Baltimore becoming attractive destination for discerning free agents

Astros' Brown enjoying 'fraternity' while participating in first GM Meetings

November 8th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Orioles took a major step forward in 2023, winning 101 games and their first American League East title since 2014.

Now what?

Baltimore has some holes to fill this offseason, primarily in the pitching department, and while money typically determines where free agents ultimately sign, general manager Mike Elias believes that the Orioles’ emergence during the past two seasons will make them a more attractive destination for players.

“It sure seems like it already, just the stuff that I hear at these meetings from agents is very encouraging,” Elias said at the General Managers Meetings. “Our clubhouse has a great reputation, our manager [Brandon Hyde] does, they've heard it's a nice place to play -- and coming off a 100-win season, so you have a good shot [to win]. It seems to be very positive. Then it gets into the contract details that you're competing over.”

Elias first saw this momentum swing last offseason, when pitcher Kyle Gibson chose to sign with the Orioles despite having an identical offer from at least one other club.

“He picked us because that's where he wanted to go,” Elias said. “We're hopeful that the word is out, that it's a good place to come in as a free agent now.”

While Elias works to bolster his roster for 2024, he knows he has the great advantage of fielding a young team loaded with controllable talent. Adley Rutschman and Kyle Bradish won’t be arbitration-eligible until the end of next year, while Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez and Yennier Cano won’t reach arbitration until at least the end of the 2025 season.

This young core has the makings of a long-term contender, but at some point, these players will start to become expensive. That’s still at least a few years away, but the Orioles are already aware of what’s coming down the road. Is there a feeling that the club has a short-term window to take advantage of the current contracts for some of their young stars?

“We're thinking about it now,” Elias said. “I am very hopeful that we will remain competitive forever. There are teams that do it. You know you’re not going to win 100 games every year, but we don't ever want to get back to losing 100 games. I don't think there should be any reason for that.”

Baltimore’s success led to its best attendance figures since 2017, and Elias hopes that the new ballpark agreement being worked on with Maryland will help grow the business side of the organization and result in increased revenue.

“We’re going to do our best to figure it out, and I'm really hopeful that that involves retaining some of these guys beyond their initial years of contract status with the Orioles,” Elias said. “Our main goal is the wins, and getting to those wins is going to come in a lot of different shapes and sizes. I'm just glad I'm having this conversation right now instead of, ‘When are you going to be a decent team again?’”

Nice to meet you

Dana Brown has spent more than two decades in Major League front offices, yet this week marks the first trip to the GM Meetings for the Astros' general manager.

Brown, who was hired in late January, spent a full season in his new role, taking part in trade talks with many of his counterparts around the league. Yet this week presented him with an opportunity to meet many of his fellow executives in person for the first time, making for an interesting week for Brown in Scottsdale.

“You get to see the fraternity of GMs, which is exciting,” Brown said. “You get to put the names to the faces, finally; you can talk to somebody like [D-backs GM] Mike Hazen on the phone, then you get here and start talking to him here, it’s a big deal. A lot of these guys I've known, like [Rangers GM] Chris Young, who I signed as a scout, but there's some that I don't know. It’s always a good thing getting to put the face with the name. This is pretty cool.”

Brown has already experienced his first Trade Deadline and postseason run, but the past few weeks have been his first crack at preparing for an offseason. After losing to the Rangers in a seven-game AL Championship Series, Brown and the Astros' front office embarked on their plan for the winter, which includes a managerial search now that Dusty Baker has retired.

“Just beginning the process of the offseason, talking with my AGMs and having a plan, that's great,” Brown said. “I hit the ground running basically three weeks before Spring Training, so now having the opportunity to have some front-office meetings, to talk about some of our goals, some of the things we want to do in terms of adding players, thinking of trade ideas -- it’s a wonderful thing.”