Wondering where Orioles would slot new bat into their lineup

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Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias is taking a more general view of the areas that he’s seeking to upgrade during the offseason.

In the past, he’s sought veteran placeholders at shortstop and come away with José Iglesias and Freddy Galvis. He’s tabbed third base as a priority and signed Maikel Franco.

Elias is hoping to add more punch to the lineup after the Orioles finished 20th in runs scored with 674, in hits with 1,281, in batting average at .236 and in OPS at .695. Their .305 on-base percentage ranked 22nd. They were shut out 11 times.

Where would the Orioles plug in a bat? That's the burning question.

“I don’t have a specific prediction about which position any major league acquisitions are going to come in,” Elias said last week. “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.

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Orioles claim Cave off waivers from Twins

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The Orioles made their second roster move since ending the 2022 season, claiming outfielder Jake Cave off waivers from the Twins today and designating reliever Jake Reed for assignment.

An industry source confirmed the waiver claim, which appeared on the major league transactions page.

Cave, 29, appeared in 54 games with the Twins and batted .213/.260/.384 with seven doubles, three triples, five home runs and 20 RBIs in 177 plate appearances. He’s a career .235/.297/.411 hitter in parts of five major league seasons.

The Yankees selected Cave in the sixth round of the 2011 draft out of Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, Va. The Reds chose him in the 2015 Rule 5 draft and returned him on April 5, 2016. The Yankees traded Cave to the Twins on March 16, 2018 for pitcher Luis Gil.

As a rookie in 2018, Cave batted .265/.313/.473 with 16 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs and 45 RBIs in 91 games. He hasn’t played a full season in the majors, with those 91 games representing his career high.

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The MLB playoffs: Drama, surprises and the LDS up next

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We sure can’t say the 2022 Major League Baseball playoffs have lacked in surprises or drama. We saw three road teams advance, a 15-innings thriller, a six-run ninth inning rally, an ear inspection and a team trailing 8-1 in the fifth inning rally to win.

So yeah, a lot going on in just three days of ball.

The madness resumes today with four Division Series matchups, three of which are interdivision matchups. Should be fun and no doubt we will see more surprises and more drama.

I did not expect to see the Toronto Blue Jays go two and (barbe) que. One of baseball’s best offenses got shutout in Game 1 and Seattle rallied from seven runs down to win Game 2. Wowser. Maybe this series provided the latest example that how a team ends its season matters little in the postseason. Toronto went 22-11 in September and the Orioles saw it first-hand when they played them three times and lost all three series. But even at loud and crazy Rogers Centre, which was rocking at times again in October, they lost.

Tampa Bay was also two and done versus Cleveland. I was a bit surprised that some O’s fans took pleasure in the Jays and Rays getting eliminated. For me, I kind of like the talk of how strong the AL East is and was again this year, but teams losing in the opening round takes some shine off that. I can see not rooting for Boston and New York, but it seems some O’s fans want all four to destruct in October.

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Figuring which Orioles are primed for raises in arbitration

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An increase in spending by the Orioles during the offseason leads the imagination directly to the free agent and trade markets. However, the club has seven players eligible for arbitration. Raises are coming to most, if not all, of them.

Outfielder Anthony Santander leads the pack after making $3.15 million this year. He doesn’t reach free agency until after the 2024 season due to his status as a Super Two player.

Santander lost his arbitration hearing during his first year of eligibility and settled for $2.1 million instead of the $2.4 million that he sought. The sides agreed to a $3.15 million deal on Nov. 30, 2021.

MLBTradeRumors.com ran its annual salary projections yesterday and placed Santander’s at $7.5 million after he led the Orioles with 33 home runs, 89 RBIs, a .455 slugging percentage and a .773 OPS, tied Cedric Mullins for first with a .318 on-base percentage and ranked second in walks with 55 and in runs with 78. He played in a career-high 152 games.

The Orioles are building a surplus of outfielders, with Colton Cowser approaching his debut next summer. Kyle Stowers already arrived. Santander has drawn trade interest in the past and his value is at its highest, coming off his finest season and being under team control beyond 2023.

