That will be put to the test next week, when the MLB Winter Meetings get underway on Monday in Nashville, Tennessee. The event is often the catalyst for teams’ offseason agendas, with a plethora of deals, trades and other business taking place over three days.
This time — coming off its first American League East title since 2014 — Baltimore is expected to be a buyer. The Orioles have young talent, led by Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson, with No. 1 prospect Jackson Holliday expected to join them next year. They have veterans in John Means, Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins. But they have holes to fill and weaknesses they need to fix to keep up with their tough division.
At the top of that list: a starter and a reliever.
The Texas Rangers swept the Orioles in the American League Division Series and went on to win the World Series in large part due to their starting pitching. Baltimore sent out its top available arms in the ALDS — Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez and Dean Kremer — but the three gave up a combined 13 runs in eight innings.
Baltimore doesn’t necessarily need a top-of-the-line starter. It does, however, need another pitcher to round out the rotation, especially if Tyler Wells and DL Hall remain in the bullpen. Both have stated that they would like to enter spring training as starters, but Wells required a midseason reset last year and Hall spent a significant portion of the season rebuilding his strength in Sarasota, Florida.
The Orioles do have Bradish, who finished fourth in CY Young voting after a breakout season, and Rodriguez, who, after a midseason stint in the minors, pitched to a 2.58 ERA in his last 13 regular-season starts.
Means, who returned at the end of the season from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery but missed the postseason with elbow soreness, is expected to be back as well.
The free agent market for starters has taken off. Aaron Nola returned to the Phillies for seven years and $172 million. Sonny Gray went to the Cardinals on a three-year, $75 million deal. Kyle Gibson, who spent last year with the Orioles, also joined St. Louis, signing a one-year deal for $12 million, a $2 million bump from last year’s salary.
There are still some stars not named Shohei Ohtani out there. Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery and Eduardo Rodriguez are on the market, and all would be a No. 1 or No. 2 starter for most teams. Trades are also always an option, and the Orioles have the farm system to deal from.
As for relievers, the Orioles will need a closer with Félix Bautista sidelined after Tommy John surgery. They could go internal, relying on Yennier Cano and seeking outside help to fill earlier innings, or leave Cano as the setup man and bring in a new closer.
Most of the free agents with closing experience are on the older side, with David Robertson and Craig Kimbrel both over 35. That could work out in the Orioles’ favor, because they need to fill the hole only for a year until Bautista returns. Josh Hader is also a free agent if the Orioles want a younger player with experience as a closer.