SARASOTA, Fla. — Austin Hays wants to be an Oriole for life.

He knows, though, that general manager Mike Elias hasn’t signed a homegrown player to a multiyear extension since he took over in 2018. But Hays, who has two seasons until he is a free agent, believes that could be changing.

And he thinks he could be part of that movement.

“The organization is in a really good state,” Hays said. “We are starting to win a lot of games. We have a lot of guys that are in their mid-20′s, late-20′s, maybe not even in the prime of their career yet with their best baseball still to play. We’ll see what happens. I’m sure there’s a lot of guys in this locker room that feel the same I do.”

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Hays has been with the Orioles his entire career, and he’s hoping to keep it that way. He was drafted in 2016, the last successful year for the old regime. He debuted in 2017, then watched as the team traded off or didn’t re-sign its top players. He was in the organization for three 100-loss seasons, last year finally getting to the playoffs for the first time in his career.

“I’ve seen it turn around,” he said. “I think it’s going to be like this for a long time, as long as I’m going to play.”

Hays and his agent expressed their interest in an extension with the team during the offseason, although no formal talks have occurred. It was brought up again during the arbitration process — which did go to a hearing that Hays won, but he said there were no bad intentions from either side.

He now wants to be open with fans and the organization about his desire to stay in Baltimore.

“I love being here and I love everything that the organization and the city represent,” he said. “It’s the only place I’ve ever been, and I hope it’s the only place I ever play. I feel like I’m young enough and at a really good point in my career to be able to talk about it.”

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Hays said he does not want to have any contracts talks during the season so he can focus on the team.

The Orioles’ way of operating may be changing, and not just because of their success on the field. A controlling stake in the team was sold by John Angelos — who has a track record of not spending money on free agents — to billionaire David Rubenstein. The sale is not finalized yet, but it is moving rapidly and could be approved in the coming weeks. Hays said the news of new ownership did not prompt these conversations, as some of them had already taken place.

Hays, 28, will make $6.3 million this year. He had one of the strongest years of his career in 2023, making his first All-Star team and hitting .275 with 16 home runs while staying off the injured list for the entire season — something that evaded him earlier in his career.

Hays’ path to an extension might be tricky. The Orioles’ starting right and center fielders will also be free agents soon, with Anthony Santander hitting the market after this season and Cedric Mullins in two years, at the same time as Hays.

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The Orioles already have reinforcements on the way, and they come at a much lower cost than what Hays might get in an extension. Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad, last year’s No. 2 and No. 3 prospects according to MLB Pipeline, both debuted in 2023. Connor Norby, the No. 6 prospect, is a second baseman by trade, but he is learning the corner outfield spots and has Triple-A experience. Enrique Bradfield Jr., the Orioles’ top pick in the 2023 draft out of Vanderbilt, should rise through the minors quickly.

Hays knows this. He sees it every day, his locker just a few spots down from the next generation gunning for a spot on the roster. But he also knows the value he adds to this team, both now and in the future.

“I think I’ve been a big part in turning the organization around from where it was a few years ago to where we are now,” Hays said. “They know that I’d love to continue to be a part of it.”

Danielle Allentuck covers the Orioles for The Baltimore Banner. She previously reported on the Rockies for the Denver Gazette and general sports assignments for The New York Times as part of its fellowship program. A Maryland native, Danielle grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Ithaca College.

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