As Baltimore enters the off-season on the heels of their best season since 2016, the areas they’ll be looking to upgrade in are becoming clearer. Roch Kubatko of MASN writes that Baltimore is already active in the starting pitching market, while left-handed hitting is their focus on the offensive side of things.
Kubatko reports that Baltimore is already talking to multiple representatives of free agent pitchers, but notes that they aren’t likely to be spending at the top of the starting pitching market. Instead, that could mean targeting the numerous second tier arms available including the likes of Jameson Taillon, Chris Bassitt, Taijuan Walker and more.
Currently, Dean Kremer, Tyler Wells, Austin Voth and Kyle Bradish are penciled into the Orioles’ rotation but none are necessarily locks. Kremer and Voth were the only two to post sub-4 ERAs last season, but they both benefited a bit from a low opponent BABIP and a high strand rate. In any event, some combination of those four and one or two outside additions could form Baltimore’s rotation to start the 2023. John Means would also figure to be a part of the rotation, but it’s unclear when he’ll return from April Tommy John surgery.
That group would lack a clear ace, but the team does have top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez on the cusp of the majors, and he could feature on opening day, or at least early in the season. While a young pitcher is far from a sure thing – even one as impressive as Rodriguez – the Orioles are certainly hoping he can blossom into a frontline starter just as their contention window begins to open. DL Hall struggled in a handful of relief options this year, but he’s the fourth best prospect according to Baseball America and could well be a rotation option in 2023 as well.
On the hitting side of things, Kubatko’s report says the Orioles will target corner outfield, first base and designated hitter as areas to upgrade, with a specific focus on left-handed hitters. He speculates that Michael Brantley, the recently non-tendered former NL MVP Cody Bellinger, or Brandon Belt could be options there. Indeed, there’s a number of candidates that fit the bill, and the likes of Andrew Benintendi, Josh Bell and Michael Conforto could also make sense for Baltimore.
The Orioles currently have Anthony Santander and Austin Hays penciled into the corner spots, with Ryan Mountcastle at first base. All three have been solid contributors for the Orioles, but for a team that’s looking to take the next towards contention, it wouldn’t hurt to see that group upgraded or reshuffled to make room for an outside addition, particularly given the team has no locked in DH for 2023. Santander, for instance, is projected to make $7.5MM in arbitration and not likely to lose much playing time, but could see more time at DH given his limited defensive appeal with a new corner outfielder coming. Similarly, Mountcastle could spend more time at DH if the team brings in a new first baseman.