Orioles wrap up 'fun Winter Meetings for us'

December 7th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With only a few hours remaining at the 2023 Winter Meetings, Orioles general manager Mike Elias completed the first major move of his club’s offseason. Baltimore signed free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel on Wednesday afternoon, and then, Elias and his staff departed the Gaylord Opryland Resort and headed home.

They left Nashville as the big spenders of the week, too. No team finalized a free-agent deal during the Winter Meetings that featured more guaranteed money than the $13 million Kimbrel will receive from the O’s.

“I hope everyone had that on their bingo card,” Elias said with a smile. “It was a fun Winter Meetings for us.”

The work isn’t done, though. The Orioles have more offseason goals to accomplish, as they’re planning on making additional moves to strengthen a team that won 101 games and captured the American League East title this past season.

Biggest remaining needs

1) A front-line starting pitcher: Elias is hoping to acquire a starter who can slot into one of the top three spots in the rotation. The Orioles already have the core of a solid starting staff -- anchored by , and -- but the addition of another top pitcher would take the group to another level for 2024 (and maybe longer).

MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi recently reported that Baltimore is among the clubs that have talked to White Sox right-hander , a trade candidate with two years of club control remaining. Cease could provide a boost to the O’s if he returns to his 2022 form (a 2.20 ERA in 32 starts) after a bit of a down year in ’23 (a 4.58 ERA in 33 starts).

2) Bullpen depth: Even though the Orioles signed Kimbrel -- who will serve as the closer in the absence of All-Star (out for the 2024 season following Tommy John surgery) -- they could still be in the market for additional relief help. The more quality late-inning options in their bullpen, the more dominant the unit could be next year.

Baltimore might continue to add to a relief corps that also returns many of its top arms, such as All-Star setup man and lefties and .

3) Possible fourth outfielder: The only sizable hole on the position-player side of the roster is in the outfield rotation. , and are the starters, but there’s plenty of playing time available for a fourth outfielder, especially with Santander set to start a good bit at designated hitter.

Elias has named Colton Cowser (the O’s No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline), Heston Kjerstad (No. 3), and as internal candidates for the role, which was previously occupied by Aaron Hicks (now a free agent).

Rule 5 Draft

The streak is over. For the first time since 2005, the Orioles did not take a player during the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft, which occurred Wednesday. A day earlier, Elias indicated that would likely be the case, as Baltimore’s pick didn’t come until No. 29.

The Orioles also did not lose any players during the MLB phase. Their top Rule 5-eligible player who had been left unprotected was outfielder Hudson Haskin (the club’s No. 17 prospect).

Extensions for Henderson, Holliday?

Agent Scott Boras, who represents many notable players across MLB, held his annual Winter Meetings media scrum on Wednesday. During the session, he was asked how often the Orioles reach out to him to discuss potential extensions for two of their young centerpiece players -- infielders (the reigning AL Rookie of the Year) and (MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect).

“Only once or twice a day,” Boras quipped.

“With those kinds of things, obviously, we listen,” Boras added. “Mike [Elias] and I talk a lot. Obviously, our job is to filter those phone calls and relay them to the players. We kind of discuss it and see if it’s something the player himself is interested in.”

GM's bottom line

Although the Orioles’ lone move of the Winter Meetings was the signing of Kimbrel, Elias said they made progress toward other potential deals. He prioritizes using the event to gather information and lay the groundwork for signings and trades that may not come fully together until later in the offseason.

“Just kind of moving the football down the field a couple yards at a time, which sounds pretty mundane, but it’s honestly a lot of work in this business to do that,” Elias said. “A lot of conversations, you’re checking with agents, you’re checking with teams, you’re going back and forth. It’s a big puzzle that you’re trying to put together, and the Winter Meetings help with that.”