As MLB free agency begins, wondering where the Orioles will fit in?

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Baseball’s free agency period has begun. As of 5 p.m. yesterday, teams could pursue free agents that were not their own. The offers can now be made, the rumors will heat up and some signings should start to trickle in of players changing teams.

Will the Orioles be active? Quite possibly and according to ESPN, quite probably.

In Jeff Passan’s offseason preview story there was this excerpt:

Which teams are most likely to go really big this winter?

Certainly, this list could change, said Passan, depending on market dynamics and the whims of ownership, but the most active teams this winter, according to sources, are expected to be:

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Recapping recent events in Orioles' offseason

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A big week is reaching its weekend.

No, I don’t mean the McRib’s farewell tour.

The GM Meetings have concluded in Las Vegas. The Orioles didn’t make any trades, but they’re now cleared to begin negotiating with free agents outside the organization. The exclusive window has shut.

A much nicer sound than the slamming of the playoff contention window after 2017. Or was it ’16?

The year is open to debate. The repercussions can’t be argued.

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Orioles reinstate Means, outright Diaz

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The Orioles have made the following roster moves: 

  • Reinstated LHP John Means from the 60-day Injured List.
  • OF Yusniel Diaz has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A Norfolk.

The 40-man roster is at 34 players.

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Diaz outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk (with Silver Slugger note)

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Outfielder Yusniel Diaz, formerly a top prospect in the Orioles’ farm system and the centerpiece of the Manny Machado trade with the Dodgers, has been removed from the 40-man roster.

The Orioles assigned Diaz to Triple-A Norfolk today after he cleared outright waivers.

The number of players on the 40-man remained at 34 after left-hander John Means was reinstated from the 60-day injured list, a procedural move due today. Means is continuing his rehab from Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready to pitch on opening day.

Diaz, 26, finally made his major league debut Aug. 2 in Texas after the Orioles traded Trey Mancini, and he struck out in his only at-bat. He was optioned the next day to make room for outfielder Brett Phillips and didn’t return to the active roster, though he served as the 27th man in the Little League Classic.

An assortment of injuries, both in the minors and the Arizona Fall League, have wrecked Diaz’s career after he’s impressed in spring training. He appeared in 70 games at Triple-A Norfolk this summer and batted .251/.346/.360 with nine doubles, six home runs and 66 strikeouts in 286 plate appearances.

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Adley Rutschman, Julio Rodríguez usher in a new era of baseball

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Watch the full podcast here!

There isn’t much of a question about who will win the American League Rookie of the Year. Julio Rodríguez, Adley Rutschman and Steven Kwan were named the three finalists, with Rodríguez firmly cemented as the favorite. 

Rodríguez mashed 28 home runs, 25 doubles and stole 25 bases while accumulating a 6.0 WAR, according to baseball-reference.com. The center fielder also ranked in the 90th percentile or better in a number of important statistical categories, including average exit velocity, barrel percentage and sprint speed, according to baseballsavant.mlb.com.

Despite Rodríguez’s dominance, Rutschman still has a case for the award, albeit not an incredibly strong one. Playing in 19 fewer games than Rodríguez, the catcher’s counting stats fall short. Thirteen home runs and a 5.2 bWAR are impressive numbers, but don’t encapsulate the value that the rookie brought. 

If you were making the case for Adley Rutschman to win the Rookie of the Year award, you wouldn’t just point to the numbers. You would point to the fact that after Rutschman’s debut on May 21, the Orioles went 67-55. Just one year removed from losing 110 games, the O’s found themselves in a playoff race, thanks in large part to their rookie catcher. 

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O's notes on Lyles, Cameron and Asche

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Former high draft picks of the Houston Astros were coming and going from the Orioles roster on Wednesday. The club did not pick up the 2023 team option on pitcher Jordan Lyles, taken No. 38 overall in 2008. But later in the day they added via waivers outfielder Daz Cameron, taken No. 37 overall by Houston in the 2015 MLB Draft.

So, the Orioles, at least for now, are parting ways with Lyles, who becomes a free agent. That means he is free to sign with any team including the Orioles, who seem to have interest but at a lower price than $11 million for next season.

