NASHVILLE – With the understanding that the MLB Winter Meetings and what happens here or doesn’t is not any finish line to the offseason, but just one milestone, the Orioles' front office contingent has arrived ready to seek pitching additions and perhaps make other tweaks to their big league roster.
The Winter Meetings began here last night and run through Wednesday.
The Orioles seek pitching and that has not changed. With closer Félix Bautista out for all of 2024, they could use an arm to add to the back-end of their bullpen. If that turns out to someone with closing experience, all the better. They would like to also add a starter that fits in the top half of their rotation. A pitcher who could join the likes of Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez and John Means (a current projected front three) to produce a formidable rotation to carry a contending team through the rigors of the 162-game season.
I interviewed O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias after the early November General Managers' meetings in Arizona.
In that interview then he made it clear that a late-inning reliever is at or near the top of his wish list. Bautista, who posted a 1.48 ERA and 33 saves with a 16.2 K rate, underwent Tommy John surgery Oct. 9.
It leaves a big hole in the back-end of the Baltimore bullpen.
“It is a top priority,” said Elias in the November interview. “I’m characterizing it as a backend reliever. I think if that guy has closer experience, that’s great. It would be nice. I am worried about Bautista’s absence, and I don’t believe we felt that fully in September of 2023. We are going to try like hell to bring in some help from the outside for the back of our bullpen.”
And that help could come via free agency or a trade.
“Sure, yeah both. We’re looking at both,” he said.
Here is what Elias said in that interview with MASNSports.com about adding a starting pitcher for the Baltimore rotation.
“We’re keeping it relatively open because we have to see what opportunities present themselves in this market. We’ve got two guys in Bradish and Rodriguez that basically pitched like front-end starters all year, most of the year and they are coming back. But there is pressure on them, and it would be nice to bring them some help. If we are able to import a clear upgrade to one of our rotation spots that’s going to radiate out into the rest of the rotation. We’ll see what the best opportunity is, who the best person is for the job. Whether we are able to get our hands on this guy. It is hard to narrow yourself too much going into an offseason, there are not that many people available.”
By total dollars, right-handers Aaron Nola and Sonny Gray signed the two biggest contracts via free agency thus far. Nola re-signed with Philadelphia, a whopping deal for seven years and $172 million. St. Louis signed Gray for three years and $75 million with a club option for 2027. Kyle Gibson, an Oriole in 2023, signed a one-year deal with St. Louis for $13 million.
If the O’s add a free agent starter, it appears the club could be swimming in a deeper end of the pool than they were in recent offseasons when Jordan Lyles and Gibson got one-year deals. If they truly want someone that fits in with their current group at the top, a multi-year deal would likely be needed. How far are the Orioles willing to go?
The team, under Elias, prefers to keep its cards close and not much information gets out about O’s targets or players they have pursued or will pursue. Will more of such information get out this week in Nashville?
The trade market could be a more appealing avenue for the Orioles.
While they are not expected to outspend anyone for a top starter, they could out-trade other teams with a deep farm system that holds currently six top 100 prospects. They are in position to give up minor league talent, maybe even from their top 10 prospects list, and still have an abundance of talent remaining. It’s an enviable position to be in and one that could make the difference in the pursuit of a trade chip like Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox, said to be sought by numerous clubs.
Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweeted last night that "Cease's trade market is robust as the winter meetings begin. Dodgers, Braves, and Orioles are all involved, sources say, and other teams also remain engaged with the White Sox."
One exec in Nashville Sunday suggested the White Sox would want a young pitcher in return for Cease and might also target infield prospects.
On the latest MLBPipeline.com podcast with Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, they listed the Orioles as one of several clubs with the prospects to pull off a big deal. But they also listed Milwaukee, the Chicago Cubs, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay as clubs that could make a big deal involving prospects.
Roch Kubatko and I will be here in Nashville for the meetings so check our entries here each day and our X accounts as well. The MASN digital and social media team is also here to gather and produce content. Should be an interesting few days that could either bring a new player or players to the Orioles roster or set the stage for a move that is still to come.