A team that won 101 games and posted the best record in the American League isn’t primed for a roster overhaul. Heavy tinkering, if such a thing exists, also seems unlikely based on results, returnees and talent funneling through the pipeline.
What are these Orioles going to do between now and Opening Day?
I’ve heard some people in the industry and some friends of mine insist that changes should be minimal or non-existent because, as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But the Orioles aren’t perfect. They didn’t get a third champagne and beer celebration.
The holes aren’t crater-size, but any chance to upgrade must be done.
Kyle Gibson, Adam Frazier and James McCann didn't qualify as blockbuster transactions, but they were improvements over Jordan Lyles, Rougned Odor and Robinson Chirinos. That's the point.
None of my predictions will qualify as bold because I won’t offer specific names at this early date. I’m reluctant to post a bunch of “could” scenarios because that leads to some people thinking it’s reported interest. Meanwhile, it’s just speculation on pursuits that would make sense without confirmation that the club actually is targeting those players.
Sharing is caring, but Mike Elias isn’t posting the minutes from his meetings on Instagram.
The Orioles will add at least one starting pitcher and one reliever. Those are the undisputed primary needs. Minor league deals could be dangled, but if it’s just one starter, I’d assume he’d receive a major league contract or bring one from another team in a trade.
Bowden ranks left-hander Jordan Montgomery as the No. 3 free agent and includes the Orioles among teams that are “best fits.” However, he also projects Montgomery to receive a five-year, $127 million contract, numbers that aren’t typical of Orioles offers, to say the least.
The Montgomery ship likely has sailed on the Orioles.
Right-hander Aaron Nola is No. 4 and also a fit, per Bowden, who predicts a five-year, $125 million deal. Also unlikely from the Orioles based on their recent past. On the launch angle of their liftoff.
The White Sox's Dylan Cease could be a trade target - see, now I've done it - because he'd fill a need and he's under team control beyond 2024. Not a rental. No angst over parting with prospects for a short-term starter.
The same isn't true of Corbin Burnes, Tyler Glasnow and Shane Bieber.
My assumption is that the Orioles hold a preference for a right-handed reliever because the 40-man roster includes lefties Cionel Pérez, Danny Coulombe, Cole Irvin and DL Hall, the last two being starters who finished 2023 in the bullpen and could stay there. Tucker Davidson was a waiver claim. Nick Vespi, Keegan Akin and Bruce Zimmermann also remain. Zimmermann is recovering from core surgery. Akin is a non-tender candidate.
Only 13 pitchers can be carried on a 26-man roster, which leaves eight relievers. Tyler Wells is one of them if he isn’t in the rotation. Yennier Cano is back. Jacob Webb joins him if the Orioles are willing to give him a raise in arbitration. Mike Baumann was bumped off the playoff roster but made 60 appearances.
Félix Bautista is a mountainous absence, of course. A new right-hander doesn’t necessarily have to close, but that side of the ‘pen needs reinforcements.
Josh Hader is local but a lefty. And he’s getting $67 million over three years in Bowden’s predictions. Don’t even think about it.
(Keep an eye on the Phillies, who could use and afford Hader and have some Orioles connections to the Old Mill High graduate. There’s definite interest.)
What about a right-handed bat?
Switch-hitting outfielder Aaron Hicks is a free agent. Cedric Mullins, Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, Kyle Stowers and Sam Hilliard hit from the left side.
The infield has more right-handed hitters, especially with second baseman Adam Frazier entering free agency again. However, Jackson Holliday is going to make his debut and that’s a left-handed bat. A really good one, too.
The outfield and infield have more depth and talent than previous years, but these are spots where the Orioles could - yes, that word again - bring in a veteran.
Note: Elias was named MLB Executive of the Year, with the announcement made at the GM meetings in Arizona.
Voting is done among the 30 clubs prior to the postseason.
Braves president of baseball operations and general manager Alex Anthopoulos finished second, and Mike Hazen, executive vice president and general manager of the Diamondbacks, finished third.
Elias also won The Sporting News award.
MLB introduced its award at the conclusion of the 2018 season. Oakland's Billy Beane earned the inaugural honors, followed by Erik Neander of the Rays in 2019, Andrew Friedman of the Dodgers in 2020, Farhan Zaidi of the Giants in 2021 and Chris Antonetti of the Guardians in 2022.