Pitchers and catcher report to Orioles camp in Sarasota, Fla. tomorrow, but the club might not yet be done with its offseason shopping. General manager Mike Elias said over the weekend at a Birdland Caravan event that he’s still open to adding a pitcher — suggesting that the rotation, in particular, is an area of need (video link via MLB.com):
We may be adding more players, either prior to the beginning of camp or shortly thereafter. There’s going to be a lot of bodies — a lot of competition. Some guys will have the inside edge over others, just because of what they’ve done recently or done in their career, but past a healthy [John] Means and a healthy [Alex] Cobb, nothing’s really set in stone. … We definitely know we have some uncertainty, and we need some depth. … We’re talking Major League contracts and Minor League contracts with pitchers out there on the market right now. Whether a Major League contract comes together, I can’t tell right now, but we’re certainly open to offering those and have offered those.
The bulk of the remaining free agents on the market appear to be likelier candidates for non-guaranteed deals, although a few remaining veterans could sign big league pacts. Righty Taijuan Walker reportedly has a Major League offer in hand from the Mariners, for instance. A similar upside play on Aaron Sanchez or Danny Salazar would be more appealing were either to be promised a 40-man roster spot. Veterans like Jason Vargas and old friend Andrew Cashner both had some success in 2019 before poor finishes to the season. As a former Astros assistant GM, Elias also knows righty Collin McHugh quite well.
It’s always possible that other opportunities will present themselves later in camp as well. Many veteran free agents on minor league deals with other clubs will trigger opt-out provisions after being informed that they won’t make the Opening Day roster in their current organizations. That could give the O’s some new options later in camp. As for signing a current free agent, Elias implied that if it happens, it’ll be sooner rather than later, alluding to the struggles of some veterans who signed after sitting out a notable chunk of camp:
It just seems like recent history, those pitchers that had not had the benefit of a ’normal’ Spring Training, they get off to a slow start. It just seems to be the case. That doesn’t mean the bell rings on Tuesday, and we’re done, but it’s something that we’ll be increasingly mindful of as the spring gets deeper.
The 2017-18 offseason, in particular, provided several cautionary tales. The Twins’ signing of Lance Lynn (March 12), the Cardinals’ signing of Greg Holland (March 31) and the Orioles’ own signing of Cobb (March 20) all produced results well below those pitchers’ previous standards.
At the moment, the Orioles’ rotation seems likely to consist of Means, Cobb, Asher Wojciechowski and non-roster invitee Wade LeBlanc. The O’s also inked former Twins prospect Kohl Stewart to a big league deal, although he has minor league options remaining and isn’t assured to break camp with the club. Rule 5 pick Brandon Bailey will be in the competition, as will some incumbent arms like David Hess and prospects Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer. LeBlanc, former Giants lefty Ty Blach and former Astros righty Brady Rodgers are among the other non-roster options set to report to camp.