It’s time for our monthly mailbag. We’ve received a large number of excellent questions. We’ll have more questions on Friday. Questions may be edited for length, clarity and grammar.
Question: Do you think free agents will find Baltimore more attractive as a destination this winter given the Orioles’ strong 2023 season and the team’s prospects for the future? From: John W. in Crofton via email
Answer: John, I think that free agents will find Baltimore to be a more attractive place because of their vast improvement, and pitchers who may have been frightened away because the park was hitter-friendly could now be enticed by the more pitcher-friendly dimensions.
Question: How can the Orioles compete against the payrolls of teams like the world champion Texas Rangers, who had a much larger payroll than they did? From: Timothy Fowler via email
Answer: Timothy, the Orioles did very well competing against the New York Yankees, who had an even higher payroll than Texas. It’s not how much money you spend, but how you spend it. No, the Orioles aren’t going to be one of the highest-spending teams in baseball, but they’ll have to spend wisely.
Question: Even on short-term contracts, do you think the Orioles will ever spend some real money? I know they paid Kyle Gibson $10 million for one season, but it seems like a front-line difference-maker will cost quite a bit more.
It seems the same is true for position players as I expect the Orioles will let a guy like Anthony Santander go elsewhere when it is time to pay the piper. From: John Miller via email
Answer: John, I think the Orioles will increase their payroll in 2024 as they did in 2023, but I don’t expect them to be one of the top 10 spending teams in baseball.
The Orioles have many outfield prospects, and while Anthony Santander is an excellent player, and a favorite of mine, I wouldn’t expect them to sign him to a long-term extension.
Question: What rights do the young O’s have to get paid for their extraordinary performance in 2023? The MLB pay schedule is unjust, at best. Can a player opt to sit out a season or two to earn or obtain free agency? So, what keeps Gunnar Henderson, Adley Rutschman, Yennier Cano from sitting out next year because they are not being paid fairly? From: Fred Miller via email
Answer: Fred, sitting out a season would be counterproductive for a young player. If they refused to play, they wouldn’t gain any service time and would delay their eventual free agency by a year. The scale is tilted in management’s favor until a player reaches arbitration eligibility, and then players gain leverage during the three years of arbitration until they reach free agency after six years of big league service.
Question: What do you think of a reunion with Zack Britton and a one-year contract with David Robertson to bolster the bullpen? From: Paul Sullivan via email
Answer: Paul, Zack Britton didn’t pitch this season and while he was one of my favorites, personally and professionally, I’m not sure he’s a great match for the Orioles. Many of their potential relievers are left-handed. I mentioned Robertson as a possible option recently. He seems to be the kind of reliever they might be interested in.
Question: What are the chances of signing both Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman to long-term deals? And Jackson Holliday will be in this conversation by mid-2024. Will they be playing for the Baltimore Orioles or the Nashville Orioles? From: @MrRattler67
Answer: Timothy, you’ve hit on the two most popular questions in one tweet. @krohrermd and PC in OC also asked about the lease.
Gunnar Henderson is represented by Scott Boras, who generally advises players not to sign early extensions. I think it would be great to have the Orioles lock up Henderson and Rutschman for the long term, but general manager Mike Elias repeated at last month’s press briefing that he doesn’t discuss contract negotiations publicly.
I’m skeptical that you’ll see extensions for either this offseason, but I’m willing to be happily surprised.
If a long-term lease isn’t signed by the end of the year, the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority will extend their current lease to have more time to negotiate. The team isn’t going anywhere.
Question: Did the Orioles tick off someone in the MLB scheduling office? We thought the 17-game stretch in September at the end of the year was tough, but have you seen the ’24 schedule in late May into June? The guys play 13 games, offday, 17 games, offday, then another 13 games. I perused a few schedules and didn’t see another team with a comparable patch like that. From: Cynthia Hurley via email
Answer: Cynthia, that is a most interesting question. I hadn’t noticed until you brought it up. The Orioles have just one day off in June, which is brutal. Last season, they had six, but in September 2024, they’ll have four offdays instead of two.
Every team plays every other team each year, and while the Braves and Rays have been excellent teams for several years, there’s no telling how strong they’ll be in 2024. The schedule often seems to make little sense, and I don’t think any team is thrilled with it.
Question: Why do the Orioles always get pitchers with 6-plus ERAs from other teams and expect good results? From: John Mark Hale via Facebook
Answer: John, sometimes the Orioles have been able to get good results with pitchers who didn’t perform well elsewhere. Take Cionel Pérez, who had a 6.38 ERA with Cincinnati in 2021, the season before the Orioles claimed him. In his first season with the Orioles, he had a 1.40 ERA and last year had a 3.54 ERA.
Question: Here’s two things I never thought I’d see in conversation: Kevin Gausman and Cy Young Award. Where did the O’s go wrong? From: DJM via email
Answer: Gausman, who’s on his fourth team since the Orioles traded him to Atlanta in 2018, finished third in the voting for the American League Cy Young Award.
The Braves waived Gausman in August 2019, and he went to Cincinnati. It wasn’t until he signed with San Francisco in 2021 that he began having sustained success, and that’s continued with Toronto for the last two seasons. Sometimes it takes multiple years and multiple teams for a pitcher to blossom, and that’s been the case for Gausman.
Question: What is the Rule 5 draft, and how does it work? Who are the Rule 5 players on the Orioles’ roster? From: Frank Friedman via email
Answer: Frank, players who were signed at 18 or under and have five seasons of professional experience and players signed at 19 and over who have four seasons of pro experience and aren’t on a team’s 40-man roster are eligible to be drafted. This year’s draft is on December 6th.
Teams draft in reverse order of their standings.
Anthony Santander and Tyler Wells were both selected by the Orioles in Rule 5 drafts.
Question: Could the current Oriole ownership be heading to Nashville with an expansion team while selling the Orioles to a Ripken ownership group? This could be the reason for the state of Maryland and the O’s not agreeing on a Camden Yards lease as of today. From: John Breymaier via email
Answer: John, that’s a unique connect-the-dots type of question. John Flato wanted to know if the current success of the Orioles makes them more valuable for a sale. @Getz3R also wondered about a sale.
John Angelos has said that he doesn’t have plans to sell the team. I think eventually there will be an expansion team in Nashville, but it won’t be anytime soon.
The holdup on the lease seems to be not on the ballpark but the details on the Orioles’ rights to develop what used to be the Maryland Sports Legends Museum and the Warehouse for commercial use. I continue to be optimistic that the lease will be signed relatively soon.
Question: If you could put a percentage on the Orioles getting pitching via free agency, what does that look like? What are the odds they go in on Trevor Bauer? From: Joe Francis via email
Answer: Joe, it’s highly likely the Orioles will sign free agent pitchers, and I can’t imagine one of them will be Trevor Bauer.
Question: Can our pitching coaches fix Shintaro Fujinami? From: Barry Culman via email
Answer: Barry, as of now, we don’t know who the Orioles’ pitching coaches will be in 2024, and Fujinami is a free agent. I think he’s eager for a starting opportunity, and that won’t be with the Orioles.
Note: Kyle Bradish finished fourth in the voting for the Cy Young Award. The Orioles’ right-hander received six third-place votes, eight fourth-place and five fifth-place. Félix Bautista, who had Tommy John surgery last month, received three fifth-place votes.