The Orioles were one of the younger teams in the major leagues in 2023. Their position players averaged 27.3 years, tied for seventh youngest in the game while their pitchers were an average of 28.4 years, 11th youngest in baseball.
As the Orioles contemplate their strategy to fill out the roster, it’s not a certainty that they’ll get younger in 2024.
The Orioles ended the season with nine players over 30, and three of the five oldest — starting pitcher Kyle Gibson (36 years), outfielder Aaron Hicks (34) and infielder Adam Frazier (31 years, 10 months) — are free agents and unlikely to return.
Other likely free agents are right-handers Jack Flaherty (28) and Shintaro Fujinami, who’s 29 years, six months. Fujinami was not on the roster for the American League Division Series.
Two of the other older players — left-handed reliever Danny Coulombe, who turned 34 on Thursday, and catcher James McCann (33 years, four months) — are expected to return.
Coulombe is eligible for arbitration and McCann is under contract for 2024 with the majority of his salary paid by the New York Mets, who traded him to the Orioles last December. McCann is being paid $12,150,000, with the Mets responsible for $9.5 million.
The Orioles are in a sweet spot when it comes to roster decisions. While several of the 16 players eligible for arbitration aren’t likely to be with the team next season, the Orioles don’t have many top prospects who have to be added to the 40-man roster.
Of the Orioles’ top 30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline, only outfielder Hudson Haskin (17th) needs to be protected from December’s Rule 5 draft.
Other notable prospects who aren’t on the Top 30 include catcher Maverick Handley, outfielder Shayne Fontana, infielder Anthony Servideo and pitchers Connor Gillaspie, Jean Pinto, Houston Roth, Garrett Stallings and Ryan Watson, who was the organization’s top minor league pitcher in 2022.
The deadline to add players to the 40-man roster from inside the organization in November 15th.
A more pressing concern for next season is the increasing number of relievers who are without options. Among those who will fall into that category are Coulombe and fellow left-handers Tucker Davidson, claimed on Wednesday off waivers from Kansas City, Cionel Pérez and right-handers Mike Baumann and Jacob Webb.
Left-handed swingman Cole Irvin, whose final option enabled the Orioles to send him to Triple-A Norfolk, is also out of options.
Once the free agents are removed from the 40-man roster the day after the World Series ends, there will be plenty of room for the Orioles to add prospects and reinstate from the 60-day injured list left-hander Keegan Akin, who didn’t pitch after June 28th because of a back injury, right-hander Dillon Tate, who didn’t pitch at all this season because of an elbow injury, and infielder Terrin Vavra, who was out with a shoulder injury.
Akin and Tate are among those eligible for arbitration.
Contracts for arbitration-eligible players must be tendered by November 17th.
Changes in front office: Matt Blood will replace Brad Ciolek as the head of scouting. Blood, who joined the Orioles in 2019 as the director of player development, will be vice president player development and domestic scouting.
According to an industry source, Anthony Villa, who had been the team’s minor league hitting coordinator, will replace Blood as director of player development.
News of Villa’s promotion was first reported by MASNSports.com
Ciolek left the Orioles earlier this month for the Washington Nationals, where he’ll be their senior director of amateur scouting.
Among other promotions were Koby Perez, who was senior director of international scouting to vice president of international scouting and operations.
Mike Snyder, who was director of pro scouting, is now the senior director of pro scouting.
The other promotions were Gerardo Cabrera, from Latin American supervisor to director of Latin American scouting; Kevin Carter, from senior pro scouting analysts to manager of pro scouting; Hendrik Herz, from senior scouting analyst to manager of domestic scouting; Chad Tatum, from senior senior scouting analyst to manager of domestic scouting; Will Robertson, from senior pro scouting analyst to special assignment scout; and Alex Tarandeck, from scouting analyst to senior scouting analyst.
Michael Weis is the senior data scientist of draft evaluation, and longtime employee Maria Arellano is senior manager of international operations and baseball administration.