BALTIMORE -- Preparing for a season during which they plan to promote several big-name prospects, the Orioles are eying 2022 as a year that could mark a turning point in their rebuild. And it’s suddenly right around the corner.
Here is a recap of what the Orioles did so far this offseason, now that baseball is back in full swing:
What deals have already gotten done?
Inking right-hander Jordan Lyles and veteran second baseman Rougned Odor to one-year deals before the lockout, the Orioles acted more quickly compared to other offseasons under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias. Lyles’ deal is for $7 million with a $11 million club option for 2023 (and a $1 million buyout), adding a much-needed established presence behind John Means in Baltimore’s rotation. Odor shores up one of the club’s infield holes and comes at the league minimum, as the Yankees and Rangers remain on the hook for the $12 million salary he’ll earn in ’22.
Additionally, in November the Orioles added six prospects to the 40-man roster, hinting at ’22 debuts: second baseman Terrin Vavra, highly touted lefties D.L. Hall and Kevin Smith, and right-handers Kyle Bradish, Felix Bautista, and Logan Gillaspie. The team also claimed relievers Bryan Baker and Cionel Pérez off waivers, and signed catchers Jacob Nottingham and Anthony Bemboom to Minor League deals.
What are the biggest remaining needs and who might they target to fill these holes?
Nottingham and Bemboom were brought in to provide depth until top prospect Adley Rutschman is ready, which should be sometime before the All-Star break. After Rutschman’s arrival, the Orioles hope that position will be filled for years to come.
Elsewhere in the infield, the answers are far less clear. Jorge Mateo and Kelvin Gutierrez showed flashes in small samples at shortstop and third base, respectively, but neither have guaranteed starting jobs for ’22. They’ll both be in the mix with Rylan Bannon, Jahmai Jones and Ramón Urías in a wide-ranging battle for playing time at those spots come spring, even if the Orioles sign a veteran shortstop in the Freddy Galvis mold, as if they have in the past.
Jobs also figure to be up for grabs in the rotation, where Keegan Akin, Zac Lowther, Dean Kremer and Alexander Wells all struggled to separate themselves last summer.
Which of their free agents have already signed elsewhere?
After trading Galvis and cutting ties with Maikel Franco over the summer, the Orioles had only one outgoing free agent: Matt Harvey. The veteran righty has not signed a contract for 2022.
Former everyday catcher Pedro Severino signed a one-year deal with Milwaukee after being outrighted by Baltimore. Another outrighted regular, Pat Valaika, remains unsigned, as does Franco. Galvis signed a two-year deal to play in Japan during the lockout.
Are there any players they are looking to trade?
As long as the Orioles remain far from contention, trade speculation will surround their top players. So far, that’s meant little for Trey Mancini, Means, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander and others, though all have seen their names pop up in rumors over the past few seasons. Dealing Mullins, Means or Santander feels unlikely now, and any Mancini trade comes with emotional burden given his inspiring journey back from cancer. Yet Mancini seems the likeliest to be dealt given his contract status -- he is slated to become a free agent after this season and there has not been word of talks about an extension. The club also could explore deals for relievers like Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser.
What outstanding arbitration cases are on the docket?
Mancini, Means and Scott remain unsigned after being tendered contracts in November. Means and Scott are first-time arbitration eligible, while Mancini is third-time eligible. He earned $5 million in 2021.
How many open spots are there on the 40-man roster?
Two, though the Orioles probably have additional flexibility to manipulate the roster through the waiver system as they frequently have under Elias.
Any other housekeeping?
The Orioles added two new names to Brandon Hyde’s coaching staff in co-hitting coaches Ryan Fuller and Matt Borgschulte, who replaced Don Long. They also promoted Minor League managers Buck Britton from Double-A to Triple-A, Kyle Moore from High-A to Double-A and hired first-year skippers Roberto Mercado at High-A and Felipe Rojas Alou Jr. at Low-A.