By now, your holiday shopping should be done. Because of the lockout, the Orioles and the rest of Major League Baseball have suspended 40-man-roster player transactions until there’s a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Let’s take a look at what should be on the Orioles’ 2022 shopping list once there is a new CBA.
Additional rotation candidates
Signing Jordan Lyles for a reported $7 million is a good start. It shows the Orioles are more realistic about what it takes to compete, even in the low-end free-agent market.
Lyles will have to take and pass a physical before the deal becomes official.
It’s also useful that Lyles is a right-hander. Of the current in-house candidates to start, John Means, Keegan Akin, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells and Bruce Zimmermann are left-handed. Only Mike Baumann and Dean Kremer are right-handed.
Of the Orioles’ top prospects, Grayson Rodriguez and Kyle Bradish are right-handed. DL Hall and Kevin Smith are left-handed.
Once the lockout ends, the scramble to sign players begins, and the Orioles might not be able to be patient. On the other hand, players might want to sign quickly to make sure they don’t get left out.
Get another catcher
We know that top prospect Adley Rutschman will spend at least the bulk of 2022 with the Orioles. Rutschman is going to need a backup, and there needs to be a qualified catcher at Triple-A, too.
The Orioles have signed Anthony Benboom and Jacob Nottingham, who have combined for 107 major league games, to minor league contracts. It would be good to add another catcher, either through the Rule 5 draft or another minor league signing.
Eventually, room must be made on the 40-man roster for at least two catchers, and Mike Elias probably has made a list and checked at least twice.
Draft a reliever
One of the first pieces of business once the Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached will be the Rule 5 draft, which was scheduled for December 8th. The Orioles have the first pick, and they could make two selections, as they have in each of the three years of Elias’ time as executive vice president/general manager.
A catcher and a reliever could be the picks, or the Orioles could choose two pitchers. Last year, they selected right-handers Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells, who became a late-inning reliever.
Get another third baseman
Kelvin Gutiérrez had a creditable end of the season, and he’s the Orioles’ starting third baseman at this point. Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg shouldn’t be far away, but the other infielders the Orioles have on the 40-man roster –Rylan Bannon, Jorge Mateo, Tyler Nevin, Rougned Odor, Terrin Vavra and Ramon Urías — don’t have extensive experience as major league third basemen.
Sign a veteran outfielder
The Orioles have Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander as the starting outfield, and Ryan McKenna and DJ Stewart in reserve.
But Hays, Santander and Stewart spent time on the injured list last season. Yusniel Diaz and Kyle Stowers won’t be beginning the season with the Orioles, and it might help if the team signed a veteran outfielder as insurance.
Extend Trey Mancini
The Orioles haven’t made any progress on an extension for Trey Mancini, who’s entering his free-agent season.
His accomplishments and determination to return after his 2020 colon cancer surgery and chemotherapy can serve as a useful example to a young team. Mancini also can serve as a mentor.
Trading Mancini isn’t in the team’s best interests — at the box office, on the field or behind the scenes.
An extension could provide some badly needed positive reinforcement for the fans, who are tired of waiting for the team to get better.
Get the CBA done
The Orioles are one of 30 major league teams, and they need a new Collective Bargaining Agreement more than most. Provisions that eliminate service time manipulation and incentives to lose need to be eliminated in a new contract.
Had there not been a lockout, the Orioles could be promoting Rutschman this offseason. Instead, baseball talk is hushed while fans worry if the Ravens can make the playoffs.
If there’s a new CBA by the end of January or the beginning of February, the February 15th opening of spring training in Sarasota, Florida shouldn’t be in doubt.
It could be fun to watch the Orioles and other teams scramble to assemble their teams and bid on remaining free agents. If spring training or the season is delayed, the sport will again be harmed, and fans’ attention will go elsewhere.