Starting Pitchers: Corbin Burnes, Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, John Means, Dean Kremer (5)
With the Orioles' blockbuster acquisition of Milwaukee Brewers' ace Corbin Burnes on Thursday, the starting rotation appears set. You could probably skip the pencil and set these five in ink barring any injuries. Burnes was just what the doctor ordered, what Orioles fans and writers have been clamoring for all off-season. Just a few days ago, I listed Mike Elias making a key trade as one of the five keys to the Orioles' repeating as Division Champs. (Of course, my article stated my opinion that trade talks for Burnes never got off the ground. Mea Culpa.)
The acquisition of Burnes bumps Bradish, Rodriguez, Means, and Kremer down a slot, making the rotation that much stronger 2-5 as well. As one National League Executive aptly noted, the Burnes trade makes the Orioles rotation "scary." Burnes is arguably the Orioles' best starting pitcher since Mike Mussina, the third-best starter in the American League behind Gerrit Cole and Kevin Gausman, and likely cements Baltimore as having the strongest rotation in the AL East.
Not too shabby.
Relief Pitchers: Cole Irvin, Tyler Wells, Dillon Tate, Jacob Webb, Cionel Perez, Yennier Cano, Danny Coulombe, Craig Kimbrel (8)
With the acquisition of Corbin Burnes, Tyler Wells slots back into the bullpen, where he is arguably better suited. Wells started his Orioles career as a reliever in 2021, and even earned a few save opportunities, before trying his craft as a starter in 2022 and 2023. Wells was perfectly solid as a starting pitcher, but seemingly tired down the stretch. He triumphantly returned to the pen at the end of 2023 and was a key weapon out of the bullpen in the playoffs. I think he is where he belongs.
Wells is joined by bullpen stalwarts Yennier Cano, Danny Coulombe, and Cionel Perez, all locks to make the pen after strong showings last summer. Craig Kimbrel, signed away from Philadelphia, takes the closer role as Felix Bautista rehabs from Tommy John Surgery.
These five spots in the bullpen are all but set. I also think Dillon Tate's spot in the pen is relatively safe, barring health or a Spring Training implosion. Tate's return will be a huge boost to the Orioles' pen, as the right-hander pitched to a 3.05 ERA in 67 games for Baltimore in 2022.
Competing for the final two spots are Cole Irvin, Jacob Webb, Mike Baumann, Bryan Baker, Keegan Akin, Jonathan Heasley, Nick Vespi, and Bruce Zimmermann. Due in part to his strong finish last season and his track record, I expect Cole Irvin to make the team as a swingman and to potentially make a spot start or two should there be an injury to the five starters. Fellow lefties Akin and Zimmermann will give him all he can handle in Spring Training, however, and could catapult Irvin with a strong spring.
For me, the final spot was a toss-up between Baumann and Webb, with Bryan Baker's playoff struggles and Heasley's poor track record keeping them on the outside looking in. Baumann's overall numbers were very good: 10-1 with a 3.76 ERA and nearly one strikeout per inning. However, the Orioles' decision to tender a contract to Webb, along with the fact that he was a trusted arm out of the pen during the second half of the season, put Webb a hair above Baumann for the final spot in my Opening Day bullpen.
There you have it. My 26-man roster prediction as of February 3, 2024. With Mike Elias potentially adding more players to the roster, Spring Training a little over one week away and an entire slate of Grapefruit League games to be played, a lot can change before the Orioles run down the Orange Carpet before facing Mike Trout and the Angels on March 28. But as of now, I feel pretty confident saying these 26 men will head north with the Orioles from Sarasota, Florida with a shared goal of bringing a World Championship back to Baltimore.