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Orioles offseason preview: Biggest needs, potential trade targets and more

Baltimore’s young core has proven that it’s ready to win. Now it’s time for ownership and this front office to hold up its end of the deal.

Adley Rutschman of the Baltimore Orioles looks on after striking out in the first inning during Game 3 of the Division Series between the Baltimore Orioles and the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on Tuesday, October 10, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. Photo by Ron Jenkins/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Really, you could sum up this entire preview with two words: It’s time. For years, Orioles owner John Angelos and GM Mike Elias have kept their offseason powder dry, focusing on tanking at the Major League level while stockpiling Minor League assets. Baseball’s version of The Process finally bore fruit in 2023, with 101 wins and the top seed in the AL playoffs. But after a humbling sweep at the hands of the Rangers in the ALDS, Baltimore enters the next phase of the Elias Era: contention. Now that it’s finally time to get aggressive, will Angelos have the stomach to spend big(ish)? Where might Elias direct whatever resources are made available? We’re here to break down a pivotal offseason for the O’s from every angle.

Orioles offseason preview

Season in review

Baltimore showed signs of knocking on the door in 2022, then kicked the door down in 2023. Top prospects like Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson blossomed into full-fledged stars, supplementing veterans Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle to form a deep and dangerous lineup, while a rotation full of question marks managed to overachieve drastically — and potentially unearth an ace in righty Kyle Bradish. The result? A 101-61 record and the team’s first AL East crown in nearly a decade. Baltimore’s dream season came crashing down to Earth in October, but with more young talent still in the pipeline, the arrow is still pointing way, way up.

Pending free agents

The Orioles have more players hitting free agency this winter than you might expect for such a young team, but few if any of them will be significant losses. Kyle Gibson was a solid innings eater in the regular season but doesn’t figure into the team’s long-term pitching plans, while deadline acquisition Jack Flaherty was largely a disaster during his brief stint in Baltimore. Adam Frazier’s loss will be mitigated by the veritable army of young infield prospects the team has coming up, while relievers like Mychal Givens, Shintaro Fujinami and Jorge Lopez figure to be easily replaced.

Biggest needs

Say it with me: Pitching, pitching and more pitching. The O’s are as deep in position-player talent as any team in baseball, so deep in fact that they likely don’t have enough Major League spots for all of their top prospects in the high Minors. Rutschman, Mountcastle, Henderson, Mullins, Santander and Austin Hays are all locked into starting spots, with young talent like Jordan Westburg, Heston Kjerstad, Colton Cowser and Joey Ortiz ready to compete for playing time — and No. 1 overall prospect Jackson Holliday lying in wait.

The rotation, meanwhile, needs some work. Bradish was one of the breakout stars of 2023, and Grayson Rodriguez ended the year on a tear (ALDS blowup notwithstanding). After that, though, there’s not much to feel great about, with John Means still rounding into form after Tommy John surgery and Dean Kremer not inspiring a ton of confidence. The O’s could really use a frontline starter to slide everyone down the hierarchy, plus another back-end type for depth.

Best free-agent fits

Luckliy, this is a better free-agent market for pitching than for hitting. Aaron Nola and Blake Snell are the two biggest names, and Baltimore should be in on both, as well as former O’s farmhand Eduardo Rodriguez and 25-year-old Japanese phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto. There are also several lower-tier arms to consider, from former Padres righties Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo to veterans Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Of course, it remains to be seen just how much Angelos is willing to spend on payroll — and if the answer is “not enough,” Baltimore might find itself dipping into that reservoir of young talent to try and swing a trade.

Potential trades

There are also some frontline starters who figure to be available via trade, namely Brewers righty Corbin Burnes and Rays righty Tyler Glasnow (plus White Sox ace Dylan Cease, should new lead exec Chris Getz decide to really take Chicago’s rebuild into overdrive). No one has more appealing trade assets than the O’s; it’s just a matter of who Elias is okay parting with, and who other teams value the most. Either way, it would be a shock if a consolidation trade for pitching didn’t happen at some point this winter.