Wondering where Orioles would slot new bat into their lineup

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.

“I think we’re going to look to supplement and upgrade, and how that fits into the whole roster, that’s going to be case-by-case.” 

The outfield is getting more crowded and would require a trade, though any subtraction is just temporary space until Colton Cowser is ready. He already reached Triple-A this year.

Third base might be Gunnar Henderson’s domain early in his major league career if Jorge Mateo returns as the starting shortstop. Jordan Westburg will be in major league camp and given a chance to make the opening day roster, with second base a possibility following Rougned Odor’s expected departure via free agency.

Ramón Urías shouldn’t be forgotten, though he might have to settle for more of a bench role.  

The Orioles don’t need a starting catcher, and they hope Adley Rutschman is behind the plate for a long, long time.

Ryan Mountcastle had first base pretty much to himself after the Trey Mancini trade. He felt every inning on the field as the season neared its conclusion. Giving him a little more rest as the designated hitter would be a good idea.

Could the Orioles target a first baseman/designated hitter type?

They’d likely prefer some versatility over a full-time DH, a player who could at least back up Mountcastle at first. Jesús Aguilar batted .224/.240/.306 with a double and home run in 51 plate appearances after signing with the Orioles on Aug. 31, and he’s approaching free agency.

I wouldn’t hold my breath for a Mancini reunion.

A top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher would have ranked first among my priorities earlier in the season, but I’m slotting it second behind a run producer for a lineup that kept going cold. How much to spend and where to put him is above my pay grade.

You can’t have enough pitching, and the Orioles will live by that credo. Let them figure out how to fit a veteran ace among John Means (when he returns), Grayson Rodriguez, Tyler Wells, Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, perhaps DL Hall, perhaps Jordan Lyles if the Orioles exercise his $11 million option, perhaps Austin Voth if he’s tendered a contract and kept out of the bullpen, perhaps Bruce Zimmermann if he shakes off a disappointing 2022 season.

The Orioles could seek an upgrade over pending free agent Robinson Chirinos as the backup catcher, though they lauded his leadership and clubhouse influence. He was OK. Took a lot of heat from fans because he wasn’t Rutschman.

The next guy won’t be Rutschman, either. But maybe he’s younger, hits better than .179/.265/.287, and is a better pitch framer, with Chirinos ranking last per Statcast.

I'm not saying that some heat wasn't warranted.

Anthony Bemboom and Cam Gallagher are on the 40-man roster, but the Orioles always bring in at least one catcher. It isn’t a screaming need, since Rutschman is going to handle a heavy workload, but the position must be addressed and there are plenty of veterans out there.

Just find one who buys into the importance of team chemistry and doesn’t mind spending most of his days on the bench.

Asked what the Orioles must do to improve in 2023, outfielder Anthony Santander also declined to name one specific area.

“I think it involves making adjustments on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively with the pitchers,” he said.

“I think for the hitters we’ve got to do a better job next year of hitting the ball with runners in scoring position. I think that’s a point of emphasis. I think when we play aggressive and we play as a unit together with the chemistry that we’ve been able to build this year, we do a much better job, so next year we’ve got to continue doing the same.”

Bring in a bat.

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