On the plus side, Lyles finished 14th in the American League in innings with 179 and he lowered his homer rate from 1.9 the previous year to 1.3. He was good in the expanded Oriole Park, going 5-3 with a 3.47 in home games and the Orioles went 17-15 in his 32 starts. He also led the club throwing 100 pitches or more 11 times, most by an O’s starter since 2018. He provided outstanding leadership for the young pitchers and enjoyed a role where he mentored that group. He led the club with 13 quality starts and the Orioles went 9-4 in those games.

He wanted to come back.

“I would love to be back here,” Lyles said during the season’s final days. “To see what we’ve done in the last calendar year as an organization, from what was expected of us coming into the season, and the transition to be where we are right now, it’s pretty special. I enjoy the guys. Hyder (Brandon Hyde) has been amazing. Definitely Manager of the Year in my eyes. A good clubhouse. Everything is positive here. I would love to come back.”

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Cody Asche talks about joining the Orioles' coaching staff

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At just 32, and five years removed from a five-season major league career, Cody Asche became the Orioles' 10th coach this week. On Tuesday when the staff for 2023 was officially announced, he was the only new addition, hired as offensive strategy coach.

Asche joined the Baltimore organization in 2022 as an upper-level hitting coordinator on the farm. He began his pro coaching career in 2021 as the hitting coach for the Clearwater Threshers, the Low-A affiliate of the Phillies. He played parts of five seasons with the Phillies (2013-16) and White Sox (2017).

He said his role for next season is still being completely defined.

“Right now the way I see it, I will be an asset to (co-hitting coaches Ryan) Fuller and Borgs (Matt Borgschulte), hopefully an asset to Brandon (Hyde) and Fredi (González) in-game-wise. Have contact with the front office and the analysts and just really kind of be hopefully a jack of all trades and just be there to support and help our hitters get better.

“I just feel really fortunate and am excited that the front office believes in me and trusts me to be around their major league assets. And they trust me to help our team get better.”

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Orioles claim Cameron off waivers from Tigers

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The Orioles have made the following roster move:

  • Claimed OF Daz Cameron off waivers from the Detroit Tigers.

The 40-man roster is at 34 players.

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Orioles decline Lyles' 2023 option (O's claim Cameron)

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The Orioles have decided to decline pitcher Jordan Lyles’ $11 million option for the 2023 season, choosing to give him a $1 million buyout and allowing the veteran to test the free agent market.

An announcement was made this afternoon.

The door isn’t closed on Lyles’ return, however. They could double back to Lyles over the winter, with the possibility of reaching an agreement on a new contract.

The early juncture of the offseason and the current price point led the Orioles to decline the option. But conversations with his representative could be held later.

The Orioles had until Thursday to make the decision, which lowers their 40-man roster to 33 players. Left-hander John Means will be activated from the 60-day injured list this week and return the total to 34.

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Orioles decline 2023 club option on Jordan Lyles

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The Baltimore Orioles have declined the 2023 club option on RHP Jordan Lyles.

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Jim Callis: “I will be absolutely surprised if Jackson Holliday is not a superstar"

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For young Jackson Holliday, a lot was expected and a lot was delivered. The player the Orioles took No. 1 overall in the 2022 MLB Draft had a pretty solid 20-game pro debut.

It started with him tearing it up in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League for eight games and followed with 12 games at Single-A Delmarva where he certainly held his own.

Between the two levels at just age 18, Holliday showed a great batting eye and he walked 25 times with just 12 strikeouts. He ended the year ranked as the Orioles' No. 3 prospect behind Gunnar Henderson and Grayson Rodriguez, and in national top 100s, he is rated No. 13 by MLBPipeline.com and No. 38 by Baseball America.

In his first season after being a high school drafted player in 2019, Henderson played in 29 games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and batted .259/.331/.370 with a .701 OPS, 11 walks and 28 strikeouts. He had a 9.1 walk rate and 23.1 strikeout rate.

Holliday in eight FCL games batted .409/.576/.591 with a 1.167 OPS, 10 walks and two strikeouts. In the FCL, he had a 30.3 walk rate and 6.1 strikeout rate. Then in 12 games with the Shorebirds, he hit .238/.439/.333 with a .772 OPS, 15 walks to 10 strikeouts, producing a 26.3 walk rate and 17.5 strikeout rate.

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Scout on Orioles' player development: “Hitters have improved all year"

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A byproduct of the Arizona Fall League is the chance for scouts to get their eyes on certain players, whether for the first time or to continue evaluating and filing reports.

