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It’s time for Part 2 of our monthly mailbag, the final one of 2024. Thanks to everyone for excellent questions, some of which have been edited for clarity, length and grammar.
Question: Why are we signing no one? From: Kelly Jones Adams via Facebook
Answer: Kelly, the Orioles did sign a new closer, Craig Kimbrel, on December 6th. As for the free-agent market, it’s extremely slow this year, and the Orioles are far from the only team that hasn’t signed players. I expect there to be more activity next week. After the break for the holidays, the first two weeks in January should be busy.
Question: I’m not convinced Kimbrel can hold down the fort next season. I also believe Yennier Cano will regress as the league had him figured out in the second half last season. I’d like to see a two-man tandem of Tyler Wells and DL Hall closing the games, taking turns pitching the eighth and ninth, depending on the situation. Your thoughts. From: Dave Gruber via email
Answer: Dave, Cano had a rough July and September but didn’t allow an earned run in August. I think the Orioles would prefer for him to be a setup man.
DL Hall could be an excellent closer, and I’m not sure what the Orioles want to do with with Wells. Few teams use more than one closer, and just like Cano was a surprise in 2023 and Félix Bautista an unexpected closer in 2022, someone unexpected may surface.
Question: Am I wrong in thinking that Miami will be a solid trading partner when it comes to picking up the pitcher we need? From Gary Sorin via email
Answer: Gary, you’re not wrong. The Marlins have had a number of promising young starters in recent years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually matched up with the Orioles. I’m just not sure what it might take to make a deal.
Question: What is keeping Mike Elias from making that one big move? We need a top-notch pitcher. By the time he decides to go for one, they will all be gone. From: Patricia Campanaris via email
Answer: Patricia, if you’re talking about free agents, many of the top pitchers have yet to sign. The market is moving very slowly because there aren’t many top-shelf pitchers available.
As for the trade market, teams that may want to trade pitching are probably waiting until top free-agent pitchers sign. Teams that didn’t sign those free agents might be more eager to trade.
Question: Now that the Orioles have a closer, it seems as if there are seven or eight candidates for the five-man rotation, and I think it looks as solid as anyone’s. What do you think? From: Steve Burgan via email
Answer: Steve, I think the Orioles have some depth, but I think they need more. We don’t know whether Tyler Wells and DL Hall are going to be starters or relievers nor do we know if John Means is going to be able to pitch every five days.
The Orioles were generally healthy last season, but if two starting pitchers are out concurrently, that depth will be tested, and acquiring another starter is an excellent idea.
Question: If Jackson Holliday has a good spring, do you think he starts on Opening Day? From: Larry Crook via Facebook
Answer: Larry, my guess is that Holliday goes back to Norfolk to begin the season and makes his Orioles debut later in the season. The Orioles have been a bit conservative in their promotions of minor leaguers, and it would surprise me if Holliday trotted down the orange carpet on March 28th.
Question: Is there any sense that there may be some resentment among the players in Triple-A who could make other major league rosters that they’re being blocked from the major leagues? From: Ben Stoehr via Facebook
Answer: Ben, a similar question was posed by John Miller, who wants to know if there are no trades, is talent simply kept at Triple-A?
While Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad and Joey Ortiz were good enough to play at least part of the season for the Orioles, they probably could have played regularly on some other teams. Not every prospect with impressive minor league statistics will become an everyday major leaguer and, yes, it appears that there are too many infielders and outfielders to fit on the Orioles.
I think that some of those players may be packaged for pitching, and it’s possible some veterans could be a part of those deals, too.
Question: The Orioles just signed Craig Kimbrel, a former All-Star who touches 96-97 miles per hour on the radar gun. Internally, we have Shintaro Fujinami, who runs it up to 103. He is an incredible budding talent ready to be nurtured into greatness Why haven’t the Orioles signed him? From: Sancerre Frankie via emai
Answer: Fujinami had a rocky few months with the Orioles with a 4.85 earned-run average and 4.6 walks per nine innings. He also expressed a desire to start. The Orioles think he’s better in the bullpen ,though I hear that he’s now open to working out of the bullpen again.
