In non-breaking news, Orioles still seek starting pitching

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.

The organization has built a tradition of making moves late in the offseason, into spring training and on the final day of camp. That’s how they got reliever Danny Coulombe from the Twins last year, and catcher Robinson Chirinos and infielder Chris Owings on the free agent market in 2022.

Business was booming in March 2021 with the signings of third baseman Maikel Franco and pitcher Wade LeBlanc and the trade for reliever Adam Plutko. Catcher Pedro Severino was a waiver claim in March 2019, two weeks after the Orioles traded for outfielder Dwight Smith Jr.

Last January was mostly about depth moves for the Orioles. They traded infielder Tyler Nevin to the Tigers on Jan. 1 for cash considerations and acquired first baseman Ryan O’Hearn from the Royals two days later for a similar return. They claimed first baseman Lewin Díaz on waivers, designated him for assignment and outrighted him, and signed free agent first baseman Curtis Terry. They also acquired left-handed reliever Darwinzon Hernández in another cash transaction.

The biggest move was sending shortstop prospect Darell Hernaiz to the Athletics on the 26th for left-hander Cole Irvin and minor league pitcher Kyle Virbitsky. Irvin broke camp in the rotation, was optioned and ended up making 12 starts and 12 relief appearances.

Irvin is a candidate for the rotation in 2024 but more likely to be used as a long reliever/swingman if the Orioles obtain another starter. They’ll need a consumer of innings, and he’s out of minor league options.

The Orioles optioned Irvin three times, the first on April 14. He didn’t make the Division Series roster despite John Means’ sore elbow, with the Orioles choosing to keep only 12 pitchers.

Irvin registered a 4.81 ERA as a starter and a 3.26 ERA in relief. He hadn’t pitched out of the bullpen since August 2020 with the Phillies.

His final appearance with Triple-A Norfolk came against Durham in Game 2 of the International League Championship Series, when he tossed three scoreless innings with two hits allowed and five strikeouts. The Orioles could decide to carry four left-handers in the bullpen with Irvin, Coulombe, Cionel Pérez and DL Hall – an usually high total but perhaps unavoidable if Irvin and Hall are excluded from the rotation.

Lefties Keegan Akin, Bruce Zimmmermann and Nick Vespi each have one option, and Tucker Davidson, outrighted in November, has none.

The right side is just as cluttered with Craig Kimbrel, Yennier Cano, maybe Tyler Wells if he isn’t starting, Mike Baumann, Jacob Webb, Bryan Baker, Jonathan Heasley and a healthy Dillon Tate.

Nathan Webb signed two-year minor league contract in October with a spring training invite. He underwent Tommy John surgery in late March 2023 but could make his major league debut this summer.

Also, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias left open the possibility at the Winter Meetings of adding another reliever, probably on a minor league deal. Someone who could compete for a job in February and March.

Otherwise, there’s the possibility of an extra outfielder finding his way to Sarasota, but probably not the same first base free-for-all set up in last year’s camp. O’Hearn’s emergence in 2023 gives him a substantial lead for the backup job behind Ryan Mountcastle. Challengers are more likely to be assigned to Norfolk without the same drama.

The month of January could bring some news beyond international signings beginning on the 15th. That’s how it often happens. Perhaps Elias will complete a trade for a starter, with the Marlins and Mariners potential partners.

The Yoshinobu Yamamoto signing by the Dodgers was supposed to further unclog the markets and ramp up activity throughout baseball.

Also as previously reported.

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