Latest on Orioles and their arbitration-eligible players (updated)

Latest on Orioles and their arbitration-eligible players (updated)

The string of slow-to-nonexistent news days is about to get snipped with the Orioles approaching the deadline to sign their arbitration-eligible players or exchange salary figures.

This counts as actual news, right? Or maybe it depends on your standards. After all, they're under team control no matter the outcome. But at least it's more than a minor league signing.

Deals need to get done by 8 p.m. tonight or risk hearings between Jan. 29 and Feb. 16 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Yes, the deadline is tonight despite the 1,472 articles in Google searches that say Friday. It was changed.

One more time, I hope, are the 13 impacted players and MLBTradeRumors’ projected raises:

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Orioles sign Errol Robinson to minor league deal (note on Birdland Caravan)

Errol Robinson

An organization that isn’t hurting for infield prospects and choices made a depth move this morning.

The Orioles signed 29-year-old utility player Errol Robinson to a minor league deal. The announcement didn’t include mention of a spring training invite but he’s likely on the list.

Robinson is a local product, growing up in Boyds, Md. and attending St. John’s College High School in D.C. The Dodgers drafted him in the sixth round in 2016 out of the University of Mississippi.

The Reds claimed Robinson on waivers in December 2020 and the Cardinals signed him to a minor league contract in July 2022. St. Louis released him three months ago.

Robinson is a career .251/.332/.347 hitter in seven minor league seasons and hasn’t reached the majors. He’s totaled 82 doubles, 10 triples, 28 home runs, 196 RBIs and 95 stolen bases.

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Another round of rotation talk and who'd start Opening Day

Kyle Bradish

Left-handers Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery remain on the free-agent market but are viewed as too pricey for the Orioles. The contract length and dollars don’t work for them.

The club is linked to Marcus Stromen in various reports, whether due to serious or surface interest. Could be ongoing talks or tire kicking.

Could be an attempt to stick another team into the conversation besides the Yankees.

A recent article on this site spurred a discussion over a No. 1 starter and whether anyone should slot ahead of Kyle Bradish. And more specific, in comparison to the White Sox’s Dylan Cease if the Orioles managed to acquire him in a trade.

Cease was 14-8 with a 2.20 ERA and 1.109 WHIP in 32 starts in 2022 and finished second in American League Cy Young voting. Bradish was 4-7 with a 4.90 ERA and 1.402 WHIP in 23 starts as a rookie.

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More thoughts on Birdland Caravan lineup

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Now that we know the roster for the upcoming Birdland Caravan, we can formulate a plan for interaction and, if you’re in the media, to conduct interviews.

I wrote last month that I hoped for a Félix Bautista sighting, but he isn’t on the list. We’ll just assume he’s feeling good and his recovery is going well after Tommy John surgery. And, of course, he’s working hard to come back.

Also, no Kyle Bradish to talk about finishing fourth in Cy Young voting in the American League. We’ll save it for spring training.

Anthony Santander won't be there, preventing the media from calling him a "trade chip" in person.

You’ve already been told about Adley Rutschman’s previous commitment to speak at an event at Oregon State, and Gunnar Henderson’s commitment to receive his AL Rookie of the Year award in New York. They send their regrets and hope to see fans in Sarasota.

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More information on this month's Birdland Caravan

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The Orioles have announced participants and shared details for their three-day Birdland Caravan later this month.

Current Orioles players and coaches participating in select events include, alphabetically, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, manager Brandon Hyde, coaches Cody Asche, Matt Borgschulte, Ryan Fuller, Fredi González, Ryan Klimek and Tony Mansolino, and players Keegan Akin, Mike Baumann, Danny Coulombe, Colton Cowser, DL Hall, Austin Hays, Cole Irvin, Ryan McKenna, John Means, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Joey Ortiz, Grayson Rodriguez, Anthony Santander, Dillon Tate, Nick Vespi, Jacob Webb, Tyler Wells, Jordan Westburg and Bruce Zimmermann.

Also attending are prospects Jackson Holliday, Chayce McDermott, Coby Mayo and Cade Povich.

The weekend-long celebration runs from Jan. 25-27. A fourth day was eliminated to avoid a possible conflict with the Ravens, who qualified for the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The conference championship games are slated for the 28th.

