The World Series is over, and the offseason is officially under way. Players who were in the final year of their contracts are now officially free agents but cannot sign with a new team until five days after the World Series ends.
The Baltimore Orioles just finished the fifth year of a five year rebuilding plan. They are ahead of schedule and won 101 games and the American League East but will obviously be looking to improve. They added several free agents last off-season, like Kyle Gibson and Adam Frazier, who made large contributions to the success of this year's team but were on one year contracts to give the O's time to bring along their prospects.
This year's off-season should be a little different. Many of the Birds big prospects have either made the transition to the majors or appear to be major league ready, as evidenced not only by the Orioles success, but the National Championship won by the Norfolk Tides. This year, the Orioles should be seeking players of an even higher caliber that can help them win in the playoffs and finally bring another World Series Championship to Baltimore.
For those Orioles fans dreaming of landing a front line starter like Blake Snell or even Shohei Ohtani (even though he won't pitch in 2024), keep dreaming. Pitchers like Jordan Montgomery and Aaron Nola will still probably be too high profile and command too large of a contract for the O's.
As much as I would love to see the Orioles go after players like that, the way Peter Angelos did in the 1990's, current owner John Angelos has made it abundantly clear that he will not hand out a mega contract, like the teams in the biggest markets can, to land these stars. That's not all his fault because Baltimore is not a big market, but now is the time to be aggressive.
That being said, they don't need to be too aggressive and overpay anyone. Kyle Bradish has shown the baseball world that he is an ace. John Means will be back to full strength and is an ace pitcher. Grayson Rodriguez gave us a glimpse of what made him the top pitching prospect and should be an ace soon. Those players will most likely be the top three starters in next season's rotation which is something every Oriole fan should be happy about.
Other pitchers like Dean Kremer, Tyler Wells, Cole Irvin and possibly DL Hall will battle for the last two spots in the starting rotation, and if the O's don't add anyone, I'd still be very happy to have that rotation. Let's take a look at some of the free agents the Birds could target.
What pitchers could the Orioles target in free agency?
Rodriguez is a big time pitcher that had a great season. He had a career low 3.30 ERA and managed to get 13 wins on a poor Detroit Tigers team. His K/9 were down a bit from his career average but what he gave up in strikeouts he gained in command. Rodriguez also set career lows in WHIP, H/9, HR/9 and BB/9.
He has had a very good career and has postseason experience, even winning the World Series with the 2018 Boston Red Sox. Rodriguez is a left handed pitcher so he would probably enjoy pitching in Camden Yards, and he has ties to Baltimore as they were the first team he signed with as an international free agent back in 2010. It would be great to see him come back to the club that gave him is first opportunity, but he could be a bit out of the Orioles price range.
Another big left hander to keep an eye on is James Paxton. Paxton has had some injury troubles in the past few years. He missed all of the 2022 season after having Tommy John surgery, and he missed about two months this season with right leg injuries. Before that he had some very good seasons with the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees.
Coming off of his injuries, Paxton could be willing to accept a 2-3 year contract with a lower salary. He's already very familiar with the AL East having pitched three of his last four seasons for the Yankees and Red Sox, and if he can get healthy and return to form, he could be a steal for the Orioles.
Here is one name that you may or may not be familiar with. Imanaga has pitched for the Yokohama DeNa BayStars in the Japanese Central League for the last eight seasons. In that time, he has a spectacular 2.96 ERA and is averaging double digit K/9 his last two seasons. Imanaga is also left handed and features a mid 90's fastball with a disappearing splitter that we got a chance to see when he started the gold medal game of the WBC against the U.S.A.
Imanaga is expected to be posted by his team in Japan and could be the next great pitcher in what has become a long line of talented arms coming out of Japan. There is expected to be a lot of competition to sign Imanaga which could drive his price too high.
Another former Tiger the Orioles could target is Michael Lorenzen. A former two way player of sorts, Lorenzen has now settled in as a full time starting pitcher and seemed to have found his groove. After pitching to a 3.58 ERA in 18 starts in Detroit, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies at the trade deadline and threw a no-hitter in his first start for his new team.
His success dropped off after that but that could be attributed to throwing a lot more innings than any other year in his career. Lorenzen will have the entire off-season to train as a starting pitcher and should enter next season more equipped to handle those innings.
I know what you're thinking. When Severino came back from another injury this season he was bad. He gave up 66 runs in just 19 appearances, but hear me out. There was clearly something still off with Severino, and the Orioles pitching staff has a great track record with helping pitchers figure things out.
Severino has been a dominant pitcher when he's healthy and is just one year removed from having a 3.18 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 19 appearances in 2022. This season should not define Severino's career and as it stands now, looks like an outlier possibly related to recent injuries.
He may only be looking for a one year "prove it" contract to show teams he can still be the pitcher he used to be, and I'd be happy for the Orioles to give him that shot. As previously stated, they have plenty of talent competing for the starting rotation if it doesn't work out, but if it does, they could have another top tier pitcher.
Mike Elias and company have put on a master class in building this franchise. These pitchers may not be the top pitchers the Orioles are looking at in this year's free agent class, but they do seem to fit their style. These pitchers could help the rotation and could potentially be gotten for a price the Birds are comfortable with.