Looking ahead to the 2024 Orioles as spring training nears - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Looking ahead to the 2024 Orioles as spring training nears

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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The Orioles begin spring training in a month, and as it stands now, the 2024 Orioles will look a lot like the 2023 team that won 101 games and the American League East.

There’s not as much skepticism about this team, though SportsBetting.ag has set the over/under for wins at 87 ½.  That’s six behind the New York Yankees’ 93 ½ and good enough to be the second-leading wild-card team in the AL.

So far, there are only three new additions to the Orioles’ 40-man roster, which stands at 38 — closer Craig Kimbrel; right-handed swingman Jonathan Heasley, acquired in a trade with Kansas City; and outfielder Sam Hilliard, acquired off waivers from Atlanta.

No players from the minor leagues were added to the 40-man roster, though if top prospect Jackson Holliday makes the Orioles out of spring training, he’ll be an addition.

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If the 40-man roster becomes full and the Orioles want to add Holliday or players from outside the system, they’ll move Félix Bautista, who had Tommy John surgery, to the 60-day injured list.

In past offseasons, there were many waiver claims. This year, it was Hilliard and reliever Tucker Davidson from the Royals, who was quickly outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk.

Because of the Orioles’ record, they’re no longer at the top of the pecking order for waiver claims, and nearly all of those on waivers wouldn’t represent an upgrade. They even passed on adding a pitcher in last month’s Rule 5 draft.

Unless there are other moves made in the next month or during spring training, and Holliday begins the season at Norfolk, it’s possible that Kimbrel will be the only addition.

The Orioles lost five free agents from last season’s team — starters Kyle Gibson and Jack Flaherty, reliever Shintaro Fujinami, second baseman Adam Frazier and outfielder Adam Hicks.

Gibson signed with St. Louis, and Flaherty with Detroit while the other three haven’t found homes for 2024.

The Orioles reportedly are still interested in trading for Chicago White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease, though the price in prospects could be too high to make a deal. Jon Heyman, of the New York Post, reported that they have interest in free-agent James Paxton, a 35-year-old left-hander who was 7-5 with a 4.50 earned-run average in 19 starts for Boston in 2023. Paxton is one of several free-agent pitchers the Orioles have been linked with this offseason.

The Orioles’ predicted payroll for 2024 will be $81.2 million, according to Cot’s Contracts. That would be 28th in baseball. A year ago, the Orioles had the second-smallest payroll, ahead of only Oakland. For 2024, they’d be ahead of the Athletics and Pirates. In 2023, their payroll was $60.8 million.

Kimbrel’s $13 million, which includes a $1 million buyout in case his 2025 option isn’t picked up, makes him the highest-paid Oriole. Backup catcher James McCann will make $12.15 million, though $9.5 million of that will be paid by the New York Mets, who traded him to the Orioles in December 2022.

Rightfielder Anthony Santander and the Orioles agreed to an $11.7 million contract for 2024, avoiding arbitration. Centerfielder Cedric Mullins settled for $6.325 million while leftfielder Austin Hays is one of five Orioles who did not agree to a contract by the Friday deadline for those eligible for arbitration. Hays is asking for $6.3 million, and the Orioles are offering $5.85 million.

The other Orioles without agreements are: first baseman/outfielder Ryan O’Hearn, looking for $3.8 million with the Orioles countering with $3.2 million; reliever Danny Coulombe, who wants $2.4 million to the Orioles’ $2.2 million; left-hander Cionel Pérez, who has asked for $1.4 million against the Orioles $1.1 million; and right-hander Jacob Webb, who is seeking $1 million, $75,000 more than the Orioles’ $925,000 offer.

If each of those five go to arbitration and win, it won’t drastically change the Orioles’ payroll. It’s possible that executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias could sign another veteran reliever, and perhaps another veteran outfielder.

On Friday, the Orioles completed their 12-man coaching staff, the largest in team history, by adding Mitch Plassmeyer as assistant pitching coach and promoting Grant Anders to major league development coach.

This week’s highlight is the long-awaited opening of the Orioles’ complex in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, a day after the international signing period begins.

Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles questions next week. Please email yours to: [email protected].

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