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From Bowie to Baltimore: Gunnar Henderson had one special season

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The Orioles Gunnar Henderson was not in the major leagues that long – for 34 games – but long enough to experience both hot and cold streaks at-bat. And long enough to have some big moments and hits, long enough to show he belongs and that his considerable talents play at the level at the age of 21.

Unlike with fellow top prospect Adley Rutschman, he was hitting well almost from the start, although he did have some struggles late in the year when he said he was getting a heavy dose of breaking balls.

Henderson’s first go-round in MLB produced these numbers over 132 plate appearances: .259/.348/.440/.788 for an OPS+ of 123 with seven doubles, a triple, four homers and 18 RBIs.

He remains rookie eligible, falling short of thresholds of 130 at-bats (he had 116) or 45 days on the roster to lose rookie status. He could win the 2023 AL Rookie of the Year.

He did win the 2022 Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year award. Over 121 games between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, he batted .297/.416/.531/.947 with 101 runs, 19 homers and 76 RBIs.

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Checking on some O's minor league stats leaders for the 2022 season

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While just one of the four O's full-season minor league affiliates - high Single-A Aberdeen - made the playoffs this year, it was a banner season for the organization in player development. They had two players ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the sport and both Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson made the majors and did well when they got there.

The Orioles prospects list was noted for both the quality and depth it showed this season. That was seen by the Orioles being ranked as the No. 1 farm at midseason by Baseball America, MLBPipeline.com and ESPN.

Today let's take a look at a few stat categories for both hitters and pitchers and see which players were among the top five O's this year for those stats. Later we'll take a look at more stat categories.

OPS (min, 250 PAs)

.946 - Gunnar Henderson
.886 - Connor Norby
.884 - Kyle Stowers
.874 - Colton Cowser
.852 - Jordan Westburg

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Two more reflections on Orioles' 2022 season

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The Orioles played their last games on Wednesday, a doubleheader feeling like a kick in the pants on their way out the door.

A gentle nudge would have sufficed, but the sport can be cruel.

Some of my reflections were shared ahead of the finale. Maybe a bit premature, but rules are made to be broken.

I’ve already noted how Matt Harvey never had his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk, Gunnar Henderson earned a promotion despite his age, Yusniel Diaz stayed only for a cup of coffee, Rougned Odor lasted into September, we never saw Robert Neustrom, DJ Stewart didn’t make it back to the Orioles after three games to begin the season, Jorge Mateo was exclusively a shortstop, Bryan Baker stuck for the entire season, and Nick Vespi will never give up another Triple-A run.

That last one might come back to bite me, but man, he was good.

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A look at one aspect where improving might be tough for '23 O's

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There is one area where it might be tough for the 2023 Orioles to match the 2022 version. It’s an area that we won’t be able to compare on a stat sheet. It’s team chemistry and camaraderie.

For the 83-win Orioles this year, it was exceptional.

Players cited it throughout the year and as the season went on, it was hard not to notice how close-knit this team was. And the closeness developed and showed itself both before games and even outside of the ballparks and then showed up many nights at 7 o’clock. There was no stat for it – advanced or otherwise, but this chemistry was vital to this team this year.

As the Orioles look to take the winning to the next level, outfielder Austin Hays said the togetherness is important. Players genuinely enjoyed seeing teammates suceed, not because they should do that, but because it came naturally.

“I think we turned the culture here into a winning environment,” said Hays. “Where, we are celebrating wins in the clubhouse as a team. We’re going and having team dinners together. We had a win belt this year for player of the game and guys had to give speeches after that. All those things that come with the wins, just the team growing together and growing with one another, it was a culture we didn’t have here for the last three years.

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Tate: "I still don’t feel like I’m established yet"

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Dillon Tate can be pleased with his 2022 season. He probably should be ecstatic.

How he led the Orioles in appearances with 67 and also established a career high in innings. How he posted the lowest ERA and walk average in his four years in the majors. How he became a trusted late-inning reliever on a contending team with 16 holds and five saves as a substitute closer.

Pleased, ecstatic … but not satisfied.

I wasn’t expecting Tate to treat the summer in such a casual way when I sought his personal reflections before Wednesday’s doubleheader. But he isn’t ready to relax. He can’t do it and go against his competitive nature.