When the Orioles left him off the Division Series roster, it was an indication that they weren’t going to make an effort to sign him.
Question: I know that Yoshinobu Yamamoto is out of the question for the Orioles, but what about signing Naoyoki Uwasawa or Shota Imanaga? From: Don McIver via Facebook
Answer: Don, a question about Uwasama was also asked by @o_c_ranger. I think the Orioles’ rumored pursuit of Uwasama was overblown.
As for Imanaga, MLBTradeRumors predicts he’ll sign a five-year, $85 million contract as a free agent, and reports are that a number of teams are pursuing him.
I would be surprised if the Orioles offered Imanaga a five-year contract, so I think he signs elsewhere.
Question: What do you think about the Orioles paying their scouts, Sig Mejdal and Mike Elias well? I think that the O’s need to keep a steady supply of talented prospects because their free agents are going to be paid way over what the O’s can or will spend, so if they have their prospects play five years on the Orioles, they will have another prospect to step in after their players become free agents. It is cheaper to pay scouts than pay astronomical free-agent salaries. From: Jeff Yellen via email
Answer: Jeff, I don’t know what the Orioles pay Mike Elias, Sig Mejdal, his top assistant or their scouts, but I’m sure it’s competitive.
Elias knows the value of good scouts and a strong farm system and will try to replenish the system as players mature and near free agency.
Question: Which young Orioles or Oriole prospects are most likely to be traded for other needs, or to relieve a potential logjam? From: Mark Galla via Facebook
Answer: Mark, I think you could look at some of the Orioles’ infield or outfield prospects if they make a trade for pitching. As I wrote earlier, not every prospect will become a major league regular, and many of these prospects are at least a year away from being major leaguers, so I think the logjam issue isn’t a real concern just now.
Some of the players who could be on that list are second baseman Connor Norby, outfielders Dylan Beavers, Jud Fabian and Hudson Haskin. It might be hard to find room for them on the big league roster, but they could intrigue other teams.
Question: Can you explain how Shohei Ohtani’s large salary deferral affects the luxury tax? From: Kevin Gish via Facebook
Answer: Ohtani’s $68 million each year in deferred money is calculated at $46 million per year in today’s dollars for the competitive balance tax.
Question: Just wondering if you have heard of any international amateur free agents connected to the Orioles for the next signing period that begins in January? From: Dean Wilyman via email
Answer: Dean, while I’ve seen some lists of top international prospects for the signing period that begins January 15th, I haven’t seen the Orioles connected with any of them, though I know that will change.
Question: Not to nitpick on the Orioles’ loaded lineup, but there seems to be a glut of really good right-handed second basemen coming up (Jordan Westburg, Joey Ortiz, Connor Norby). Last year, Adam Frazier provided an adequate defense and offense, and some nice clutch plays, so does it make sense to trade one of the three right-handed guys and bring the left-handed hitting Frazier back? From: Russell Wallace via email
Answer: Rusty, I would be surprised if Adam Frazier came back, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the others is traded. Gunnar Henderson and Jackson Holliday are left-handed handers, and I don’t think it’s necessary to have a left-handed option at every position.
Question: Any news or opinions about future divisions after expansion for MLB? From: Dan Anspacher via email
Answer: Dan, the guess here is that expansion will come after the next Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2027, and 32 teams will make it easier to schedule.
I think having two eight-team divisions in each league or eight four-team divisions as they have in the NFL would make scheduling much easier. With 15 teams in each league, it’s necessary to have an interleague game each day. With 16 teams, MLB could have designated periods for interleague games as they used to have.
MLB could rethink alignment, and it would be interesting to see if they would keep the Orioles with the Yankees and Red Sox in the same division or pair them with the Nationals, but that talk looks to be some years away.
Note: Adley Rutschman was named as the first-team catcher on the All MLB team. Félix Bautista was a first-team reliever and Kyle Bradish a second-team starter.
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