Orioles GM Mike Elias spoke to reporters this afternoon in an end-of-season press conference on the heels of the club being swept out of the ALDS by the Rangers on Tuesday. As relayed by reporters (including Rich Dubroff of BaltimoreBaseball.com and Danielle Allentuck of The Baltimore Banner), Elias discussed an array of topics during the presser, including the club’s plans for the offseason and the upcoming 2024 campaign.
Following a 101-win campaign during which the club spent just $66MM on player payroll per RosterResource, Elias notably was noncommittal when asked whether or not the club planned to increase payroll this offseason. The Orioles GM simply noted that it’s still “day one” of Baltimore’s offseason, rather than providing a concrete answer about the club’s payroll expectations. Despite Elias demurring regarding the club’s 2024 payroll, he did note that the club has missed out on some preferred free agent and trade targets this year, and that “those pursuits will be on the menu again” this offseason.
Though Elias wouldn’t commit to increasing payroll next year, it’s worth noting that it would be difficult for the club to avoid increasing it’s payroll at least somewhat. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects the club’s sixteen arbitration-eligible players to command a combined $55MM in salary for the 2024 season. That would leave the Orioles just $11MM in salary to pay existing commitments to Felix Bautista and James McCann and round out the rest of the club’s roster, which will see both second baseman Adam Frazier and right-hander Kyle Gibson head back to free agency after signing one-year deals with the club this past offseason.
While Elias did not reveal the club’s contract situations regarding either himself or manager Brandon Hyde, he confirmed both of them would return to the club for the 2024 campaign in their current roles. Elias spoke glowingly of Hyde during the presser, saying that the 50-year-old skipper “had an unbelievable season” in 2023 and that he expects Hyde to follow up his runner-up finish in AL Manager of the Year voting last season with a win this year.
The Orioles also offered a handful of updates regarding their players during the presser. Left-hander John Means missed most of the 2023 campaign while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery before returning in September with a strong 2.66 ERA across four starts. Despite that performance, Means was left off the club’s ALDS roster due to elbow soreness, an ominous sign for an player coming off UCL surgery. Fortunately for both Means and the Orioles, the issue appears to have been very minor. Elias told reporters that Means is in “good shape” and should be fully ready for Spring Training come February. Means figures to factor into a 2024 rotation mix that also seems likely to feature Grayson Rodriguez, Kyle Bradish, and Dean Kremer.
One other potential entrant into the club’s 2024 rotation mix is left-hander DL Hall. A consensus top-100 prospect entering the season even after his uneven big league debut in 2022, Hall has been a starter for 81 of his 96 career appearances in the minors despite being used primarily out of the bullpen in the big leagues. He was impressive in 19 1/3 innings of relief this year at the big league level, with a 3.26 ERA and 3.00 FIP, though he made just one appearance that lasted longer than two innings.
While Hyde praised Hall’s work with the club during the regular season last month out of the bullpen, he also noted that the club hasn’t discussed what his role next year will be, though Hyde emphasized that Hall will play a significant part in the club’s plans for 2024 regardless of his role. If Hall doesn’t wind up stretched back out for a shot at a rotation job in Spring Training, he could be given the opportunity to work as a high-leverage relief arm aside Yennier Cano in the absence of Bautista, who acted as the club’s main closer this year before undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Perhaps most excitingly for Orioles fans, Elias did not push back against suggestions that top prospect Jackson Holliday could be in play for the big league roster next spring.
“I think when you are 19 and then you’re 20, that’s one year but that’s a lot of aging and physical development,” Elias said of Holiday, who turns 20 in December. “I can’t wait to see what he looks like in spring training.”
Holliday certainly made an impact during his first full professional season, slashing .323/.442/.499 with a 17.4% walk rate against a 20.3% strikeout rate in 581 trips to the plate across four levels of the minor leagues. That being said, Holliday’s experience at Triple-A didn’t go quite as smoothly as his overall numbers might suggest. In 91 plate appearances at the highest level of the minor leagues, the youngster slashed .267/.396/.400, though he did maintain his impressive walk (17.6%) and strikeout (18.9%) rates from the lower levels of the minors.
If Holliday manages to make the club’s Opening Day roster, Baltimore would be faced with a serious infield logjam. Both Holliday and Gunnar Henderson would presumably be in line for regular starts, and with first base likely dominated by some combination of Ryan Mountcastle and Ryan O’Hearn the club would have just one infield spot to dedicate to a group that includes Ramon Urias, Jordan Westburg, Joey Ortiz, Jorge Mateo, and Terrin Vavra, not to mention additional youngsters like Coby Mayo.