He must stay true to it.

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Austin Hays takes a look at his 2022 season

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When I asked Orioles outfielder Austin Hays to analyze his own season before Wednesday’s doubleheader, the first point he made was an important one and I could tell it really mattered to him.

He stayed on the field this year.

There were a few bumps and bruises along the way, but he played in a career-high 145 games taking a career-high 535 at-bats. His team could depend on him to be there this year even if he wasn’t always playing at 100 percent. That is important to any player and gains him respect in the clubhouse.

“Personally I think it was a big win for me to stay healthy from the start to the end of the year,” Hays said. “I had a really, really solid first half. The second half I was very inconsistent and had a couple of bad stretches where I went down (in the stats). But overall I learned a lot this year and am happy with how my personal year went.”

He had 53 more plate appearances this year than he did in 2021 and produced nine more doubles with six fewer homers and 11 fewer RBIs.

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Orioles taking care of minor matters before getting into major business

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A tweak of the 40-man roster yesterday was similar to cleansing the palate before the main course. Likely the first and only time that Anthony Bemboom has been compared to a sorbet.

The Orioles can’t really get busy with their offseason until after the World Series. The free agent market opens. Executives discuss potential trades. Decisions are made regarding arbitration-eligible players and who’s protected in the Rule 5 draft.

Bemboom had his contract selected yesterday from Triple-A Norfolk, preventing or delaying his plunge into minor league free agency, depending on whether he stays on a 40-man roster that’s currently full.

Pending free agents Robinson Chirinos, Rougned Odor and Jesús Aguilar will come off the 40-man, and Jordan Lyles would join them if the Orioles don’t pick up his $11 million option. John Means and Chris Ellis must be added from the 60-day injured list, though the latter isn’t guaranteed to stick.

The Orioles could designate Ellis for assignment and try to re-sign him to a minor league deal or cut ties.

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Orioles select Bemboom's contract, Tate to play in WBC

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The Orioles made an adjustment to their 40-man roster on the first day of their offseason.

Catcher Anthony Bemboom’s contract was selected this afternoon from Triple-A Norfolk, and right-hander Anthony Castro was designated for assignment in a corresponding move.

Bemboom didn’t play for the Orioles after No. 1 prospect Adley Rutschman arrived on May 21. He cleared waivers and was outrighted to Norfolk six days later.

The Orioles signed Bemboom to a minor league contract and he broke camp with the team, beating out Jacob Nottingham as the backup to veteran Robinson Chirinos. He appeared in 22 games and went 6-for-52 (.115) with two doubles and a home run.

Bemboom threw out three of eight runners attempting to steal.

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Orioles select contract of Anthony Bemboom

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The Orioles have made the following roster moves:

 

  • Selected the contract of C Anthony Bemboom from Triple-A Norfolk.
  • Designated RHP Anthony Castro for assignment.
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And now an offseason that could be full of its own drama and fun

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If an offseason can be filled with intrigue and drama, this one could for the Orioles.

After an 83-win season, 31 more than the previous year, the Orioles are a winning team. Now we begin to find out how they take what they have impressively built to get to this point, to get to the next stage.

To get to where they can win 90 to 100 games, to not only contend for the playoffs, but for division championships with a team that could make a deep postseason run. And do it year after year after year. That is the long-range goal for the Orioles, and now we begin to see if they can realize it.

They have done such a great job just to get to this point.

They have a low payroll and plenty of flexibility with that moving forward. They have a top-ranked farm both to produce players to contribute to the big league club and players that could be involved in some key trades this winter.

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Orioles finish 2022 season with 5-1 loss in Game 2 (updated)

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Jorge Mateo slapped a ground ball to the right side of the infield in the ninth inning, from mitt to first base to the final out of the 2022 season.

Fans stood and cheered the Orioles after a 5-1 loss to the Blue Jays in Game 2 of the doubleheader. The team came back out of the dugout with caps held high in the air. Some players waved and others returned the applause.

Manager Brandon Hyde intended to play everyone today. No one would be left on the bench on the last day, with a makeup doubleheader carrying them to their 162nd game.

A winning record was intact. Stats could be padded before players scattered for the winter. Go home, rest, and get ready to make a stronger run within the division in 2023.

