BALTIMORE—Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias declined to answer a question about the club’s payroll for 2024 and if he expects it to rise next year.
Asked specifically during Thursday’s news conference about Rangers pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, who was signed to a two-year, $34 million contract with a third year that vests if he pitches 300 innings in 2023 and 2024, Elias said he could make a similar deal.
“There are players and trade targets that we have pursued in the last 12 months that we didn’t get them and were in the ranges that you’re alluding to,” Elias said. “Those pursuits will be on the menu again.”
Elias said that the absence of left-handed starter John Means during the Division Series was critical. Means’ sore left elbow forced the Orioles to leave him off the roster.
“I think we missed him,” Elias said. “I think there’s a good chance, whether he started one of those games in Texas or didn’t, that he was going to pitch a lot and pitch importantly. Obviously, that has some trickle-down effect on decisions on the rest of the staff. We missed him. He’s one of our best pitchers. The guy came out of nowhere and saved our division title in Cleveland. I’ll never forget that.”
Means could be one of the starters next season, and Elias said it’s too early to answer specific roster questions. The Orioles could have Means, Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, Grayson Rodriguez and Tyler Wells in the rotation, but may want a top-of-the-rotation ace.
“All that stuff is swirling through my mind,” Elias said. “I’ve got to really sit down and look at things and look at the market. You can’t force stuff and sometimes the market is the market and you need to know what’s there before you start picking and choosing your goals.”
Manager Brandon Hyde said that Bradish and Rodriguez have a chance to be a No. 1 starter.
“When you talk about No. 1 starters, there’s a handful in this league,” Hyde said. “True No. 1’s, and it’s hard to be a true No. 1. Does [Bradish] have the ability to? Absolutely. Does Grayson have the ability to? Absolutely. They’re a ways away. A true No. 1 is a guy that is going to stop any sort of losing streak, a guy that’s going to go dominate a team in postseason, those type of guys, and those are hard to find. Those two guys have the stuff and the ability to be that type of guy.”
Repeating the division title won’t be easy, Elias cautions.
“We’ve got five organizations here that know what the hell they’re doing, that are some really big cities. One of them is a country,” he said. “We’re all going for it. I don’t think there’s another division in baseball where there are five teams at the beginning of the year and said, We’re all going for the playoffs.’
“We beat each other up all year. It was a couple of historic ways where we could say we were the strongest division in baseball history. We ate some humble pie in the playoffs [the Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays were 0-7], and maybe we’ll tone down the rhetoric a little this winter about our division. We all know in our division what it’s like, and I think we all have a shared respect for the experience that we all have in the American League East, and that’s going to be the case next year.”
Jackson Holliday, the top prospect in the minor leagues, who began the season at Single-A Delmarva and finished at Triple-A Norfolk, will again return to major league spring training. This time, the 19-year-old shortstop will compete for a spot on the Orioles.
“He hasn’t had a full season anywhere because he moved so fast,” Elias said. “He hasn’t been in Triple-A terribly long, but he’s done pretty well. I think when you’re 19 and [then] you’re 20, that’s a lot of aging and physical development. I can’t wait to see what he looks like in spring training. I look forward to having him, and he’s going to have a chance to make the team.”
The Orioles have a number of young players who played briefly for the team — outfielders Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad and infielder Joey Ortiz, and another, infielder/outfielder, Connor Norby, who hasn’t. They have nothing to prove in Triple-A and need the opportunity to play.
“It’s all I think about every day of my life,” Elias said. “I’m not wanting to talk about it. I want to reflect on 2023, promise everybody and the fans that we’re keeping our foot on the gas pedal for keeping Baltimore baseball great and having an even better season next year, especially in the postseason to whatever degree we can control that.
“We have an amazing farm system and there’s a lot of ways that that benefits you. That’s a good thing, and we’re going to do our jobs this winter.”
Elias wants fans to remember the 101-win season that no one saw coming.
“This group of players, regardless of where else they go in their careers, in their lives, I hope that the city of Baltimore remembers this group for kind of reminding the world, ‘This is Baltimore, and we do baseball here.’ My goal going forward as long as I’m responsible for keeping that being the case, and it’s the guys in that room that really made it happen.”
Call for questions: Next week, I’ll be answering offseason Orioles questions. Please email yours to: [email protected].