Elias: "I feel like this team is officially in the fight in the American League East"

The Orioles were saddled with two games on the final day of the 2022 season, an inconvenient doubleheader born from the club’s fifth rainout. A final jab from the baseball gods.

Nothing really hurt the Orioles this summer beyond their official elimination from the wild card chase. Being in it after national projections of 100-plus losses felt like a huge win.

Many more are expected in the coming years.

“Looking at the entire organization, I think we’re very pleased with everything that happened up and down the organization this year,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said this morning. “First and foremost, the way that this team played and competed at the major league level is something that I think rightfully our players and coaches deserve a lot of credit for. We’re not where we want to be or need to be in the division. It’s very daunting looking at these other four, not only teams but organizations in our division, picturing having to beat them to make it to the playoffs next year, but that’s our goal and we feel that the organization is in a position now to realistically pursue that goal for next year. So that’s going to be my focus this offseason, and I think the focus of our squad when we meet in Sarasota next year.

“It’s not going to be easy, given who we have to compete against and who we have to play against, but as I said in the summer, I feel like this team is officially in the fight in the American League East, and that’s a big achievement. It doesn’t mean we’re going to be complacent about it. We know that we had some relatively good health this season. We had some guys have good seasons. It’s tough to repeat in this league. Players make adjustments against you, we’ve got a lot of young guys. We may have some individual steps back, but we plan to hopefully reinforce this group, keep helping the players improve, and hope that we can take another step forward next season and get into the playoffs that we narrowly missed out on this year.”

Elias also said we can expect to see more infrastructure investments, which always will be an area of focus and must be balanced against player personnel costs.

“We’re going to try to do both as well as we possibly can,” Elias said. “I think we’ve been consistent about that messaging since we’ve been here, and I’m pleased with what happened in 2022 to reflect that.”

Upgrades can be made via free agency and trades – meetings already have been held over the past month – but Elias won’t necessarily target a specific position.

“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.” 

Elias obviously wasn’t ready to talk about Jordan Lyles’ option for 2023 or the status of the coaching staff next season.

On Lyles: “That’s not something I declare this far in advance. Part of this business is the calendar that contracts and the major league schedule put forward. I think looking at what Jordan did for us this year, it was more than exactly what we hoped for when we signed him, and he was a tremendous influence on our staff this year. He pitched 179 innings, won some games for us, helped these young guys take a step forward and helped protect our young bullpen that did so much this year.

“So, kudos to him for everything. But we’ll take the aspect of the business as it comes. But in a baseball sense, I want to thank him and congratulate him for 2022.”

Lyles was shut down rather than making a start in today’s doubleheader. He’s one inning short of last year’s career high.

“We just felt after the start in New York, he made 32 starts for us and did everything that we could have asked, and more,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “He’s had a heck of a year and we’re so happy with what he’s done, and we wanted him to end on a good note with that start at Yankee Stadium.”

Elias views the Orioles as having two Rookie of the Year candidates in the American League, presumably catcher Adley Rutschman and reliever Félix Bautista, and he endorsed Hyde for Manager of the Year.

“We have a lot of really exciting individual pieces here to build around going forward,” he said. “I’m excited about the challenge ahead for me and for us, and continuing to keep progress going.”

The left field wall also came up as a pregame topic. Elias said planned renovations at Camden Yards could impact the outfield dimensions, but not in 2023.

I’ll have more from Elias later today.

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