But first, an emotional send-off.

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Vavra's first major league home run gives Orioles 5-4 win in Game 1 (updated)

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The Orioles and Blue Jays are taking contrasting approaches to today’s doubleheader, an understandable development considering how only one team is preparing for the wild card round that begins on Friday.

Mike Baumann started Game 1 for the Orioles and worked into the sixth inning. The Jays used five relievers within the first five innings, including closer Jordan Romano, who stranded a pair of runners in the fourth.

No one likes a doubleheader on the final day of the regular season. It’s especially distasteful for Toronto, which led until the eighth inning.

Until rookie Terrin Vavra lined a two-out fastball from Mitch White onto the flag court in right field, his first major league homer a three-run shot that gave the Orioles a 5-4 win in the opener at Camden Yards.

One team suddenly felt a lot better about the doubleheader.

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

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.”

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O's game blog: A doubleheader to wrap up the 2022 season

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The Orioles battled the weather and the Blue Jays in Game 1 of this series on Monday night. Toronto won the game, which was called in the eighth, by a 5-1 score to take the series opener. The scheduled second game of this series was rained out yesterday.

So the clubs will complete the 2022 regular season today with a straight doubleheader at Oriole Park. The Birds head into the offseason after the games while the Jays begin play in the American League playoffs at home Friday in the best-of-three Wild Card Series.

The Orioles (82-78) have clinched a winning season and could finish with 84 victories with two more wins. But Monday’s loss was their fifth in the last seven games and they have lost seven of 10, 11 of 18 and 17 of the last 28 games. They are 14-17 since Sept. 1.

The Baltimore offense has scored three runs or less for six consecutive games since they scored 14 runs followed by nine runs in the first two games of their recent series in Boston. In those six games, they have scored just 10 total runs on 34 hits, going 2-for-37 with runners in scoring position. The Orioles have not homered in the last four games and have hit just two in the past six games.

Orioles shortstop Jorge Mateo stole his 35th base of the season Monday night. He became the sixth Orioles player (eighth occurrence) since 2000 to record 35 steals in a single season and first since Jonathan Villar swiped 40 in 2019. Mateo leads the AL in steals by one over teammate Cedric Mullins, by three over Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena and by five over Bobby Witt Jr. of Kansas City.

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On final day, Mateo and Mullins contending for AL stolen base title

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The season is down to one final day, and for the Orioles, two final games in today’s doubleheader against the Blue Jays. When Game No. 162 is over, an Oriole is likely to be leading the American League in stolen bases and that has been a rarity in team history.

But who will win the title with two contenders going? O’s shortstop Jorge Mateo is the current AL leader with 35 and his teammate center fielder Cedric Mullins is next at 34.

“It’s been fun. Just going back and forth,” Mullins said about competing with a teammate for the league steals lead. “It was funny when he went back up by two or three not too long and I came back and caught back up. Just Monday for example, I knew he would be aggressive when he got on base. We’re going to bring it down to the wire and see what happens.

“I think that makes it even more interesting, having someone on the same team competing with you for the stolen base title. We’re both pulling for each other. It’s an interesting dynamic for sure.”

Just three times since the Orioles moved to Baltimore in 1954 has an Oriole led the AL in steals. Luis Aparicio did so with 40 in 1963 and 57 in 1964. It happened just once since when Brian Roberts stole 50 bags in 2007 and was a co-leauge leader with Carl Crawford of Tampa Bay.

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Orioles and Blue Jays lineups for Game 1

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The Orioles can’t get away clean. They must play a doubleheader against the Blue Jays today before scattering for the offseason.

Mike Baumann starts Game 1 after yesterday’s rainout. So, to review:

Baumann is making his fourth start and 13th appearance. He’s completed four innings in his two starts since being plugged into the rotation on Sept. 24, throwing 58 and 74 pitches.

Baumann also started Game 1 of a Sept. 5 doubleheader against the Jays and allowed three runs and eight hits in five innings. He tossed two scoreless relief innings on Sept. 16 in Toronto.

Gunnar Henderson is playing third base and batting fifth. Terrin Vavra is the second baseman and Ryan McKenna is in left field.

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