At his first spring training in charge of the Orioles back in February 2019, the messaging from executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias was one of hope and opportunity for a process that one day might lead the team to where it is now.

It’s safe to say things might sound a bit different on Thursday, as the 101-win Orioles from a year ago reconvene with Corbin Burnes topping their rotation, top prospect Jackson Holliday fighting for a spot, and a talent base built through those lean rebuilding years now considered one of the deepest in all of baseball.

That Burnes trade was a statement of intent on how the Orioles will approach 2024, and demonstrated Elias’ conviction that they plan to allocate more resources to the present than ever before. The publicly available forecasts show the Orioles to be a team with a pretty high floor, and that should be encouraging entering spring training. When a team wins as many games as the 2023 Orioles did and makes improvements, expectations are about as high as they can be.

When that happens, there’s a lot of room for disappointment, and that’s where this Orioles team and, honestly, those who follow them, will have the opportunity to distinguish themselves this year. Last year’s group did an admirable job with the relatively limited setbacks they experienced — Felix Bautista’s season-ending elbow injury, John Means’ delayed return from his own elbow surgery, a pair of injured-list stints for Cedric Mullins.

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Their test as they seek to repeat as division champions will require at least that level of resilience and, more to the point, depth. There are over eight months between next week’s full-squad report date in Sarasota and the World Series. The Orioles have more star power than they’ve had in years at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, both on the roster and off it, but it will take the entirety of that group to get them there.

That, above all else, is what will carry this team this season. They have it pretty much everywhere in the organization. Tyler Wells or Cole Irvin would make most clubs’ rotations without question. If either one is left out of the initial five-man group, it will be because the Orioles have a surplus of arms and have picked a group they feel meets their immediate requirements.

The choice of whether or not to put Holliday on the Opening Day roster seems, at this point, to be one that would be made at the expense of Jorge Mateo or Ramon Urias — both valuable contributors as the Orioles have turned around their fortunes the last two years. Two recent top-five picks in Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser may be challenged to find roles on the team, given the club’s outfield depth — an experience Kyle Stowers already went through, though he, too, remains a solid depth piece at the corners.

There are quite simply a lot of ways for the Orioles to overcome obstacles that the crucible of a major league season will put in front of them. The only hope at this point is that there aren’t too many of them.

If anything, that’s what probably keeps a broadly level-headed leadership group on the baseball side up at night. They are presumably thrilled with the baseline that projections for the team have set this year, demonstrating the success of their long-term plan to stockpile elite talent and rely on homegrown players to build a contender. They probably are walking a little taller for having executed the Burnes trade and added that kind of experience to this club, to say nothing of the Craig Kimbrel signing to help cover for Bautista’s absence.

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But they also know, as Elias said in his season-end remarks, that “a lot is going to happen” over the course of this 162-game season and the six weeks that precede it. Not all of it will be good, though some of it will exceedingly so: Burnes taking the mound on Opening Day at Camden Yards and Holliday’s much-anticipated debut, to name a few.

For those moments that feel like nails in the Orioles’ proverbial tires, it will be the depth that patches them. And as camp approaches this week, the magnitude and quality of that depth will be on display.

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