O's GM enters offseason with eyes on playoffs

November 9th, 2022

Mike Elias has shown an open, honest demeanor while publicly discussing his plans for the Orioles over his four years as general manager. He made it known early that the organization needed to rebuild and that some difficult seasons at the MLB level would likely follow.

Now, Elias isn’t hiding the fact that he believes Baltimore is close to being a contender, or that this should be a much more active offseason for the franchise from recent winters.

“I think we view this as a time to hopefully make a few Major League acquisitions that will increase our chances of making the playoffs that we narrowly missed out on. We think the team is ready for that,” Elias told reporters, including MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, at the General Managers Meetings in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

The Orioles, who went 83-79 this past season and stayed alive in the American League Wild Card race until the final week, appear poised to take more steps forward. They have a core of talented young players who have arrived in the Majors, along with a top-ranked farm system that could soon produce more big leaguers.

At the GM Meetings, Elias named two areas of the O’s roster he’d like to further improve this offseason: the starting rotation and the offense.

Baltimore’s pitching staff was much better in 2022, as the rotation posted a 4.35 ERA that ranked 10th in the AL. In ‘21, the starters had combined for an MLB-worst 5.99 ERA.

Still, the Orioles would benefit from adding a top-of-the-rotation hurler who could help take the group to another level. That will be an even bigger need if they opt to decline Jordan Lyles’ $11 million option for the 2023 season (a decision they must make by Thursday).

“Our priority -- hopefully, if we’re able to do it -- is to bring in an established starter for one of the, let’s say, top three spots in the rotation,” Elias said. “Just somebody who’s been there, done that, that you can clearly pencil in ahead of the group that we have now in terms of expectations and accomplishments thus far. That would be a big boost.”

As for potential position-player acquisitions, Elias’ targets are less specific. Baltimore’s roster has a lot of flexibility, with numerous players who can handle multiple positions. So Elias envisions a few ways he could add to that group.

The O’s ranked 10th in the AL in both runs scored (674) and OPS (.695) last season. And while some youngsters will progress in ‘23, it could be important to add a proven hitter to the mix.

“We want to bring in one or two talented position players that’ll just boost the lineup,” Elias said.

With plenty of big spenders around baseball -- including the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays in the AL East alone -- it’s not easy for the Orioles to win many bidding wars. Elias knows that.

At the same time, Baltimore is prepared to increase its big league payroll for 2023. Elias wouldn’t divulge exactly how much the O’s plan to spend -- and he’s not going to -- but he believes they have the ability to land the types of players they’re targeting.

“I think it’s going to be challenging. There are other teams out here competing,” Elias said. “Everybody’s kind of equally smart these days. The agents are doing their thing. This isn’t going to be easy to find. But I definitely think it’s conceptually possible to fill -- I don’t want to use the word needs, but just improve our team to the degree that we want to in the finances that I’m expecting to use.”

Plus, Baltimore is now a much more enticing landing spot for players on the open market. Once free agency begins on Thursday at 5 p.m. ET, the Orioles will get to work on trying to upgrade their big league roster, rather than only making minor moves with their sights set numerous years into the future.

It’s a much different feel from the earlier offseasons of Elias’ regime. And he’s already noticed that since arriving at the GM Meetings this week.

“It’s definitely a lot more fun and interesting. Coming to meetings like this, you feel a lot more relevant when you’re talking to agents,” Elias said. “Now, we’ll hopefully continue to start seeing the fruits of our labor up on the field in Major League wins.”