Buses will be arriving at Bowlero Timonium and Topgolf Germantown that give fans an opportunity to interact with players and staff. The caravan will make stops in 13 cities, including Baltimore City, Capitol Heights, Catonsville, Columbia, Frederick, Gambrills, Hagerstown, Halethorpe, Hanover, Havre De Grace, Laurel, and Timonium.

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This, that and the other

Ryan Brasier Dodgers jersey

Scanning social media baseball posts on the former Twitter, as it’s now called, can be informative and enlightening. Also, comical and annoying. The emotions have more range than Paul Blair in center field.

Sometimes, you’ll stumble upon things that make you go “hmmmm.” And then you're at risk of overthinking it.

The Orioles are reported to have interest in reliever Ryan Brasier, 36, with his market also including the Cardinals, Rangers, Dodgers, Angels and Cubs. He isn’t the starting pitcher that executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias has tried to procure. He doesn’t appear to be a necessity with the club holding so many relief options.

Elias indicated on the final day of the Winter Meetings that he’d monitor other opportunities with relievers, whether through a trade or signing, but the urgency seemed to be fading after the Orioles signed closer Craig Kimbrel.

"There's room for more, but I would feel like this group now stacks up really well around the league with what we have now," Elias said in Nashville. "We also have the possibility depending on how our rotation pursuits and our rotation competition goes in Sarasota, that some of the talented guys we have in that mix could spill over into the 'pen.

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Orioles still have arbitration work to do

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A new week is beginning and another important baseball date is approaching.

Friday is the deadline for teams to reach agreements on contracts with their arbitration-eligible players before the sides exchange salary figures. Hearings are scheduled between Jan. 29 and Feb. 16 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The non-tender deadline passed on Nov. 17 with the Orioles signing shortstop Jorge Mateo for $2.7 million, left-hander Keegan Akin for $825,000 and outfielders Ryan McKenna and Sam Hilliard for $800,000.

The other 13 eligible players were tendered contracts. The Orioles went 17-for-17 to shock prognosticators like me who practically guaranteed at least one non-tender. Guys sitting on the bubble didn’t burst it.

At the risk of shattering the record for the most rehashed numbers, here are the MLBTradeRumors projected raises:

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Submitting some early Orioles predictions

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The countdown to spring training is gaining momentum. The offseason is melting away as the temperature drops, forming a Frosty puddle.

I’m about to get busy, busy, busy.

Mocks and predictions are popular ways to keep fans engaged, with the disclaimer that everything can change with one or two transactions.

The Orioles and their division rivals aren’t done constructing their rosters. I don’t own a crystal ball, but I highly recommend Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Skull vodka. It's first on my list, but it’s harder to find than a usable Erik Bedard quote.

But I digress …

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Some potential Orioles non-roster invite spring storylines

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The media crowd around Jackson Holliday’s locker will have more layers than an onion on his first day of availability in camp. Must be his appeal.

(You see what I did there.)

Holliday was a good story last spring. The first-overall draft pick with the youthful face and famous father. Everyone wanted to see him play, and he stuck around much longer than anticipated.

It turned out to be more than a courtesy look and a chance to soak in the environment. Holliday wasn’t reassigned to the minor league side until March 14, after batting .385 with a .991 OPS.

The Orioles announced 30 non-roster invites on Feb. 2 and expanded the list later that day after outrighting reliever Darwinzon Hernández. The camp roster held 71 players, with an overflow in the auxiliary clubhouse.

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Another set of Orioles questions and curiosities

Keegan Akin black jersey

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in a little over a month, marking the official beginning of the Orioles’ quest for their first back-to-back playoff appearances since 1996-97. And their first consecutive division titles since 1973-74.

They wouldn’t spit on a wild card berth, but the goals get higher as the win totals rise.

There’s also an increase in the questions and curiosities that I’ll bring into camp, with more on deck as the Orioles fill their roster.

I’ve wondered whether Kyle Bradish could build on his breakout season, Jordan Westburg would play more regularly, Cole Irvin would keep bouncing between the rotation and bullpen, and John Means would give the club a full and productive season.

I’ve asked for an update on Dillon Tate and whether Seth Johnson would debut next summer. How much Craig Kimbrel has left in tank, whether Jackson Holliday makes the Opening Day roster, what happens to Joey Ortiz, whether Colton Cowser makes the team in spring training, which version of Jacob Webb we’ll see, and whether Ryan Mountcastle and Ryan O’Hearn are the primary first basemen and their impact on Coby Mayo.

