The 2022 season wasn’t expected to go as well as it did for the Baltimore Orioles. Excluding the shortened 2020 campaign, the Orioles were coming off three straight 100-loss seasons. The belief was that it would be another rebuilding year for the O’s, but it turned out to be the exact opposite.
Finishing the season with an 83-79 record was the first time an Orioles team finished with a .500 record or better in six years. They were in the hunt for a playoff spot deep into the season and finished just three games behind Tampa Bay for the final playoff spot in the American League.
The pitching staff finished with a 3.97 ERA. Breaking it down further, Baltimore’s starters threw 802.1 innings in 2022 with a 4.35 ERA, which was 21st in the big leagues. The bullpen, on the other hand, was much better. Orioles’ relievers pitched the 8th most innings across MLB, 617.0, and had the 9th-best ERA at 3.49.
The offense was not as good. The team scored 674 runs, or 4.16 runs per game. That was 20th in the big leagues. As a team, they hit .236/.305/.390 with a 97 OPS+ and were 16th in home runs with 171.
The holes are obvious with the Orioles’ roster. Starting pitching and offense are the needs this offseason. If they can make a splash, or two, in free agency, along with other moves to make the roster better, the Baltimore Orioles could be one of the better teams in the American League in 2023.
So far, here are the players who have become free agents from the Orioles:
- Robinson Chirinos, Rougned Odor, Jesus Aguilar, Brett Phillips, Denyi Reyes, Anthony Castro, Richie Martin, and Travis Lakins Sr.
The club also declined the $11 million option for 2023 in starting pitcher Jordan Lyles‘ contract.
The current roster is headlined by A.L. Rookie of the Year runner-up Adley Rutschman.
Rutschman finished the year with the highest bWAR on the Orioles’ roster, 5.2, and hit .254/.362/.445 with a 128 OPS+, 13 home runs, and 35 doubles. He was also very good behind the plate. He had 18 DRS, was in the 79th percentile in pop time to second base and 84th percentile in pitch framing.
Here are other important players returning for 2023:
|Player||Position||2022 Plate Appearances||2022 Slash Line|
The pitching staff is headlined by relievers Cionel Perez and Felix Bautista. Perez appeared in 66 games for the Orioles in 2022 and pitched 57.2 innings with a 1.40 ERA. Bautista appeared in 65 games, pitched 65.2 innings, struck out 88 batters, and had a 2.19 ERA.
Here is a current look at other notable Orioles pitchers heading into next season:
|Player||2022 IP||2022 K/BB||2022 ERA|
|SP Dean Kremer||125.1||87/34||3.23|
|SP Tyler Wells||103.2||76/28||4.25|
|SP Kyle Bradish||117.2||111/46||4.90|
|SP Austin Voth||83.0||72/25||3.04|
|RP Dillon Tate||73.2||60/16||3.05|
|RP Bryan Baker||69.2||76/26||3.49|
|RP Keegan Akin||81.2||77/20||3.20|
John Means could also provide innings out of the rotation next year. He missed most of 2022 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery, began a throwing program in October, and was activated from the 60-day injured list on November 10th.
Possible Offseason Moves
As previously mentioned, the Orioles’ top needs are starting pitching and offense. General Manager Mike Elias was recently at the General Manager Meetings in Las Vegas and spoke about potential moves the front office could make.
When speaking about the possibility of adding to the rotation, this is what Elias said:
“Our priority… is to bring in an established starter for one of the, let’s say, top three spots in the rotation… somebody who’s been there, done that, that you can clearly pencil in ahead of the group that we have now…”
The free-agent starting pitching market is top-heavy. The best starters currently available are Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, and Carlos Rodon.
deGrom and Verlander are likely going to get similar deals; short-term, but with a high average annual value. The template for both of them is going to be the contract that Max Scherzer signed with the New York Mets earlier this year, which was a 3-year, $130 million deal.
Rodon is probably going to get a longer contract than both deGrom and Verlander, but with a lower AAV. If Baltimore is going shopping for a legitimate ace to headline their rotation, one of those three pitchers could be at the top of their wish list.
Outside of those guys, there are some other notable options: Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea, Taijuan Walker, and Jameson Taillon.
Even though they declined his 2023 option, they could also bring back Jordan Lyles.
A trade is also a possibility since Baltimore’s farm system is one of the best in baseball. Ken Rosenthal recently wrote in an article that Corbin Burnes, Pablo Lopez, and Zach Plesac are expected to be discussed in possible trades this offseason.
How Baltimore feels about trading some of its prospects is unknown, but if the price is right, maybe they give up prospects instead of spending a large sum of money to upgrade the rotation.
Top prospect Grayson Rodriguez could be an option to start the season in the rotation. There are also other names, like DL Hall, who made his big league debut in 2022, that could see innings out of the rotation at some point next year.
When it comes to adding to the offense, Elias said this:
“We want to bring in one or two talented position players that’ll just boost the lineup.”
With Elias not specifically naming a position to upgrade, it seems like anything is on the table and they could be eyeing a large number of different players.
If Baltimore wants to upgrade the offense and make a big splash all in one move, Carlos Correa could be someone to target. He is the most well-rounded shortstop available, and while he is going to come with a high price tag, he would certainly be worth it.
Also, Correa was not eligible to receive the qualifying offer, so the Orioles would not have to forfeit any draft picks or international signing money to sign the shortstop.
Outside of Correa, here is a list of who could help the Orioles:
How much Baltimore spends is going to be interesting. Including projections for pre-arbitration and arbitration contracts, Baltimore’s estimated payroll next season is currently around $43 million. Going out and signing a top-of-the-rotation starter, along with possibly two offensive contributors, could cost $60 million or more towards next year’s payroll, and much more overall.
At his end-of-the-season press conference, Mike Elias said this about increasing the 2023 payroll:
“I do continue to view this as an offseason where we are going to have the flexibility to invest in the Major League payroll in a different way than I have done since I’ve been here”
The Orioles are going to spend money this winter. How much and on who remains to be seen.
Possible Opening Day Rotation and Lineup
There are going to be a lot of suitors for the top free agents this winter. I mentioned Carlos Correa, Carlos Rodon, Jacob deGrom, and Justin Verlander above. It would be amazing to see Baltimore go all-in this offseason and sign one, or maybe two, of those players.
Since there will be big market teams involved in the pursuit of those players, Baltimore may not be a heavy favorite to land one of them. It does seem they are ready to invest money into the big league roster, so here is a guess as to how the rotation and lineup could look come Opening Day when they play the Boston Red Sox, with newcomers bolded.
- Jameson Taillon
- Grayson Rodriguez
- Dean Kremer
- Tyler Wells
- Kyle Bradish
- Cedric Mullins, CF
- Adley Rutschman, C
- Anthony Santander, RF
- Josh Bell, DH
- Ryan Mountcastle, 1B
- Jean Segura, 2B
- Gunnar Henderson, 3B
- Austin Hays, LF
- Jorge Mateo, SS
As the Orioles look to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017, they could be a candidate to make a strong push for one of the top free agents available this winter. General Manager Mike Elias has been open about how the front office intends to approach this offseason and the possibilities seem endless.
Could they sign one of the top starting pitchers available or maybe make a trade for one? Are they a possible landing spot for Carlos Correa? How much are they willing to spend?
There will eventually be answers to those questions, but for now, we’ll have to wait. We do know one thing, though: the Orioles are going to do all they can to put a contender on the field in 2023.
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Featured Photo: Twitter / @Orioles