During their final series of the regular season against the Boston Red Sox, the Baltimore Orioles received some bad news. Star closer Félix Bautista will undergo Tommy John Surgery to repair his right UCL.
Given the timing of the procedure, Bautista is expected to miss the entire 2024 season as he works his way back. Bautista, who had been on the IL since August 26 after leaving a game against the Colorado Rockies injured, has now been shut down and any hope of a return in the postseason has gone down the drain.
Star reliever Félix Bautista to undergo Tommy John Surgery and likely miss all of 2024
Bautista had been throwing multiple bullpen sessions and had progressed to a simulated game. There was no further damage to the UCL during any throwing session, but the Orioles didn't feel comfortable trying to push Bautista into high leverage action in the playoffs with a partially torn UCL. Mike Elias said this prior to Saturday's game against the Red Sox:
"We just ran out of time for this to be a feasible and successful option for the postseason, and it’s not making sense. It became evident to us that this wasn’t going to get to where it needed to go in terms of his buildup and restoration of skill to go out and pitch in the playoffs for it to be worth losing more time."
At the same time, Elias announced that the Orioles have signed Bautista to a two-year guaranteed contract, allowing him to focus solely on recovery from the procedure rather than his contract status. He would have been arbitration eligible for the first time in 2025, but now has two years until his next contract negotiation has to take place.
Bautista is expected to undergo the procedure in either the first or second week of October, which will be done by Dr. Keith Meister in Dallas. He was a key part of Baltimore's incredible success, posting a 1.48 ERA, sub 1.00 WHIP, and picking up 33 saves in 61 innings and 56 appearances.
In the absence of Bautista, Yennier Cano, Shintaro Fujinami, Cionel Pérez, and Tyler Wells all have at least one save, while Danny Coulombe, DL Hall, and Jacob Webb have seen the ninth in non-save situations.
With Bautista sidelined for likely all of 2024, the Orioles could look to sign a closer in the offseason to a one-year deal to bridge the gap. Whether they sign a closer or not, they'll need to sign an impact reliever to compliment the current group. Entering 2024 with a set closer is imperative for the Orioles to build off what they've done this season.