.

J.J. Hardy is the last Orioles shortstop to make consecutive starts on opening day going back to 2016-17. The club has been unsettled and in the market for stopgaps.

(Hardy also was the starter from 2011-14, but a strained left shoulder forced him on the disabled list to begin the 2015 season. Name his replacement. Answer below.)

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McCann: "I think there’s a lot of things to be excited about in Baltimore"

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James McCann is officially an Oriole and scrambling to get settled with his new team. The immediacy in doing so wasn't feasible.

The trade with the Mets happened so quickly, and with midnight approaching on the night of Dec. 21. The holidays put much of his baseball activity on hold. His family is moving this week. He’s spoken only to a few members of the organization and is waiting to make his first contact with catcher Adley Rutschman, the player that he’s going to back up.

“The timing of it was a little crazy, just with the holiday season and everything,” McCann said during a video call with members of the media this afternoon, “but at the end of the day I’m excited to be part of a young, up and coming team, the opportunity to kind of be a veteran leader and just mentor some of the young players and lead Baltimore back to the playoffs and beyond.”

The Orioles acquired McCann, 32, for a player to be named later. He’s under team control for the next two seasons and is costing the Orioles only $5 million of the $24 million remaining on his contract.

A backup catcher was one of the club’s priorities with Robinson Chirinos entering free agency. McCann is a nine-year veteran who made the All-Star team with the White Sox in 2019 and appeared in 105 or more games every full season from 2015-21.

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