Orioles general manager Mike Elias spoke with MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko, Baltimore Baseball’s Rich Dubroff, and other reporters Friday about what the American League leaders might do in advance of the August 1 trade deadline. Speaking in broad terms about needs, Elias said that “I think that if we are going to make additional acquisition trades, I would bet heavily they are going to be on the pitching side of things. I think it’s no secret that that would be the areas of the team where we could (A) either use more depth, or (B) look for upgrades.”
Elias obviously didn’t address specific reports or players, but the Orioles have been linked to such pitchers as Michael Lorenzen and (before the Angels pulled him off the market entirely) Shohei Ohtani on the rumor mill, hinting that the team in looking for rotation help. The Orioles’ current starters are roughly around the middle of the pack in most statistical categories, with Kyle Bradish and Tyler Wells standing out as the best two starters in terms of pure results. Kyle Gibson and Dean Kremer have been more hit-and-miss, while Cole Irvin and highly-touted youngster Grayson Rodriguez haven’t delivered much in the way of results. Apart from one Keegan Akin start, the top six hurlers have taken the ball for every other Baltimore game this season, so this durability and reliability has been helpful.
Beyond the rotation, Elias also suggested that middle relief was a target area. The O’s have made one move in this regard by acquiring Shintaro Fujinami from the Athletics, with Elias saying that Fujinami can take over one of “a couple spots that were in flux.” The Orioles gave up minor league pitching prospect Easton Lucas in that deal, a relatively minor expenditure given Baltimore’s deep farm system.
It remains to be seen if the O’s are willing to go into the upper levels of its minor league ranks for further trades. On paper, the Orioles have enough top-tier prospects to get into the conversation about almost any trade asset, yet after years of rebuilding, “we can’t set the minor league system on fire just because we’re in first place,” Elias said.
“A big part of my job is worrying about the overall health of the team over the next several years. So, you just try to balance all those things….Ultimately we’re measured on the results of how all these things go over a several-year period and it’s really not easy to do or get it right, so we’re just trying to take all of that into account. But clearly, we’re going to want to stretch a little bit and try to help this really good 2023 team if we get within arm’s reach of something.”
While Elias didn’t close the door on the idea of trading any prospects, he also left open the possibility of moving big leaguers, even if that isn’t his first option. “We have no intent of subtracting from the 26-man roster….but it comes up in conversations and if that’s something that we need to consider to make the trade that we want to make, we’ll balance all that. I can’t rule it out,” the GM said.
In keeping with this overall “wide open” approach, Elias also said that the Orioles have some extra money to spend, as ownership has given the front office some ability “to make good baseball trades that could add to our payroll if we find them,” Elias said.
“I think the ball’s kind of in the court of the baseball ops department, which is great, and I think it’s a big testament to the management environment that we have here and how much trust this group’s gotten from partnership level, ownership level, John Angelos. But it’s up to us to kind of navigate this and we have to find a match with other teams, and they’re doing their things, too.”
Given Elias’ generally cautious approach, it is probably safe to assume that the Orioles won’t suddenly take on a huge contract at the deadline. For instance, their interest in a high-priced star like Ohtani might have been due diligence, or perhaps a singular pursuit given Ohtani’s uniquely elite skillset. Still, considering that the O’s were spending $148MM as recently as 2018, adding one notable salary at the deadline doesn’t seem out of the question, considering that Baltimore has less than $61MM on the books for the season. In theory, the Orioles’ potential ability to absorb salary might help them obtain a noteworthy player without giving up much of anything from the active roster or minor league ranks, though that naturally depends on how much financial “flexibility” Elias might truly have.