Endure a few rough seasons, obtain high draft picks, trade well, invest in the international market, make smart trades, and maintain a low payroll until the team is ready to contend. The Orioles have done that, and done a great job of it, as shown by their surprise 83-79 record and contention for a playoff spot until the final days of the season.
The next part of the rebuild is to supplement that young core with established major league talent, which should be doable because--again--the payroll is low. In fact, the Orioles had the lowest payroll in the major leagues at the close of the 2022 season. Mike Elias seemingly recognized this critical part of the rebuild, famously uttering that it was "liftoff" from here for the team and stated on
that the Orioles' “ plan for this offseason has always been to significantly escalate the payroll,” as noted by Mark Polishuk of MLBTradeRumors.
But that hasnt happened.
The 2022 offseason was chock full of impact free agents, with a list including starting pitchers Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom, Carols Rodon, and shortstops
Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Dansby Swanson. Elias stated from the beginning that the team's goal was to add a 1, 2, or 3 starter--instead, the Orioles signed veteran Kyle Gibson, who posted an ERA north of 5.00 last year and was essentially removed from the Phillies' playoff rotation this past October.
And while the Orioles did not need a shortstop, any of Correa, Turner, Bogaerts, or Swanson would have provided a significant upgrade over incumbent Jorge Mateo (assuming Gunnar Henderson remains at third this year). Now, whether the Orioles should have signed any of those four in light of their inflated contracts is one thing--but it does not appear the team was even in the running for their services, which is disappointing, especially given the low payroll.
Instead, the Orioles signed second-baseman Adam Frazier to a one year, $8 million contract. I don't mind the Frazier signing in a vacuum, but for a team with seemingly limited resources (despite, again the low payroll), it was a bit of a head-scratching move. Frazier is a marginal upgrade, at best, over Rougned Odor. Not much of a liftoff.
The Baltimore Orioles offseason has left a lot to be desired.
To their credit, the Orioles have made strong moves around the fringes: Gibson represents a small, but noticable, upgrade over last year's "veteran innings eater" Jordan Lyles. James McCann, acquioed this week from the Mets for a player to be named later, is an upgrade at backup catcher over Robinsin Chirinos. The reunion with former Oriole Mychal Givens is nice, and Givens should provide a nice boost to an already loaded bullpen. But even with these upgrades, the team's payroll still sits towards the bottom of the league.
Frustratingly, the Orioles do not appear to have even tried to sign Verlander or Rodon, or cheaper but still adequate options such as Chris Bassitt or Kodai Senga. Any of these would have represented a significant upgrade to the current rotation, the area of the team that Mike Elias specifically mentioned needed more.
Am I jumping the gun a bit? Perhaps. The offseason is still young, the Orioles could still add talent via trades, and a decent option in free agency--Nathan Eovaldi--remains on the market. It remains possible that the Orioles could trade for another starting pitcher, such as Miami's Pablo Lopez or Milwaukee's Corbin Burnes, though the latter is far less likely.
Bottom line - the Orioles could have--and should have--upgraded the team by adding more talented, impact players, instead of improving on the fringes with marginal upgrades at back up catcher, second base, and the end of the rotation. They could also look to improve on their solid, but unspectacular options in left field (Austin Hays, .719 OPS), DH/1B (it is still unclear who will be sharing these at bats with Ryan Mountcastle), and even right field (Anthony Santander, solid but unspectacular .773 OPS).
The Orioles will be good next year, though some regression is possible from several relievers and starting pitchers. For the Orioles to transform from an 83-win team to a surefire playoff team, they needed to make more aggressive moves and add more impact players. To this point, they haven't, and the offseason has been disappointing and ...well, meh.