At the beginning of the 2023 season, the Orioles hoped to make the postseason, though few dreamed of a 101-win season. Five intriguing players who were on the Opening Day roster weren’t active for the Division Series loss to Texas but remain with the organization.
Let’s look at what happened to these five players and what their role in 2024 might be.
Baumann was the most notable exclusion from the 26-man postseason roster, especially when John Means’ left elbow soreness was disclosed three hours before Game 1 on October 7th.
Only three pitchers — Yennier Cano, Cionel Pérez and Danny Coulombe — appeared in more than Baumann’s 60 games, and his 10 wins were more than any reliever and trailed only three starters — Kyle Gibson, Dean Kremer and Kyle Bradish.
Baumann had a 3.48 earned-run average through the end of July but had a bad August with a 5.59 ERA, and was sent to Triple-A Norfolk after his ERA had risen to 3.82.
He pitched four times in September and ended the regular season with a 3.76 ERA and was sent back to Norfolk in late September and remained eligible for a postseason recall.
Instead, the Orioles chose Bryan Baker, who walked three batters and recorded just one out before Texas’ Mitch Garver hit a grand slam against Jacob Webb in Game 2.
Baumann traveled with the team in the Division Series, leaving many puzzled about why Baker was added to the roster instead of him.
His 2023 performance should earn Baumann a prominent role in the bullpen next season.
Irvin’s acquisition from the Oakland Athletics in January was thought to be a steal for the Orioles. They needed a left-handed starter, especially since Means wasn’t ready to begin the season after having Tommy John surgery.
Irvin was hastily optioned to Norfolk after his third straight rocky start on April 13th.
While he was able to reduce his ERA from 10.66 to 4.42 by the end of the season, Irvin was never certain of his role.
He ended up spending most of the season with the Orioles, but half of his 24 appearances came in relief. He only finished six innings in two of his starts, but when the team went to a six-man rotation to save innings for Bradish, Kremer and Grayson Rodriguez, he performed well.
Irvin was sent back down to Norfolk in mid-September but came back for the final day of the regular season.
As a long reliever, Irvin could have been helpful in the Division Series but, like Baumann, his inclusion wouldn’t have changed its outcome.
Irvin is arbitration eligible and his $1.8 million number should be acceptable to the Orioles, who could use him as a spot starter or long reliever again next season. However, he’ll be out of options and won’t be able to be easily dispatched to Norfolk.
McKenna was a clubhouse favorite who was squeezed out at times for Colton Cowser’s major league audition, Aaron Hicks’ activation from a back injury, Heston Kjerstad’s addition and Ryan Mountcastle’s activation from a shoulder injury.
Though he played in 88 games and was with the team nearly all season, McKenna wasn’t with the club to celebrate either its first playoff berth in seven years or its first American League East title in nine years.
He played just 15 games for Norfolk, and hit only .182 there, but when he was with the Orioles, he hit .254 and provided outfield versatility, speed and late-inning defensive insurance.
McKenna, like Baumann and Irvin, traveled with the Orioles for the postseason but wasn’t active.
He’s in a sticky spot for next season. He’ll be out of options and is eligible for arbitration. McKenna’s estimated salary of $740,000 shouldn’t be an issue, but part of his value was the ability to easily option him to Norfolk.
The Orioles could add young outfielder Hudson Haskin to the 40-man roster next month, and if they retain Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander as well as carrying Cowser, Kjerstad and Ryan O’Hearn, McKenna’s time with the team could be nearing an end.
McKenna should have a long and productive major league career as a reserve outfielder, but there may be too much competition for him to make the team in 2024.
The Orioles hoped that Stowers would build upon his 2022 introduction to the major leagues in 2023, but that didn’t happen.
Stowers hit .253 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 34 games last year and started 2023 with the Orioles.
He went just 2-for-30 (.067) and by mid-May, Stowers was back in Norfolk.
The left-handed hitter could have been recalled later that month when Mullins went on the injured list, but a right shoulder injury prevented it.
Stowers ended up hitting .245 at Norfolk with 17 home runs, 49 RBIs and an .875 OPS in 68 games, though he suffered a fractured nose later in the season.
With Cowser and Kjerstad in the team’s plans for next season, Stowers’ future with the Orioles may be cloudy.
A third-round pick in 2019, the Orioles won’t give up on him easily, though he could be among those players packaged in a deal for pitching in the offseason.
Vavra began the season with the Orioles and ended the season on the 60-day injured list with a right shoulder injury.
His versatility is useful. Vavra can play second, third and the corner outfield positions, but in 27 games, hit just .245 with no extra-base hits.
Vavra was optioned to Norfolk but played only 14 games with the Tides and two with Single-A Delmarva.
While Jordan Westburg established himself with the Orioles after Vavra was sent down and Jackson Holliday, Connor Norby and Joey Ortiz are all ahead of him in the pecking order, Vavra could still find a place as a utility infielder, particularly if there’s an injury or two and Jorge Mateo and Ramón Urías move on.
Notes: The Orioles claimed left-handed pitcher Tucker Davidson off waivers from Kansas City. Davidson is 3-10 with two saves and a 5.98 ERA in 55 games with Atlanta, the Los Angeles Angels and the Royals from 2020-2023. …The Orioles signed right-handed pitcher Nathan Webb to a two-year minor league contract. Webb, who’s 26, had Tommy John surgery in 2022. In six seasons in the Kansas City organization, Webb was 15-17 with a 6.11 ERA with six saves. He signed with Pittsburgh this season, but had Tommy John surgery during spring training.