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In non-breaking news, Orioles still seek starting pitching

Dylan Cease white sox jersey

The Orioles’ offseason needs and intentions are threadbare from the constant reciting in the media.

They want a starting pitcher, ideally for the top half of the rotation. They seem more likely to consummate a trade than throw money at a free agent. And yes, they remain engaged with the White Sox regarding Dylan Cease, who’s under team control through 2025.

I rang in a new year with the same ringing in my ears from the repetition.

The Orioles have been active in trade talks since the offseason began and throughout the Winter Meetings. Why would they drop anchor and stop? Nothing has changed. But it’s become a tradition to provide incremental non-update updates.

I’m guilty of it, too.

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Leftovers for breakfast

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The Orioles haven’t announced their non-roster invites to major league spring training, but it must be on this month’s agenda. A list that can be updated later depending on future transactions.

They didn’t need to protect Jackson Holliday, Connor Norby and Coby Mayo in the Rule 5 draft, with the latter two eligible next winter. All three could be added to the 40-man roster this year to eliminate that task.

They were camp invites last year, with no chance of heading north for Opening Day. Holliday seems to have the best shot this spring despite his age and limited experience at Triple-A Norfolk. Norby and Mayo are waiting for their opportunities and hopeful that the Orioles can make room.

Norby is a second baseman with some corner outfield starts. Mayo is a corner infielder who appears blocked by Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg and others at third base and Ryan Mountcastle and Ryan O’Hearn at first.

Mayo also will be working out in right field, a new position for him. Can’t hurt to try it and maybe provide another way to get him on the roster.

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Trainer on Coby Mayo: “We started seeing that he’s the real deal"

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The memory still makes Tom Flynn laugh. The sound rings in his ears like the ones created each time that Coby Mayo smacked another baseball.

Mayo was an 8-year-old hitter on his Little League team in South Florida. The Spanish-speaking players in the Latino community would affectionately bark out his nickname after another home run.

“Coby always had a lot of pop in his bat and they used to call him ‘The Hammer.’ ‘El Martillo,’” Flynn said last week.

“They called him that all through Little League. And he had a different stance, too. He used to lean back with his front leg real straight and long, and just turn on balls and explode on them. ‘El Martillo!’”

Flynn goes back much further with Mayo, the Orioles’ fourth-round draft pick in 2020. Mayo was 4 and a preschool classmate of Flynn’s son, Colin. They played travel ball together and were high school teammates.

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Agent on Coby Mayo: "Now you ask teams and they’d all take him in the first round"

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Coby Mayo isn’t bothered or distracted by the passing traffic. By the Orioles prospects in the fast lane and the attention that's tailgating them.

Prior to the farm system’s rise to a No. 1 ranking, Mayo would have been the center of attention and recipient of the organization’s top player award. Rarely is a hitter ignored who slashes .290/.410/.564 at the two highest levels with 45 doubles, three triples, 29 home runs and 99 RBIs in 140 games.

No one had more doubles, homers or RBIs or a higher slugging percentage and OPS, and his 93 walks ranked second behind Jackson Holliday, who won the award and is the top prospect in baseball.

Holliday could make the team out of spring training despite turning 20 this month and appearing in only 18 regular season games with Triple-A Norfolk. Mayo is 22 and he played in 62, but he’s likely to return until a spot opens for him.

Patience and understanding are two other tools that rate highly on any scale.

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Looking back on 2023 season filled with Orioles surprises and achievements

henderson doused v TB

Mike Elias expressed confidence on Feb. 3, the first day of the Birdland Caravan, that the Orioles would concentrate on contending. The rebuild “is behind us,” he said. They were set up to be “a very competitive team for years.”

Then, they exceeded expectations by country miles.

They’d love to stick with the old script in the new year, with deletions made in the postseason chapter. Not another one-and-done scenario, swept out of the Division Series and sent back to Baltimore in crushed packaging.

The ball dropping in Times Square won't create the same thud as the ending to the Orioles’ season. However, those 101 victories and the many awards that followed allowed 2023 to rank among the best in franchise history.

