Here's how O's have addressed offseason needs

February 3rd, 2023

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

At the Winter Meetings in San Diego in early December, Mike Elias laid out the items on the Orioles’ offseason to-do list. Baltimore’s general manager then checked off each of those boxes over the past two months with various free-agent signings and trades.

Last Thursday, the O’s acquired left-handed starter in a deal with the A’s. There’s a decent chance he could be the club’s last notable addition before pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota, Fla., for Spring Training on Feb. 15. But Elias always has an eye out for potential ways to improve the roster, and that will continue to be the case throughout the spring.

Still, this seems like a good time to evaluate how the winter has unfolded for Baltimore.

Let’s revisit the Orioles’ biggest needs from the start of the offseason and assess how they chose to fill each of those holes.

Need: Top-of-the-rotation starters
Move: Signed RHP to a one-year, $10 million deal on Dec. 5; acquired Irvin in a trade with the A’s on Jan. 26

Verdict: Fans were hoping to see the O’s land a true ace for their rotation, and neither Gibson nor Irvin is that. But they should both be solid additions. Gibson fits perfectly as a mentor type on a young staff, while Irvin is a dependable hurler who will be under team control for the next four seasons. These two moves made the rotation stronger and deeper, even if there still isn’t a clear-cut No. 1 starter on the roster.

Need: A left-handed infield/corner-outfield bat
Move: Signed 2B/OF to a one-year, $8 million deal on Dec. 15

Verdict: If Frazier returns to his 2021 All-Star form, then he’ll be an impactful addition to the lineup. If his ‘22 struggles carry over to ‘23, then the 31-year-old could just be blocking a path for a top prospect, such as Jordan Westburg, Joey Ortiz or Connor Norby. The version of Frazier that shows up will determine whether this signing is a success.

Need: A reliable bullpen arm
Move: Signed RHP to a one-year, $3 million deal on Dec. 21

Verdict: Relievers tend to have up-and-down careers, so breakout performers can often regress the following year. Who will the Orioles rely on if Félix Bautista, Cionel Pérez or others can’t have repeat success? That question was answered with the signing of Givens. It made a lot of sense for Elias to bring back one of the club’s most dependable bullpen arms from the mid-to-late 2010s.

Need: A backup catcher
Move: Acquired C in a trade with the Mets on Dec. 21

Verdict: There was no downside to this move. The Orioles now have a backup catcher who was a 2019 All-Star in McCann, who should be a great No. 2 to complement rising superstar Adley Rutschman. Plus, the Mets are paying $19 million of the $24 million that McCann is due over the final two years of his contract. He’s a low-risk, high-upside addition to the roster.

Need: A lefty-hitting backup first baseman
Moves: Signed 1B/OF Franchy Cordero to a Minor League deal on Dec. 2; acquired 1B/OF Ryan O’Hearn in a trade with the Royals on Jan. 3; claimed 1B Lewin Díaz off waivers on Jan. 5.

Verdict: None of these players is on the 40-man roster, but they’ll all be battling to make the team as non-roster invitees in camp. If none of them impresses enough to win a spot -- and the O’s don’t acquire a more proven player to handle the role -- the backup to Ryan Mountcastle could end up being a rotation of McCann, Rutschman and others, which may even include Anthony Santander. It’s not a huge hole, but it may work out best if Cordero, O’Hearn or Díaz seizes an opportunity.