Everything to know as O's prepare for Winter Meetings

December 5th, 2022

This offseason could soon become quite exciting for the Orioles. With the club coming off an 83-win campaign, general manager Mike Elias has expressed his intent to increase the payroll. So there should be some notable moves on the horizon.

Thus far, not much has happened. However, the action is likely to pick up in the near future, potentially even as early as next week.

The 2022 Winter Meetings are set to begin Sunday at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. For four days, executives, owners, managers, agents, media and more will come together for baseball’s annual December gathering. It’s an opportune time for GMs to meet to work out trades and to discuss free agents with players’ representatives.

As Elias and others from the O’s prepare for San Diego, here’s everything to know:

Key events

• Sunday, Dec. 4: HOF Contemporary Era ballot results released (Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro and Curt Schilling)

• Monday, Dec. 5: All-MLB Team announced

• Tuesday, Dec. 6: Inaugural Draft Lottery, AL/NL Relievers of Year announced

• Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rule 5 Draft

Club needs

The Orioles’ main priority should be a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. Elias said at the GM Meetings earlier this month he’d like to acquire a starter who can slot into one of the top three spots. Baltimore isn’t likely to win a bidding war for a top-tier free agent, but it could sign an experienced veteran starter who has had recent success.

Another need for the O’s is a big bat. They have a lot of flexibility on their roster, with a handful of players who can handle numerous positions. So Baltimore could try to acquire a strong hitter, then figure out how he best fits in. It may make the most sense for the Orioles to add a left-handed hitter to bring a bit more balance to the lineup.

Potential trade candidates

If the O’s swing a major trade, it would most likely be to acquire a starter (assuming they don’t first sign one in free agency). One of the deepest areas on the Orioles’ roster is the outfield, where they have a handful of big league-caliber players and several prospects close to reaching the Majors.

Austin Hays and Anthony Santander are both arbitration-eligible outfielders who were tendered contracts earlier this month and could be potential trade candidates. The O’s don’t have to deal either, but they may at least listen to offers.

Prospects to know

Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (Baltimore’s No. 2 prospect and the No. 4 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline) likely would have reached the Majors this past season if he hadn’t missed three months due to a right lat strain. Even if the Orioles believe the 23-year-old will earn a spot in their rotation to open 2023 (which is a strong possibility), they’re still going to be in the market for a veteran starter this offseason.

Infielder Gunnar Henderson (the O’s No. 1 prospect and the No. 2 prospect in baseball) and left-hander DL Hall (Baltimore’s No. 6 prospect) reached the Majors in 2022 and should be key contributors in ‘23. Outfielder Colton Cowser (No. 4) and infielder Jordan Westburg (No. 5) could get to the big leagues next year.

Rule 5 Draft

Baltimore has selected at least one player during the Major League portion of each of the past 15 Rule 5 Drafts (every year from 2006-20; there wasn’t one in ‘21). The Orioles have a much deeper farm system now, so it’s possible that streak will end because they won’t want to block their top prospects. But they have two open spots on their 40-man roster and could add a Rule 5 Draft player if there’s somebody intriguing to them on the board. (Maybe a relief pitcher for added bullpen depth?)

The O’s won’t be losing any of their Top 30 prospects in the Rule 5 Draft, as they protected the four who would have been eligible to get taken: Rodriguez, righty Seth Johnson (No. 10), shortstop Joey Ortiz (No. 17) and lefty Drew Rom (No. 19).

Burning question: Is it time for the O’s to spend big?

The Orioles are set to increase their payroll and have financial flexibility. They finished only three games out of a Wild Card berth this past season, and they have a deep farm system featuring more top prospects on the cusp of the Majors.

This could be the opportune time for the O’s to try to land a marquee free agent to complement their core of budding youngsters.

Baltimore is a more appealing destination than it’s been in recent years because the big league club is on the rise. The Orioles would still be competing with the typical big spenders in the market. But if they can attract a big-name starter or slugger, they may want to consider investing in the type of star player who could take them to the next level.