Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias returned from the general manager’s meetings in Arizona yesterday afternoon, the schedule disrupted by a virus that reportedly felled about 10 percent of baseball executives.
Elias came home without making any roster moves. He wasn’t expected to introduce a new player to the organization.
That's going to happen later in the offseason.
We know that the Orioles want pitching for their rotation and bullpen. We knew it before Elias told media there. They could attempt to improve depth in other areas. Infuse a veteran influence again, as they do each winter.
Here’s what the Orioles won’t do:
Sign or trade for a full-time designated hitter.
They need that spot to remain fluid as they rotate players. They won’t put up a roadblock.
Harold Baines isn’t walking through that door, and he isn’t holding it open for Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero Sr. or Pedro Álvarez.
The Orioles used 14 players as the designated hitter this season, led by Anthony Santander with 47 starts. Adley Rutschman was right behind him with 45.
Ryan Mountcastle made 23, Ryan O’Hearn 12, Gunnar Henderson 11, James McCann seven, Aaron Hicks and Heston Kjerstad six, Cedric Mullins three, Josh Lester two and Austin Hays, Ramón Urías, Jordan Westburg and Terrin Vavra one each.
Some guys handle the bench time between at-bats better than others. Henderson was 17-for-44 (.386) with five doubles, a triple, five home runs and 16 RBIs. Mountcastle was 25-for-79 (.316) with six doubles, three homers and 11 RBIs. O’Hearn was 13-for-40 (.325) with a double, four homers and nine RBIs.
Santander slashed .235/.294/.396 with nine doubles, seven homers and 25 RBIs.
Manager Brandon Hyde can use the DH spot to “rest” players – protecting Rutschman from the beating catchers take behind the plate and allowing outfielders to freshen legs after playing on turf during road trips.
Hyde also can get Kjerstad’s bat in the lineup without sacrificing defense.
The Orioles were 10-1 with Henderson as the DH, which won’t get him full-time status, either.
This year’s team fell one DH short of matching its 2022 total. Trey Mancini led the pack with 51 starts before the deadline trade to Houston. Santander was next with 34, and he batted .175/.254/.389.
Santander was 18-for-78 (.231) in 21 games as the DH in 2021. Maybe it’s just not his thing.
To appreciate how much the organization’s thinking has evolved, only five players were used as the DH in 2016, and Álvarez and Mark Trumbo combined for every start except eight. This is back when pitchers batted in National League ballparks.
Baines was the DH in 113 games during the shortened 1995 season and Jeff Manto was next with nine. Baines was the DH in 110 games in 1993, followed by Sherman Obando with 20.
The door that Baines won't enter in 2024 is now revolving.