Expectations will be higher for Orioles in 2024 - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Expectations will be higher for Orioles in 2024

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan USA TODAY Sports

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Many things about the 2024 Orioles will be different. Perhaps the most important will be the high expectations the team and their fans will have.

Not even the most wildly optimistic Oriole fan thought the 2023 team would win 101 games and the American League East.

The amazing 49-game increase in wins from 52 in 2021 to 101 in 2023 can’t be duplicated. Including last season, there have been only six 100-game win teams in franchise history.

Three were in 1969-1971 when the Orioles won three American League pennants. Two others came in 1979 when they won 102 games, and a year later when they recorded 100 wins but missed out on the postseason in the pre-wild-card era.

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If the oddsmakers predict the Orioles’ win total will drop back into the 80s, perhaps manager Brandon Hyde will use that as motivation, just as he did last year when the 83-win team of 2022 was predicted to fall back below .500.

However, most around baseball believe the Orioles will be a power for years to come, and even if it’s likely their win total won’t equal or surpass last year’s, the expectations will be for at least a playoff berth in 2024.

The Orioles haven’t put the finishing touches on their roster. Without starting pitcher Kyle Gibson, their leader in wins and innings in 2023, the Orioles still have Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, John Means, Grayson Rodriguez and perhaps DL Hall, Cole Irvin, Tyler Wells and Bruce Zimmermann.

The Orioles benefited from being the second-healthiest team in the majors last year. They tied with Cleveland with 15 players on the injured list and had the second fewest days because of injury, 912.

In 2022, the Orioles had just 13 players on the injured list and lost the second fewest games, 790. Only the Guardians had fewer.

While Means missed nearly all the season for the second straight year because of April 2022 Tommy John surgery, Gibson and Kremer were healthy for the entire season. So was Rodriguez, though he spent considerable time at Triple-A Norfolk. The same holds true for Irvin.

Bradish missed two weeks when he was hit on this right foot at Texas in the team’s fourth game of the season. Still he made it through the entire year without a pitching injury (arm, elbow, hamstring, oblique, shoulder).

Catcher Adley Rutschman, infielder Gunnar Henderson and outfielder Anthony Santander each played at least 150 games, and more avoided the injured list.

If the Orioles manage to avoid long-term injuries to their starting pitchers, they could conceivably already have enough starters. That seems unlikely.

Means has pitched only 31 2/3 innings the last two seasons. Wells ran out of gas in the second half, and the Orioles could decide he’s more suited for a swingman role or even a fulltime bullpen role. The same could be true for Hall.

Irvin shuttled between the bullpen and starting, Norfolk and Baltimore and had a 4.81 ERA in 58 innings as a starter. His ERA was 3.26 as a reliever, and the Orioles didn’t include him on their roster for the Division Series.

Craig Kimbrel has been a durable reliever for 14 major league seasons and will begin 2024 as the closer, replacing Félix Bautista, who’ll miss the season after Tommy John surgery.

The Orioles are likely to place Yennier Cano, Danny Coulombe, Cionel Pérez and perhaps Dillon Tate, who didn’t pitch at all last year because of an elbow injury, in front of Kimbrel.

Maybe Hall or Mike Baumann will be in that mix, too.

Baumann, Cano, Coulombe and Pérez each had strong showings for at least much of the 2023 seasons, and while the Orioles look deep in bullpen options, their starting options need augmenting.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias knew that they needed another starter at the trade deadline, but Jack Flaherty’s work during the season’s last two months wasn’t strong, and the Orioles sent him to the bullpen.

Gibson must be replaced, and the Orioles need to go to spring training with at least seven starting candidates since a full season from Means isn’t a certainty.

There’s still plenty of time between now and next month’s report date to Sarasota, and the free-agent and trade markets should move shortly.

When Kimbrel signed during the Winter Meetings, the Orioles joked about having the largest free-agent signing there.

Since then, the talk has been dominated by the Los Angeles Dodgers’ signings of Shohei Ohtani and Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but the Orioles aren’t the only team that hasn’t added more since they signed Kimbrel.

Four teams, including the historically big-spending Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees, haven’t signed even one major league free agent, and two other free spenders, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels, have spent less than the Orioles.

This month promises to be active, and standing pat isn’t really an option for the Orioles.

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