When the Orioles assess their 2020 season, they cite improvement that, in many ways, was plain to see. They are looking to continue that progression in '21, in part by getting more extended looks at many players who took steps forward this summer. That includes in the starting rotation and the outfield, as well as players both on the current rosters and in their Minor League pipeline.
“While this maybe sounds a little strange for a team that was in fourth place last year and hasn’t been shy about saying it’s rebuilding, I look at the players already on our 40-man roster, or who are soon to be on our 40-man roster, and it’s a very functional group,” O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said. “All of them either already have settled roles on the team, or we want to add some of these guys and leave paths open for them.”
Translation: The O’s are not expected to be especially active this offseason from a player-acquisition standpoint. Still, they have needs, like every team. And moves made to address them could factor heavily in what direction their rebuild ultimately takes.
MLB.com will keep track of those moves here, all winter. Be sure to check back for updates as the offseason continues.
Starting pitching depth
After impressive debuts from Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin and Bruce Zimmermann this summer, the Orioles are excited to give all three prospects extended rotation auditions in 2021. Baltimore's need is for depth behind them and John Means, both to guard against injury and cover innings in a season scheduled to run more than twice the length of the ’20 campaign. The need became greater on Feb. 2, when the O’s traded veteran righty Alex Cobb to the Angels, though they quickly took steps toward alleviating it by re-uniting with Wade LeBlanc on a Minor League deal.
At the current moment, the rotation competition will also feature Jorge López and swingman Thomas Eshelman. The Orioles are looking to add at least one more veteran arm akin to LeBlanc or Tommy Milone, whom they snagged on a Minor League deal last offseason and were able to flip for prospects later.
The Orioles' ‘pen improved significantly over the past two seasons, growing from the American League’s worst unit in 2019 to one of baseball’s top relief corps in '20. Some of that was the product of year-to-year development from returning arms, but much of it came from new faces brought in through the waiver wire, free agency and other avenues.
Expect the Orioles to explore those once again after parting ways with mainstays Richard Bleier, Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro via trade last season. Even after striking a one-year deal to avoid arbitration with righty Shawn Armstrong, middle relief opportunities exist for upside arms in a bullpen still without many defined roles. The O’s will probably take fliers on at least one or two pitchers who fit that description.
As a rebuilding club, the Orioles are always focused on acquiring young talent. This offseason is no different, though opportunities to do so might be more limited than they were last winter. Last year, the O’s infused five prospects into their system via deals for Jonathan Villar and Dylan Bundy that also shed salary.
On Dec. 2, the Orioles acquired right-handed pitching prospects Garrett Stallings and Jean Pinto from the Angels for José Iglesias prior to the non-tender deadline, further bolstering the pitching depth in a system that now ranks among baseball’s best. They then sent Cobb to Los Angeles for second base prospect Jahmai Jones in February. Who is next? Pedro Severino looks expendable with No. 1 prospect Adley Rutschman on the way. Bigger names have popped up in rumors, too, including Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander. However, dealing either budding star would be a difficult sell for a franchise that’s endured lean years with the promise of building around young talent.
Feb. 2: Bring back LeBlanc
The O’s re-united with journeyman lefty Wade LeBlanc on a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training. The deal will pay LeBlanc $700,000 if he makes the big league club.
Feb. 2: Cobb dealt out west
The Orioles traded veteran righty Alex Cobb to the Angels for second base prospect Jahmai Jones and $5 million in salary relief, while agreeing to pay $10 million of Cobb’s $15 million salary for 2021. Cobb is entering the final season of a four-year, $57 million contract, some of which is deferred money.
Jan. 27: Orioles find their shortstop
The O’s agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with Freddy Galvis to replace José Iglesias as their everyday shortstop.
Jan. 16: Eshelman re-signed
The Orioles addressed their pitching depth by re-signing swingman Thomas Eshelman to a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training. The right-hander went 4-3 with a 5.22 ERA for Baltimore over the past two seasons.
Jan. 15: Arbitration business
The Orioles agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million contract with Trey Mancini at the arbitration deadline to exchange salary figures, but they could not agree with Anthony Santander. Santander filed for $2.475 million and the O’s countered with $2.1 million in what could result in the club’s first arbitration hearing since 2017.
