What happened in those three games has been opined about plenty already. The Orioles were swept in their first postseason excursion since 2016, and just like that Baltimore’s best season in decades came to a sudden end.
The Orioles hit a buzz saw in the American League Division Series. That buzz saw was the Texas Rangers, who will host Game 1 of the World Series on Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks after they rolled through the postseason field for their first American League pennant since 2011.
All three franchises arrived in the playoffs from a similar place. Among the Orioles, Diamondbacks and Rangers, there were a combined 322 losses in 2021. The three bottom feeders endured their rebuilds and got to the heights of 2023 in different ways. Most notably, the Diamondbacks and Rangers either spent aggressively in free agency or sought trades to bolster their major league rosters.
That’s a distinct difference from how Baltimore built its American League East champion — with prudent drafting, a focus on player development and waiver wire wins.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons to be learned from how the Rangers built their roster, or how they clubbed their way to the World Series. And the Orioles can take a few things from Arizona, too.
It starts with understanding a team can never have too much pitching.
The Rangers made waves over the winter when they signed Jacob deGrom, only for him to start all of six games this year because of injury. But that wasn’t their only move.
Texas traded for right-hander Jake Odorizzi (only for him to miss the year after shoulder surgery), signed right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and left-hander Andrew Heaney and further added to the staff with midseason trades for left-hander Jordan Montgomery and right-hander Max Scherzer.
Texas has signed or traded for 12 pitchers at the major league level within the last two years — including all four starters who appeared during the American League Championship Series. Montgomery and Eovaldi in particular have been key to the Rangers’ playoff success.
Arizona didn’t work as frivolously, instead relying on pitching depth built via the draft or low-level free agency. But the Diamondbacks still splurged at the trade deadline to acquire a high-level reliever in Paul Sewald, and he earned the save in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Sewald was an already proven asset at the deadline, a closer with 21 saves with the Seattle Mariners in 2023 and 20 saves the year before.
Before the season, Baltimore supplemented its staff of homegrown pitchers and waiver claims with the acquisitions of right-hander Kyle Gibson, left-hander Cole Irvin and left-hander Danny Coulombe, among others.
At the deadline, the Orioles added two pitchers via trade — Shintaro Fujinami and Jack Flaherty — and neither move hit. Fujinami was left off the postseason roster; Flaherty fell out of the rotation and became a little-used reliever. Those deals were different than the one for Sewald. Fujinami was an unproven commodity, and Flaherty had an uneven body of work prior to the trade.
Arizona did make worthwhile additions in the offseason when it completed a deal for outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and catcher Gabriel Moreno from the Toronto Blue Jays. That swoop solidified two more spots of the lineup with one proven major leaguer and one breakthrough prospect. The Orioles haven’t made a deal of that nature, mostly because they believe in their own prospects.
There’s never a guarantee such trades or signings work — for Texas, it took a glut of additions for a handful to come through — but Baltimore’s underwhelming trade deadline didn’t help.
The Orioles won’t be in a position this offseason to add a franchise-level player like shortstop Corey Seager, as Texas did two years ago. And they likely don’t need to. But the Rangers accelerated their rebuild by signing Seager and second baseman Marcus Semien ahead of the 2022 campaign before they loaded up on pitching.
Seager, in particular, was a star in every way. Gunnar Henderson, with his strong showing in three postseason games, could be that next-level shortstop one day. But Seager has shown he’s at that level now with his 1.127 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in the playoffs. Adolis García, with his otherworldly power, took home the ALCS MVP honors after clubbing five homers in that series.
Second baseman Ketel Marte, acquired by the Diamondbacks via trade in 2016, developed into that star for Arizona, winning NLCS MVP with a .387 batting average, four doubles, a triple and three RBIs. He was rewarded with a lengthy contract extension in 2022.
This year, the Diamondbacks locked in Corbin Carroll, the presumptive NL Rookie of the Year, to his own hefty long-term contract.
That path, more so than the Rangers’, is one the Orioles could realistically follow. There’s risk in a long-term deal, but with transcendent young players such as Henderson and catcher Adley Rutschman, it could be worth it.
The Orioles are not likely to change how they go about roster construction. They’re in the bottom tier of spending and will likely remain there, even with a slew of arbitration-eligible players naturally driving up payroll.
Homegrown talents such as Carroll, Evan Carter and Josh Jung played large roles in the Rangers and Diamondbacks reaching the World Series, and the Orioles have a multitude of prospects who can do the same.
Still, the Rangers and Diamondbacks supplemented their rosters in two ways: trades and free agency. For those two clubs, it led to October’s biggest series.