Some people might say it all began on the first day of spring training, when Elias, now entering his sixth season as executive vice president/general manager, surprised the media by revealing that reliever Dillon Tate would go on the injured list with a strained flexor/forearm that could keep him out until May, and closer Félix Bautista would be slow-played while doing exercises to strengthen his left knee and right shoulder. No promises that he'd be ready for Opening Day.

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A little more on Hays' value and Orioles' defense

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The ball is dropping soon to signal a new year, and improvements in the Orioles’ defense have robbed me of my annual quip about popups.

This isn’t the 2018 team that ranked near or at the bottom in pretty much every advanced metric. Or the 2003 team that was guilty of a misplayed grounder, missed cutoff man, botched rundown and fumbled double play ball – in the first inning in Toronto. True story.

Third baseman Tony Batista had lots of power, but also 20 errors and a .950 fielding percentage.

Makes one yearn for Wilson Betemit. Horror story.

Orioles left fielders over the years have included Curt Blefary, Jeff Stone, Lonnie Smith and Pete Incaviglia. The adventures with the deeper wall and 90-degree angle would have been legendary.

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Taking another look at Orioles position players and an update on Tate

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To find the last position player acquired by the Orioles, you’d have to go back to Dec. 1 with the signing of Cuban outfielder Jordan Sánchez to a reported bonus in the range of $400,000-$450,000.

MLB reporter Francys Romero had the Orioles finalizing the deal back on Oct. 26, pending the completion of a physical. Sánchez, 18, left Cuba in July 2023 and is headed to the Dominican Summer League.

To find the last major league position player, you’d have to go back to Nov. 1 with the waiver claim of outfielder Sam Hilliard from the Braves. He remains on the 40-man roster.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias left open the possibility at the Winter Meetings of bringing in another outfielder, but he also noted the internal options who could replace free agent Aaron Hicks.

“I think there’s some interesting guys there,” Elias said, “and we’re probably going to get somebody who pops out of that group and is able to step into those shoes.”

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Still more questions and curiosities about 2024 Orioles

ryan o'hearn hits orange

New faces beyond the ones reported should be found inside the Orioles’ spring training clubhouse in February. The 40-man roster has room for two more players. The minor league signings and invites aren’t done.

Got to fill out the Triple-A roster, too. Depth is important.

But in the meantime, those of us who write and talk about the Orioles for a living, especially 365 days a year, are playing the hand that’s dealt.

I’ve wondered whether Kyle Bradish could build on his breakout season, Jordan Westburg would play more regularly, Cole Irvin would keep bouncing between the rotation and bullpen, and John Means would give the club a full and productive season.

I’ve asked for an update on Dillon Tate and whether Seth Johnson would debut next summer. How much Craig Kimbrel has left in tank. Does Jackson Holliday make the Opening Day roster, and what happens to Joey Ortiz?

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More information on Heasley through a scout's eyes

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The Orioles had 36 players on their 40-man roster when the Winter Meetings began in Nashville and they made two moves with the free-agent signing of closer Craig Kimbrel and trade with Kansas City for pitcher Jonathan Heasley.

Kimbrel is a veteran of 14 major league seasons and the Orioles are his eighth team. He’s a former Rookie of the Year and a nine-time All-Star. He’s an open book.

Heasley appeared in 36 games with the Royals over the past three seasons, used in relief 12 times in 2023 after his 24 starts in 2021-22. The Orioles announced the trade on Dec. 18, surrendering Dominican Summer League right-hander Cesar Espinal.

How Heasley would be used, how he was viewed, wasn’t included in the press release and must be ascertained later.

Having one minor league option had to increase his appeal with the organization. The bullpen needs the flexibility. And we’re assuming that he’s more likely to work in relief, though he could make the occasional start.

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Some Orioles-themed Christmas wishes

rutschman celebrates division clinch 2023

Made a rare appearance at a trivia night last week at Hoco Brew Hive in Ellicott City, where I learned that Santa’s reindeer are females. Had a 50-50 chance at getting it right and I blew it.

Male reindeer shed their antlers in November. Females keep theirs throughout the winter. How have I gone through life without knowing this?

Really makes you rethink “Vixen.”

I was correct, however, about the one red object in every Peanuts cartoon that is a different color in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Answer below.

Our team finished in fourth place, just like the 2020 and 2022 Orioles. All of us outside the money.

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