Just over 14 months ago, before the final home game of the Orioles’ disastrous 2021 season, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias offered a straight-up assessment of how the organization would approach the offseason. .
“We’re going to be very conscious of who we are and where we are,” Elias said then, “and I think the time for the Orioles to make the biggest splash at winter meetings is not now.”
Of course, those winter meetings didn’t happen, as the annual gathering of club executives, agents and others around the sport fell victim to Major League Baseball’s player lockdown. But this week, it will become clearer just how much the Orioles’ operation has changed after a surprisingly successful 2022.
At 83-79, Baltimore was the best team in the American League that did not make the playoff champ. The organization’s contingent arrived in San Diego with the payroll flexibility and depth of prospect to be among the league’s most important movers and shakers throughout the week amid a relatively quiet offseason in the sport should heat up.
Just four months ago, following a trade deadline that saw the Orioles deduct from their major league proceeds, Elias said it would be a “take off from here” for the organization. This week represents an important opportunity to show how high the Orioles will fly.
Here are five ways Baltimore’s outlook for the 2023 season may change during this week’s winter meetings.
1. A significant signature
During Elias’ four-year tenure, the Orioles have yet to sign a free agent to a guaranteed multi-year contract, which remains the case after the club reportedly agreed terms with veteran right-hander Kyle Gibson during the weekend. For Baltimore to land the type of player they should be looking for this offseason, a change will undoubtedly be needed.
For the second year in a row, there are several big-name shortstops on the market, but it’s unclear whether the Orioles will be serious bidders for a roster that includes stars Trea Turner and Carlos Correa. There’s also a huge collection of starting pitchers, and while Baltimore could be outbid for the best remaining available starters in Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodón, the Orioles could still do well in hitting the next level of weapons, led by Chris Bassitt and Kodai Senga. . Baltimore also reportedly met former flamethrower Noah Syndergaard, according to the New York Post.
2. Big business
The impact on the Orioles’ plans for 2023 would be twofold here. They would add a player from another organization, likely at the expense of at least one of their own who might otherwise have had a role for them next season.
If the front office isn’t interested in investing heavily in a free agent starter, the club could realize cost savings while adding a top rotational element with several years of control remaining. Such an effort would likely force Elias to give up some of the young talent he has accumulated in recent years. Of the Orioles’ top 10 prospects according to Baseball America, four are right-handed infielders who have reached the upper minors but not the majors. Using one as the centerpiece of a package seems like a logical place to start, but Baltimore has built in enough depth to try other approaches.
3. Division Rival Movements
It’s an area the Orioles playoff hopefuls could improve on — or let go — without them budging. Two of their opponents in the American League East, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, are at risk of losing significant play in free agency.
While setting an AL record for home runs, outfielder Aaron Judge carried the Yankees into the playoffs, earning league most valuable player honors en route to becoming the sport’s most wanted free agent. Xander Bogaerts fits in alongside Turner and Correa in an impressive shortstop class and would leave the Red Sox with a hole if he signed elsewhere. Both organizations could also lose starting pitchers Jameson Taillon and Nathan Eovaldi, who would also be a logical target for the Orioles.
Of course, winter meetings could also see these teams, along with the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, take a big step or two, while the Orioles could lose a player they’re targeting for another. club, so their own activity will be just as critical to their potential success.
4. A Draft Selection of Rule 5
Excluding a waiver request, making a pick in Wednesday’s Rule 5 draft might be perhaps the least exciting way for the Orioles to make an addition to their 40-man roster this week, but it would certainly have offshoots throughout the winter and perhaps into the season. .
Any Rule 5 selection would have to remain on Baltimore’s 40-player roster through the offseason and its major league roster through the regular season or be offered to its home organization. This stipulation would limit the flexibility of the Orioles roster, both when looking to make other moves in the spring and to mix up their bullpen and bench during the season.
Of course, there is no obligation that they retain the player; of the Orioles’ six Rule 5 selections made under Elias, only one remains with Baltimore. But as long as the Orioles select and retain any Rule 5 rookie, that would be one less spot on the roster they could operate with.
5. A raffle surprise
The Orioles have had a top-five pick in the MLB Draft for four straight years. Despite their title-winning season, they will travel to San Diego with a slim chance of extending that streak.
As a byproduct of the sport’s new collective bargaining agreement, the teams making the top six picks in next summer’s MLB draft will be determined by a coin toss on Tuesday. All 18 teams that didn’t qualify for the playoffs are eligible, and of those, only the Milwaukee Brewers finished with a better record than Baltimore.
That leaves the Orioles with the second-lowest probability of receiving the first overall pick and a top-six pick. Baltimore has a 0.4% chance of making its second straight No. 1 overall pick and third in five years, being selected to a top-six pick in about 3.3% of scenarios. Otherwise, the Orioles will likely pick 17th overall, with the Brewers having a 2.1% chance of being picked in the lottery and moving Baltimore to 18th.
Although where the Orioles choose in the draft numbers to have a heavier influence on seasons beyond 2023, the lottery landing could hypothetically change the front office’s approach to the game. off-season. Having one of the top six picks could make Elias and his team more comfortable trading prospects already in the system, given that they will be replaced by another top talent.
The Orioles’ draft bonus pool would also grow, which could make it easier to absorb the loss of their third pick in the 2023 draft if they sign a free agent who rejects a qualifying offer, a group including many of the best talent available. In 2022, the No. 6 pick had a slot value more than $2 million higher than the 17th pick, roughly double the value of the Round B competitive balance pick the Orioles would lose with a signature of this level.