What might 'liftoff' look like for the Orioles?

August 7th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Zachary Silver’s Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Mike Elias laid down the gauntlet this week.

“It's liftoff from here for this team,” Elias, the executive vice president and general manager, said in Texas, where he flew to address the team after the Trade Deadline.

Specifically, he said that this offseason will be one that sees the Orioles spend more fervently on free agents to bolster their roster alongside the graduation of top prospects. That sets the tone of 2023 as the true turning point in the rebuild, even though this year’s squad is doing much to vie for a postseason spot.

“This is a decade-long window that I think is opening up,” Elias said, “and I couldn't be more excited about it for Baltimore, for the Orioles, for these guys.”

Here’s how the Orioles might want to orient themselves for such a transition:

1. Set yourself up to strike 

Where are the Orioles’ biggest needs? Starting pitching, most likely.  probably won’t be back until partway into the season, and while the makeshift rotation has performed admirably, it likely won’t do if they have real postseason hopes in 2023. 

These free agents headline the offseason market (some dependent on opt-outs): , Carlos Rodón, , , , Martín Pérez. These could be available via trade: , , .

Is the time right to strike big on any? Which would fit best in a rotation that’s likely to feature Grayson RodriguezDL Hall and ? Could , who owns an $11 million club option for 2023 with a $1 million buyout, be a candidate to return?

This offseason may be telling as to how much of a spending purse Elias is handed.

2. Evaluate the current roster

The Orioles have long said this season is a chance to evaluate the individuals on their 40-man roster, to carve out which -- many either acquired or promoted over the past couple seasons -- show enough to stick around for the next wave of competitiveness.

Ramón Urías and Jorge Mateo have both shown bursts of electricity this season. Enough to stick around? Could  be moved in the offseason to create room for the burgeoning outfield class? Can  find some consistency at the plate (if he gets regular playing time)?

And there are some in the Minors. Does Yusniel Diaz, who made his long-awaited debut in Texas, have a place? What about Mike Baumann,  or ?

3. Evaluate the future roster

Namely, the prospects. The time appears nigh for Hall and .  is already showing he belongs, earning praise for the way he’s been able to slow the game down at the plate. The runway seems slight for Rodriguez to appear this season, but he’ll be in full contention for the Opening Day rotation in 2023.

And then there's the hot commodities like Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg. Could either, raking in their first go-arounds at Triple-A Norfolk, get a September callup? The Orioles won’t rush anyone to the bigs for the sake of this year’s time, but seeing one or both could give a peek at a long-time Orioles infield with Vavra and .

4. Just do it

Elias’ comments raised a buzz around the fan base, one that has been missing since he took over prior to the 2019 season. The deal Lyles signed this offseason was the largest for a free agent in the past four years, most additions coming via the waiver wire or Minor League free-agent market. This offseason promises changes. 

The Orioles are starting to show this season that they can, at worst, hang in the AL East as this wave of development and analytics takes further hold. The door to Elias’ prescribed 10-year plan should creak open in 2023, if it hasn't already. And it might just need a little push.