In a week’s time, the Orioles’ offseason will officially be considered closed when the team returns home for its season opener and lights what’s likely to be a powder keg of anticipation for a club that’s expected to be among the league’s best.

Plenty will go into those high expectations — the returning talent from last year’s 101-win division champion, the potential for top prospect Jackson Holliday to make his debut on opening day and the anticipation for an upgrade in ownership with the pending purchase by a group led by David Rubenstein.

The quality of the club’s offseason additions is a factor, too. In acquiring front-line starting pitcher Corbin Burnes from the Milwaukee Brewers and signing closer Craig Kimbrel to fill the Félix Bautista-sized hole at the back of their bullpen, the Orioles this offseason did exactly what the club needed.

It feels almost beside the point to wonder whether their offseason moves were, ultimately, enough. The Burnes trade, which sent DL Hall and Joey Ortiz to the Brewers along with a draft pick, was the largest the team has made under Executive Vice President Mike Elias. Kimbrel was their highest-priced free agent.

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To say they still fell short of expectations feels overly cynical and doesn’t take into account just how this club has operated for the last five years. To say it’s enough feels dangerous, considering how precarious pitching can be.

Where I personally land is to say that, if offered in October an offseason in which the Orioles’ two headline moves are Burnes and Kimbrel with a handful of waiver claims and veteran depth pieces in camp who could eventually be part of the team, that would feel satisfying.

Consider the state of things back then, as the Orioles were still smarting from their sweep at the hands of the eventual world champion Texas Rangers. They didn’t really hit in the playoffs — a fact they’re quite cognizant of internally — but the pitching deficiencies were much more in focus. The rotation was dealt a blow before the playoffs began when John Means was left off the roster with elbow soreness.

Kyle Bradish pitched decently in Game 1, but Grayson Rodriguez and Dean Kremer were knocked around in subsequent starts. Without Bautista at the back of the bullpen, the underbelly of that group was exposed in the postseason as well. Jacob Webb allowed home runs in big spots in each of the first two games.

So, with their lineup mostly intact from 2023, the offseason focus was always going to be on the pitching staff. Kimbrel’s signing during the winter meetings fit their needs in a specific way. They weren’t going to need a long-term presence in the back of their bullpen such as Josh Hader, but Kimbrel’s track record and experience to fill their short-term need made him the right candidate for the role.

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Then, it got quiet. Top starting pitchers such as Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery remained on the market as various international free agents signed, and the Orioles’ prospect depth meant they were always mentioned as possible suitors for Burnes and Dylan Cease on the trade market.

In January, the team’s internal urgency seemed to increase as Bradish’s elbow started barking as he ramped up his preseason work. There were a few weeks when, at least publicly, the Burnes trade Elias executed on Feb. 2 put him atop the rotation alongside Bradish as opposed to in his stead.

That felt like a near-triumph. A rotation of Burnes, Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, Dean Kremer and John Means would be a formidable one. When Elias disclosed Bradish’s injury along with Means’ delayed start to spring due to his own elbow soreness, that put the rotation in a different perspective, bringing Tyler Wells and Cole Irvin back into the fold.

That’s where the questions start to arise. The Orioles likely spent the entire offseason knowing they’d be without Means to start the season, and they knew at some time in January that Bradish’s elbow was hurt. Their own internal planning occurred with that knowledge, and the Burnes addition came at some point after those two factors coalesced, even as Elias said they worked on the trade all winter long.

Craig Kimbrel, who has saved 417 games in the major leagues, joined the Orioles in free agency to fill the void left when Félix Bautista was injured. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

There’s still a chance the Orioles can add to the club in the next week if they feel compelled. Free agent prices seem to keep falling, and shorter-term deals may appeal to the club given its desire for long-term financial flexibility. They can also, theoretically, trade some of their minor league hitting talent that has shone throughout spring training for pitching help from other clubs, though I doubt anyone who meets the Orioles’ threshold for the high caliber of talent and club control required to move on from some of these prospects would be available at this stage.

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There’s also the potential that one of the lower-profile minor league depth additions or waiver claims makes a material impact on the 2024 season. The same way they spent the offseason before the 2023 season trying to accumulate flawed sluggers in hopes of unlocking something and ended up enjoying the fruits of that with Ryan O’Hearn, this year’s approach seemed to be to accumulate high-minors depth arms with weapons that the team believes in. I bet one pitches 45 really good innings for the team.

More likely, the offseason additions of Burnes and Kimbrel will remain the focus. We won’t know for a while whether that’s ultimately enough. It remains true that they were exactly what the club needed.

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