There’s a popular theory in baseball that allowing prospects to play in the AFL who need to be protected in the Rule 5 draft is risky because other organizations could be swayed to select them.

The Orioles are safe with outfielder Heston Kjerstad. He doesn’t need to go on the 40-man roster.

He just needs to stay healthy and keep swinging the bat as he’s done in Arizona.

Kjerstad went 3-for-4 with his first triple on Friday to raise his average to .371 with a 1.063 OPS. His 33 hits and nine doubles before yesterday led the AFL, his five home runs tied for second and his 17 RBIs and .663 slugging percentage ranked third.

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Orioles announce 2023 major league coaching staff

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The Orioles today announced their 2023 Major League Coaching Staff. The club has named CODY ASCHE Offensive Strategy Coach. All other coaches remain in their same positions: MATT BORGSCHULTE and RYAN FULLER as Co-Hitting Coaches, TIM COSSINS as Major League Field Coordinator/Catching Instructor, FREDI GONZÁLEZ as Bench Coach, JOSÉ HERNÁNDEZ as Major League Coach, DARREN HOLMES as Assistant Pitching Coach, CHRIS HOLT as Pitching Coach/Director of Pitching, TONY MANSOLINO as Third Base Coach, and ANTHONY SANDERS as First Base Coach. 

Asche (ASH-ee), 32, has been promoted to the Major League staff after serving as Upper-Level Hitting Coordinator in 2022, his first season in the Orioles organization. He began his professional coaching career in 2021 as the hitting coach for the Clearwater Threshers, the Low-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. Asche’s Major League playing career spanned parts of five seasons with the Phillies (2013-16) and Chicago White Sox (2017). He was originally selected by the Phillies in the fourth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. A native of St. Charles, Mo., Asche attended the University of Nebraska and Fort Zumwalt West High School in O’Fallon, Mo.

BRANDON HYDE enters his fifth season as Manager after being named to the post prior to the 2019 campaign. In 2022, he led the Orioles to an 83-79 record, their first winning season since 2016 (89-73). He was voted the Sporting News AL Manager of the Year by fellow American League managers and has been named a finalist for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America AL Manager of the Year award.

Borgschulte and Fuller return for their second seasons as Co-Hitting Coaches and second and fourth seasons in the organization, respectively. Cossins returns for his fifth season as Major League Field Coordinator/Catching Instructor and his 22nd as a professional manager, coach, or Major League bullpen catcher. González enters his fourth season with the Orioles organization, fourth as Bench Coach, and 34th as a professional coach or manager, 10 of which were as a Major League manager. Hernández enters his fifth season on the Major League staff and 14th as a coach in the Orioles organization. Holmes enters his fourth season with the Orioles and third as Assistant Pitching Coach after being promoted to the position following the 2020 season, while Holt enters his third season as the Orioles Pitching Coach/Director of Pitching and fifth in the organization. Mansolino enters his third season as the club’s Third Base Coach and Sanders enters his fourth season as First Base Coach.

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Random take Tuesday

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And now on with the real offseason.

The offseason for the Orioles began in a sense Oct. 6, the day after the last game, but now that the World Series is complete, the hot stove business of baseball is about to heat up. And for the Orioles, it could be a time where small moves are not their biggest activity of the offseason.

The obvious questions are these: Will the O’s add a big fish hitter, pitcher or both? Will that happen via trade or free agency, or both? Is now the first time Mike Elias will be trading young talent/prospects for major league-proven talent?

Elias has said he expects the payroll to go up and for the team to be active this winter. The 2023 Orioles' clear No. 1 goal is to make the playoffs. Playoffs or bust.

“I do continue to view this as an offseason where we are going to have the flexibility to invest in the major league payroll in a different way than I have done since I’ve been here,” Elias said at his season-ending press conference. “We feel like the time is right from a strategic standpoint.”

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Because You Asked - State of the Union

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The first post-World Series mailbag has been emptied. Much like my hopes for a Game 7.

There’s nothing better in sports. And it delays the actual offseason for one more day.

I’ve grown to love the period of calm. A few small-scale transactions and some announcements on awards, but that’s about it.

(I picked the Astros in six games, but I digress …)

Now we’re ripe for rumors. I’ve already seen one prediction that the Orioles will sign Carlos Correa.

