Orioles Offseason Primer: Free Agents, Payroll, Offseason Needs

Baltimore Orioles GM Mike Elias
Baltimore Orioles GM Mike Elias / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

It's tempting to refer to the Baltimore Orioles' blight of an appearance in the 2023 postseason as a fluke. Yes, the Orioles were swept by the fifth seed Texas Rangers in the ALDS, but they were also the second most winningest team in baseball during the regular season and avoided being swept throughout. The Orioles front office will be looking to figure out a lot of things this offseason, and the cause(s) of their fall in the postseason will be one of them. With healthily sized free agent and arbitration-eligible player lists this year, there's a lot of potential for a shake up going into 2024.

It's always interesting to speculate about the ways that low-spending teams like the Orioles will handle their money moves, especially when they have a core made up of proven winners who will be eager to retain their dominance over the American League next year. Here are the basics on the Orioles' outlook this offseason.

Orioles projected 2024 payroll

Estimated 2024 Payroll: $81,116,632
Estimated 2024 Luxury Tax Payroll: $96,683,334

The Orioles currently rank 30th on Spotrac's list of active team payrolls for 2024, below even the Oakland Athletics. It's almost inevitable that will change — Spotrac's list does not take into account the potential salaries of the many Orioles players who are eligible for arbitration this year — but it's also incredibly unlikely that the thrifty Orioles will get anywhere close to MLB's 2024 luxury tax ceiling of $237 million. This year, they only spent about $76 million, with $18 million of it (or 25%) going to two free agents they could let go of in Kyle Gibson and Adam Frazier.

Orioles free agents

Kyle Gibson
Adam Frazier
Jack Flaherty
Jorge Lopez
Shintaro Fujinami
Austin Voth
Anthony Bemboom
Aaron Hicks
Josh Lester
Jose Godoy

In order to free up money to offer the many Orioles players heading into arbitration, it's likely that many of these players won't be seen in a Baltimore uniform again. The loss of any one of these 10 wouldn't be too much of a blow to the team; Gibson and Frazier have done respectable work, but their salaries also take up such a large chunk of Baltimore's budget and the Orioles have younger talent on deck to replace them. It's possible that a few free agents might want to come to the table with the Orioles, but it's likely that higher paid, struggling arms like Jack Flaherty and Jorge Lopez won't be retained without a pay cut, which would probably just lead them to walk away anyway.

Orioles players eligible for arbitration

John Means
Austin Hays
Cedric Mullins
Ryan O'Hearn
Ryan Mountcastle
Daniel Coulombe
Cole Irvin
Ramon Urias
Jorge Mateo
Dillon Tate
Jacob Webb
Cionel Perez
Keegan Akin

With 13, the Orioles are tied with the Yankees for the most players eligible for arbitration this offseason, who they are likely to gun to keep. Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, and Cedric Mullins are just about everyday guys in Baltimore, whose projected earnings are up by at least $1.5 million. Daniel Coulombe and Cole Irvin have been especially solid in their relief outings. As two of the Orioles' most used lefties of the pen, Coulombe and Irvin should both expect a healthy increase in their salaries as well.

Orioles offseason needs

If Kyle Gibson leaves, which seems more likely than not, Baltimore will be in need of another starting pitcher to fill out their rotation. Kyle Bradish is a good candidate to be bumped up to ace, and reliever Irvin has operated in a starting role in the past, but the Orioles should try to find another arm who can match the level of experience Gibson will be taking with him when he leaves.

The Orioles should also look toward promoting their top talent either to make their MLB debuts or become more everyday players. Jackson Holliday, Baltimore's no. 1 prospect at only 19 years old, rocketed through the minor leagues between July and August. Numbers 2 and 3 behind him, Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad, have made their MLB debuts in the outfield and should look forward to more playing time as many Orioles outfielders will be approaching free agency soon.

Orioles players eligible for the Rule 5 draft of note

Hudson Haskin

Triple-A Norfolk Tides outfielder Hudson Haskins, at no. 17 on MLB Pipeline, is the only top 30 Orioles prospect who is eligible for the Rule 5 draft. The Rule 5 draft opens to players who have been in the minor leagues for 4-5 seasons and aren't on a MLB 40-man roster, allowing potentially stockpiled players to move around the league and have more opportunities to play.