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BALTIMORE – It’s a tired old saying, but there really is no better way to describe the Orioles’ approach to the offseason in the wake of their amazing 101-win 2023 season.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Sure, it would be nice to add a cornerstone starting pitcher to the mix before pitchers and catchers report for spring training a month from now – and that may happen – but the decision to offer contracts to every arbitration-eligible player was a sign executive vice president Mike Elias is willing to roll the dice with the guys he’s already got.
No one should be surprised by that, but there are some fans who won’t be happy until the team lays out a couple hundred million for one of the top free-agent pitchers to prove that the Angelos family is willing to spend big money to take another step toward the World Series.
Of course, that’s not going to happen this winter, since there’s only one pitcher of that caliber left in this year’s free-agent market, and he has made only 30 or more starts twice in his career. Blake Snell is a terrific pitcher who just won his second Cy Young Award and would look great at the head of the young Orioles rotation, but in the five seasons in which he did not win the game’s top pitching award (not including the Covid-shortened 2020 campaign), he was a single-digit winner who averaged 23 starts.
The fact that he hasn’t signed yet apparently doesn’t mean the price is coming down. Agent Scott Boras doesn’t give up easily and reports that Snell rejected a $150 million offer from the Yankees are an indication that he’s holding out for a contract that starts with a 2 after the dollar sign.
Orioles CEO John Angelos already has made it clear that the Orioles will never play in that ballpark, so the focus remains on a trade – hopefully for White Sox ace Dylan Cease. The O’s appear to be in the best position to acquire the 28-year-old right-hander, since they have a wealth of young talent in what has been the sport’s top minor league system the past couple years.
It’s just a matter of how far Elias is willing to go, and it’s entirely possible that he is not willing to give up any of the three or four top prospects who appear to be on the threshold of solid major league careers. The White Sox want enough for Cease to energize their rebuild, which presumably means several good prospects.
Elias guards his best prospects jealously, as he should. The Orioles won all those games last year with Kyle Gibson as their veteran starter and much of their young talent still untapped. They certainly could stand to upgrade the rotation, but they’re very likely to make the playoffs as currently configured.
Getting Cease (or anyone else) won’t necessarily mean getting to the World Series. The early exits by the 104-win Dodgers and 100-win Braves last year proved that the four-tiered playoff format has taken all of the predictability out of the postseason.
If Elias chooses to hold his top cards close for another year – or until the midsummer trade deadline – we should be able to live with that.
Don’t know how many times I have to say it, but he seems to know what he’s doing.
RAVENS LINKS FROM BALTIMORESPORTS.COM