The Orioles ownership change could be made official in the coming weeks. Evan Drellich of the Athletic wrote yesterday that MLB is likely to formally approve the sale of the O’s to David Rubenstein by April. According to Drellich, there’s a small chance the deal could be completed before Opening Day.
Rubenstein agreed to purchase the franchise from the Angelos family in late January for $1.725 billion. He’ll assume control of 40% of the organization initially and will reportedly take on the majority stake upon the passing of Peter Angelos. The agreement still needs to be approved by MLB owners but that’s largely a formality.
Receiving that rubber stamp still marks a key moment for the franchise. The fanbase is hopeful that Rubenstein will authorize the kind of long-term investment from which the organization has shied away since John Angelos became control person. The O’s finally made their long-awaited consolidation trade for an ace to install Corbin Burnes at the front of the rotation. They haven’t pulled off an analogous strike on the free agent or extension fronts. Félix Bautista’s $1MM salary and a handful of option buyouts are the only contractual commitments beyond this year.
Burnes headlines their group of players who’ll hit free agency after the upcoming season. The former Cy Young winner has spoken about his desire to get to the open market. Anthony Santander is perhaps the second-most impactful of Baltimore’s possible free agents. He has spent his entire MLB career with the O’s after being selected in the 2016 Rule 5 draft. The switch-hitting outfielder indicated he’d be happy to stay off the market.
“I would love that,” Santander replied when asked about an extension (link via Matt Weyrich of the Baltimore Sun). “That’s something that we always talk about outside of this room with my family and friends. I would love to stay here. We leave that business side to the front office. We’re just here to live in the moment right now, prepare ourselves.”
While Santander projects as one of the more effective hitters in the upcoming class, it’s possible the O’s don’t feel much urgency in extending him. Baltimore’s stockpile of young talent extends to the outfield. In addition to established starters Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays (both of whom are under control through 2025), the O’s have Heston Kjerstad, Colton Cowser and Kyle Stowers as controllable outfielders who have reached the majors. They could count on someone from that group stepping into a regular role for ’25 and beyond.
Baltimore would be able to make Santander a qualifying offer in the absence of a long-term deal. It seems unlikely they’d want to offer a one-year salary that’d exceed $20MM, but Santander could play his way into legitimate QO consideration if he turns in another season like his 2023 campaign. He’s coming off an impressive .257/.325/.472 showing with 28 homers.
The O’s can delay that decision until next winter. Their more immediate focus is on defending last year’s AL East crown. Getting Dillon Tate back into high-leverage innings would be a nice boost towards those efforts. The former #4 overall pick turned in a 3.05 ERA over a career-high 73 2/3 frames back in 2022. He missed all of last season nursing a flexor strain but avoided surgery and is back in the bullpen mix this spring. Tate threw a perfect inning with a strikeout of Ryan Kreidler in today’s exhibition game against Detroit, his first game action of the year.