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Hyde and Rutschman finalists in BBWAA voting

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The Orioles have two finalists for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards, with manager Brandon Hyde a candidate for American League Manager of the Year and catcher Adley Rutschman a candidate for American League Rookie of the Year.

Two names that have been anticipated for months. No surprise omissions or entries.

Hyde joins the Guardians’ Terry Francona and the Mariners’ Scott Servais as finalists. Rutschman, Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez and Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan are vying for the rookie award.

The Sporting News already selected Hyde. Rodriguez, the only player in major league history with 25-plus home runs and 25-plus stolen bases in his debut season, won the Players Choice Award.

Hyde can become the first Orioles manager honored since Buck Showalter in 2014. Rutschman can become the first Rookie of the Year since reliever Gregg Olson in 1989.

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A look at how an elite talent pipeline was built

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Today's blog entry has spent a few weeks in my laptop. This was written in early September and no, I don't work that far in advance. Hardly.

But that was when the Orioles asked me to write an article that would appear in the Major League Baseball playoffs program if they made the postseason.

They didn't but hey, someone should get to read this!

The topic was building that elite pipeline, how the Orioles did it in Baltimore and how the young talent was helping the big league club turn around their losing ways. Let's begin!

The night of Sept. 3 when the Orioles played the Athletics at home, was one of the latest examples that the Baltimore farm system and player development operation was a big reason for the Orioles' turnaround in the 2022 season.

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Awards, free agency and more

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Finalists for the four Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards will be announced tonight beginning at 6 p.m. on MLB Network. Plan your meals around it.

The top three finishers will be revealed in alphabetical order, so don’t panic if it takes a while for Adley Rutschman’s name to appear among American League rookies.

Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez will be called ahead of him. Rutschman, Rodriguez and the Royals’ Bobby Witt Jr. were finalists for the Players Choice Award, with the Mariners outfielder taking the honor.

The Guardian’s Steven Kwan could bump Witt from some BBWAA ballots. It would be shocking if Rutschman or Rodriguez were excluded. Rodriguez is widely viewed as the favorite.

MLB.com’s rookie power rankings posted on Oct. 5 had Rodriguez first in the AL, followed by Rutschman, Kwan, Witt, the Twins’ Joe Ryan and the Mariners’ George Kirby.

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Long gone, but never forgotten: Baltimore's Memorial Stadium

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From 1954 to 1991, it was home for the Orioles. It was also home to the Baltimore Colts, the Canadian Football League’s Baltimore Stallions and for their first two seasons, the Baltimore Ravens. In 1993, it was even home for a season to the Bowie Baysox before Prince George’s Stadium was built.

For some of us of a certain age, it just felt like ... well, home.

It was Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street. 

Looking back, we can admit now it was an old rickety stadium that came up short in a few areas. But when I was kid the anticipation of just going to see a game there was amazing, topped only by actually entering the place itself. It was special and I thought it was the greatest place any kid could ever go.

The memories of so many great games with so many great friends blur a bit now, but that feeling never leaves you. You always remember that. When I was a kid, it was that excited feeling of walking up the ramp to see the green grass and then watch the Orioles take the field. They always seemed to be among the best teams in baseball.

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A look at O's pitch usage/mix from 2022

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We are getting into the weeds a bit here today, digging into some pitching numbers that might be interesting to look at and note. Maybe they actually tell us something about Orioles pitching as well.

First, in the simplest terms, O’s pitchers, as a staff, threw fewer fastballs and changeups in 2022 compared to 2021. They threw more sliders and cutters and a similar number of curveballs.

In 2021, the Orioles used fastballs (four- and two-seamers combined) 51.0 percent, and that dropped to 47.3 this year. Their average fastball velocity increased, however, from 93.0 mph in 2021, which ranked 22nd in the major leagues, to 93.8 mph this season, tying them for 12th in the bigs. Some of the flamethrowers in the bullpen, no doubt, helped increase that average.

In 2021, the Orioles led the majors in throwing changeups, doing so 15.7 percent of the time. This season that percentage dropped to 13.3, which was still sixth-highest in baseball. That means the O’s still really like changeups.

In watching the team this year, there were nights I said to myself, ‘Hey, self, the O’s love the cutter.’ They used that pitch 5.2 percent of the time in ’21 (to rank 20th in the majors) and increased that this year to 8.4 percent (10th in baseball).

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