There’s no end to the lockout in sight, but all 30 teams — even those who aren’t/weren’t planning to be overly active in free agency — will have to work at an accelerated pace coming out of the lockout. With that in mind, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com takes a look at what’s typically a busy month for the Orioles, who in recent years have been quite active in February. Beyond recapping some of the team’s February dealings in recent years, Kubatko suggests that the O’s are likely to pursue additional depth both behind the plate and in the starting rotation.
Baltimore has already added a pair of catchers on minor league deals this winter, signing both Anthony Bemboom and Jacob Nottingham (an Astros draftee during current Baltimore GM Mike Elias’ first season as scouting director in Houston). Elias “isn’t averse” to a big league deal for another catcher, per Kubatko, though what was already a thin market for veteran backstops has been largely picked over.
Of course, given that the Orioles are widely expected to give 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick Adley Rutschman his MLB debut at some point in the 2022 season, any catching additions would only be in the backup mold anyhow. Veterans such as Robinson Chirinos, Kurt Suzuki and Austin Romine are among the yet-unsigned backstops awaiting the lockout’s resolution, and any would ostensibly make sense as an early-season starter to hold the fort down until Rutschman debuts.
Rutschman, the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball according to both Baseball America and Keith Law of The Athletic, is fresh off a season in which he posted a combined .285/.397/.502 with 23 homers, 25 doubles and a pair of triples in 543 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A. The switch-hitter, who’s set to turn 24 this weekend, is arguably ready for a big league look right out of the gate, though most teams tend to delay the debuts of prospects of this caliber in order to secure an additional year of club control.
As currently constructed, the service time system would only require the O’s to keep Rutschman in Triple-A for just over two weeks in order to push his entry into the free-agent market back from the 2027-28 offseason to the 2028-29 offseason. It’s a natural call for a front office from a business standpoint, but the simplicity with which teams can delay a top prospect’s free agency is one of the many topics the MLBPA sought to discuss heading into labor negotiations this winter.
On the pitching side of things, the outlook is far more open. The O’s do still have a pair of highly touted top prospects — righty Grayson Rodriguez and lefty D.L. Hall — who could debut in 2022, but the current lack of depth could create opportunities. John Means and veteran Jordan Lyles, who agreed to a one-year deal just before the lockout, are locks for rotation gigs early in the season. Beyond that pair, Baltimore has already gotten looks at Dean Kremer, Bruce Zimmermann, Keegan Akin, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells and (briefly) Mike Baumann in the big leagues. Prospect Kyle Bradish had a nice 2021 season between Double-A and Triple-A as well.
The O’s aren’t necessarily lacking options, which is likely why Kubatko suggests that any veteran additions at this point would likely be on minor league deals with non-roster invites to camp. The O’s have worked out such deals regularly in recent years (e.g. Matt Harvey, Wade LeBlanc, Tommy Milone), and at least one more addition along those same lines would further deepen the pool of rotation candidates and help to keep the team from overworking up-and-coming arms. Such signings can also net trade candidates at the deadline, and if the player in question has fewer than five years of MLB service (Jakob Junis, for example), there’s always the possibility of retaining them via arbitration next winter — should things go well.
There’s also plenty of fluidity in the infield, where the O’s are currently looking at some combination of Rougned Odor, Jahmai Jones, Ramon Urias, Kelvin Gutierrez, Rylan Bannon and Jorge Mateo to shoulder the load at second base, shortstop and third base. There’s ample room for a veteran addition here, but it’s worth noting that the largest deal for a free-agent position player under Elias has been Jose Iglesias’ $3MM deal prior to the 2020 season. A large splash isn’t likely, even if the O’s are currently only projected for a payroll in the $60MM range.
Looks like more dumpster diving for the Orioles, when it comes to pitching.
They need to move the outfield walls back to the Chesapeake Bay for those group of misfits to be effective
If you had said `Inner Harbor,` you might not have exposed yourself to be a Yinser.
The fact that he’s a Pirates fans didn’t expose him already?