Dec. 21: Four signed to Minor League deals
The Orioles inked Minor League agreements with veteran left-hander Fernando Abad, catcher Nick Ciuffo and righties Claudio Custodio and Conner Greene. All come with invitations to Spring Training.
Dec. 10: O's select two RHPs in Rule 5 Draft
The Orioles added Mac Sceroler from the Reds and Tyler Wells from the Twins in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Sceroler is a former fifth-round pick in the 2017 Draft who reached Class A Advanced Daytona with the Reds in '19, pitching to a 3.69 ERA in 26 games (20 starts). The 25-year-old struck out 127 batters against just 29 walks in 117 innings with Daytona in ’19. Wells, 26, is a former 15th-round pick of the Twins in 2016 out of Cal State San Bernardino. Wells reached Double-A as a starter in '18, posting a 2.49 ERA and 121 strikeout in 119 1/3 innings across two levels, before undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Dec. 7: Waiver wire provides pitching depth
The Orioles claimed right-hander Aston Goudeau off waivers from the Pirates, outrighting backup catcher Austin Wynns to Triple-A Norfolk in a corresponding move.
Dec. 2: Alberto non-tendered among moves
The Orioles non-tendered Hanser Alberto and struck one-year deals to avoid arbitration with three others: second baseman Yolmer Sánchez ($1 million), utility man Pat Valaika and reliever Shawn Armstrong. They also tendered contracts to Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander.
Dec. 2: Iggy dealt west
The O’s traded shortstop José Iglesias to the Angels for right-handed pitching prospects Garrett Stallings and Jean Pinto.
Nov. 25: More 40-man shuffle
The Orioles claimed outfielder Chris Shaw off waivers from the Giants, designating swingman Thomas Eshelman for assignment in a corresponding move. They also released Renato Núñez after he cleared unconditional waivers.
Nov. 20: Orioles DFA Nunez, protect 6 from Rule 5 Draft
In a move to prioritize the future, the O’s parted ways with slugger Renato Núñez while clearing 40-man roster space for six (five Top 30) prospects: outfielder Yusniel Diaz, righty Michael Baumann, left-handers Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells, infielder Rylan Bannon and unranked reliever Isaac Mattson.
Nov. 16: O's add righty to system
The Orioles completed their deal with the Astros involving Hector Velázquez, acquiring right-handed reliever Miguel Padilla. The 18-year-old was originally signed by the Astros on Nov. 26, 2018, as an international free agent out of Carora, Venezuela. He appeared in 19 games for the DSL Astros in 2019, pitching to a 4-1 record with a 2.08 ERA (6 ER/26.0 IP) and 26 strikeouts.
Nov. 5: Orioles complete Tommy Milone trade
The O’s received infield prospects AJ Graffanino and Greg Cullen from the Braves in exchange for Milone, whom they dealt at the Trade Deadline for two players to be named. Graffanino and Cullen are both 23-year-olds selected by Atlanta in the 2018 Draft.
Nov. 2: Chris Holt named pitching coach
The Orioles replaced Doug Brocail by expanding responsibilities for Holt, who will hold the dual title of pitching coach/director of pitching. The Orioles also assigned former bullpen coach Darren Holmes the new title of assistant pitching coach.
Nov. 1: Brought back Iglesias
The O’s exercised their $3.5 million team option on Iglesias rather than buy the veteran shortstop out for $500,000, ensuring their best all-around performer from 2020 will return for ’21.
Oct. 30: Claimed Yolmer Sánchez
The O’s added to their infield depth by acquiring former Gold Glove second baseman Sánchez off waivers from the White Sox. The 28-year-old Sanchez won his Gold Glove Award with Chicago in 2019.
Oct. 1: Brocail and Jose Flores not retained
The Orioles chose not to renew the contracts of pitching coach Brocail and third base/infield coach Flores, ending their tenures in Baltimore after two seasons. It is unclear if the O’s will look to replace Flores or continue with a seven-man coaching staff.