5 free agents we wish the Orioles could afford

Sweet dreams are made of this.
Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani
Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages
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One of the most remarkable things about the Baltimore Orioles' 101-win, unswept 2023 season is that they managed to do all of it as MLB's third lowest spenders this year, with a payroll of just a little over $71 million (and $15 million of that went to Chris Davis). The 2023 league average payroll was $165 million; the Orioles haven't even spent over $100 million since Manny Machado and Adam Jones were still on the team, and they are not expected to do so again anytime soon.

This is admirable in some ways; almost the entirety of Baltimore's young infield is homegrown, they still made themselves in one of baseball's most exciting franchises in 2023, and Gunnar Henderson was just unanimously named AL Rookie of the Year. In the other ways, though, it's incredibly frustrating, especially as we wade into the offseason with low expectations for the Orioles to be aggressive with the open free agent market.

Here are 5 free agents that the Orioles should open their wallets for, but won't

Smaller pickups are possible and could still be beneficial to the team next season, but there's little chance any of the names everyone knows will end up wearing an Orioles jersey next year. Here are five expensive free agents we wish the Orioles would go after, if they had the money.

Shohei Ohtani

The 2023 offseason's white whale, Shohei Ohtani, will be on every small market team's envy- and longing-based list the same way he'll be on every big market's team must-haves list. There's a lot of risk attached to whatever long, record-breaking contract Ohtani inevitably signs — even more so than there usually is with those kinds of contracts — given the UCL injury that will keep him off the mound in 2024. Of course, this isn't keeping any of the richest teams in baseball from circling and preparing to throw cash at him as soon as he looks their way.

Projections for the exact amount Ohtani will make with his next contract number vary greatly, but all are exorbitant — a fun ESPN feature calculated his true value at an astronomical $789.7 million over 12 years, without taking into account the injury which will hamper his 2024, while the Athletic landed on a much more conservative estimate of $477 million over 10 years. Either way, numbers like that easily exclude the Orioles as candidates for his next club.

It would undoubtedly be a lot of fun to watch Ohtani partake in the home run bong, or do the sprinkler from second, or spit water onto the field after a teammate's double, as well as hit 40+ home runs for Baltimore and take the mound for the home team at Oriole Park in 2025 — even if it won't happen. It's fun to dream.