I don’t think it’s dumpster diving. I think they have upgraded to yard sale shopping.
the work, backup, should be banned, when talking about catchers.
Backup backstops be banned!
It’s almost like the O’s operate as if there’s a lockout every year
It is true that beginning with Dan Duquette, the Orioles have waited out the free agency period, acting closer to Spring Training to make signings. But the situation that Elias has encountered is not comparable to what Duquette experienced. Since 2019, the directive has been to keep payroll as low as possible during a nearly complete overhaul of players in the minors and in MLB.. As the team promotes top prospects in hopes of competing and then contending, that strategy is almost certain to change.
The plan for/from Elias day 1 has been an organizational rebuild. International development, analytic scouting, data based coaching and managing. All in the same budget (probably less with decreased ticket sales). The directive wasn’t about payroll exactly, but about a vision and purpose to strive for. The pieces are falling in place. Other teams are allocating resources to these things as well. But some have bigger pockets (and more pockets to reach into).
Screw it, put Adley out there as the opening day starting catcher!
If the service time is adjusted in the new CBA then he very well might be.
Could maybe try and trade Means/Trey for Hedges/Clase.
Cleveland probably doesn’t make that trade. They have enough arms heading for arbitration soon and Mancini is a free agent next winter. Seems like that would be selling low on Clase
Orioles do not need Hedges but could use Clase. No sense in trading Means without getting a Starter prospect in return (Means and Mullins to Miami for SP prospects). Could build out a trade of Trey for Clase .
Cleveland has absolutely no reason to trade 5 years of Clase for 1 of Mancini. Would go completely against the way they operate and their competitive window. Clase would have more value if they had the same amount of control.
If they had the same amount of control the position player would have higher value. 1st overall pick as a pitcher has like $40-60 million of surplus value where as a position player has $60-80 million. I know they weren’t that high but position players allegedly have more value.
for certain Cleveland does not make that trade. They don’t need a starter and they do need Hedges to Catch. Clase is their closer with 4 or 5 years of control remaining.
What Cleveland does need is an ‘controlled’ everyday OF (think Hays)
What Cleveland has is pitching prospects, plus middle IF prospects.
Morgan (RH) and Allen (LH) have handful of MLB starts under their belts. They have pipeline #3 , #4 guys like Nolan Jones, Gabriel Arias or #14 OF Palacios for the Orioles to build return package. They have CF so maybe Mullins NOT as attractive.
Hays fits their target profile. Minimum salary.
Orioles should sign either Kurt Suzuki, Robinson Chirinos, or both. Bemboom and Nottingham both are basically AAAA filler and Rutschman could certainly benefit from a veteran around
I agree they should sign one of those two and that their presence and knowledge would likely help Rutschman.
Dutch Vander Linde
With how things are going with them, they’re planning on contending in the year 2050.
This is the definition of an uninformed comment.
Of course, there are a lot of `fans` who have no idea of what is going on in baseball … and then open up their mouths to prove it.
My frustration with teams like the Orioles is that yet again they seem to be already resigned to losing at least 90 games. I get the idea of rebuilding but I wish teams would try to be at least a bit more competitive during the process.
Losing 90 games would be a big step in the right direction.
Owners usually don’t own businesses for pride. They own them to make a profit. Income must be greater than outflow.
Unless there is a salary cap (or something better than we have now), then it’s a pipe dream. That’s a big reason football and basketball have the parity they have.
When’s the last time you saw a trade in basketball?
The word “pursue” seems a very gentle way of describing what the Orioles will go after when it comes to established players. The have built a good farm system, and perhaps that will eventually lift them out of non-competitiveness. They have won slightly less than 1/3 of their games over the last 4 seasons, just 52 last year, and are unlikely to approach.500 this year That’s a lot to ask of fans while the O’s “pursue” players at the dented can section of the dollar store. Exhibit I for both prosecution and defense on tanking. MLB will say “see, tanking results in eventual competitiveness, so let’s not change things. MLBPA will say 4 years and counting, likely to be at least six, is a long time
This is probably the last offseason that they choose not to sign free agents of mid-level, at least.
PS: Why are you shopping at the `dented can section of the dollar store` when you still have to pay a dollar for them?
Fair point on the dented cans….
Can Gallagher would be an easy fit. KC needs to make room for MJ and could always use a lottery ticket type prospect or relief pitching depth.
Hopefully it will be a moot point because hopefully there won’t be any MLB games this year.
What kind of baseball fan hopes they will not play this year? Answer: a non-fan.
Again, it’s a sacrilege for a team like with the revenue streams of the O’s, and their sweetheart stadium deal, to act like they’re the Pirates, who have neither. 60 M? My sympathies are with the MLBPA. A rebuild was certainly necessary; a 5 year rebuild, with some of the “talent” they’re putting out there, is outrageous.
Meanwhile, what exactly do you think the Spanks, the Sox, the Jays and the Rays are going to be doing over the next few years, sitting with their thumbs up their butts? By the time the O’s open their window, their AL East brethren will slam it shut.
You could be right about the O’s window never really materializing w this group. That’s a brutal division and the O’s started from scratch.
BUT signing Ryan Tepera and Jake Odorizzi doesn’t really move the Orioles timeline in anyway whatsoever. Guys like that don’t bring back significant prospects and winning additional games doesn’t do you any favors in the draft pool game. I wish the O’s would’ve eaten some bad $$$ and got prospect value back but I don’t really care about watching Dillon Tate instead of an 8 million dollar middle reliever from free agency.
I think giving Lyles 7 million is pretty ridiculous honestly. A FB pitcher who gave up 38 hrs last year coming to the ALE. That’s smells like it was one of those “spend money cause the lockout is coming and we have to look like we spent something”
I agree about the Free Agents; just a waste of money. But ‘buying” prospects I would think is the way to go. There’s enough under water contracts out there that they could probably piggyback some prospects in return for some career minor leaguers.
Again, they’ll likely be better; Adley and G-Rod look very, very real, maybe the best two prospects in the AL East. But the other teams have some prospects too, and while they may not be on that level, they’re decent; the Rays have unbelievable depth, even if they don’t have that “primo’ guy (now that Wander has arrived). The Sox system is decidedly better (it would have been hard to be worse; but it says here flags fly forever), the Yanks have some quality, as still do the Jays.
2018-2021 178 wins, 369 losses. in 2021, worst run differential of any team -297. ….and the strategy is to add some depth in catching and pitching? What a sad state for a once proud organization. How about having a board of trustees, appointed by the Commissioner, but approved by the MLBPA that has the power of a ‘no confidence vote’ Any team with a losing record for more than a specified period of years gets voted on by the board, and if that team ownership gets a vote of ‘no confidence’ then the owners have to sell.
Unfortunately, the Orioles haven’t been a “proud organization” in much of the current fan base’s lifetime
What??? What rock have you been hiding under?
To someone who will do the same thing. Let’s say they had signed Bauer and Cole. Let’s say Bauer not being on the dodgers makes it easier to ignore him and some people don’t target him for marching. How many games do they win last year? How many do those two plus Chapman win this year. For only $100,000,000 more a year we’d have wine 65-70 last year and be in the same boat now plus a few wins. Seven million a win isn’t doable. Regardless of owner. What should happen is a million O’s fans should thrown in ten grand to buy the team, put the rest in a savings account to run the team.
There’s very little good starting pitching remaining in free agency. They aren’t in a position to trade good prospects for any.
Is there any expectation that Adley will be the primary catcher (meaning catching 60%+ of their games)? If so, why wouldn’t an offensive threat be sporadically used as DH, when you have that luxury, to maximize his playing time, minimizing risk?
They should have already signed an above-average “backup C” like Manny Piña, though Suzuki could do just fine as a platoon.
The O’s have a very good start filling position players but John Means and Tyler Wells are all the O’s have for pitching. Jordan Lyles won’t last long at Camden Yards.