O's seek pitching -- along with almost everyone else

December 5th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Like many of MLB’s 30 clubs, the Orioles arrived at the Winter Meetings continuing an offseason pursuit of pitching. They’re exploring various routes to acquiring multiple types of pitchers.

General manager Mike Elias has stated that Baltimore is seeking a starter to upgrade its rotation, as well as a reliever to boost the back of the bullpen -- possibly one who has closing experience. He reiterated those desires on Monday evening at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, where he met with reporters in the Orioles’ suite.

Whether it’s via free-agent signings or by trades, the Orioles plan to accomplish their goals. Elias just isn’t sure how it’s going to happen quite yet.

“I think 30 of these suites right now, there’s teams talking about, ‘We’re out looking for pitching’ and pitching depth, so it’s a very competitive market,” Elias said. “They’re not growing on trees, and it’s not easy. So we’re doing the best that we can within the market. 

“I’m hopeful that this pitching staff will look stronger at the end of the offseason than it did a month ago. But the way, shape or form -- or person -- that that’s coming in, I just don’t have a crystal ball right now.”

Baltimore could be more likely to explore trades as the pitching market continues to develop.

Several large contracts have already been given to free-agent pitchers, such as Phillies starter Aaron Nola (seven years, $172 million) and new Cardinals starter Sonny Gray (three years, $75 million). Josh Hader could soon break the record for the wealthiest deal signed by a reliever. The Orioles probably won’t outbid their competitors for pitchers of that caliber.

However, the O’s have an advantage over their counterparts in another area: prospect depth, particularly on the position-player side. Their farm system is widely regarded as the best in baseball, and they have a glut of talented youngsters to use as potential trade chips.

“We’re as well-equipped as any team to rattle off prospect packages for any player,” Elias said. “It’s nice, because it equips us to get involved in every conversation. But there’s more to making trades than just being the high bidder. I mean, the trade’s got to make sense.”

MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi reported Sunday night that the Orioles are among the clubs that have talked with the White Sox about right-hander Dylan Cease. The 27-year-old is under team control through the end of the 2025 season.

Among other starters who have frequently been named in trade rumors are Tampa Bay’s Tyler Glasnow, Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes and Cleveland’s Shane Bieber. There could also be quality relievers who are getting shopped as well, such as Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase.

Baltimore won’t trade its top prospect (infielder Jackson Holliday, who is ranked No. 1 overall by MLB Pipeline). But perhaps it could be willing to part with others from a group that includes outfielders Colton Cowser (O’s No. 2) and Heston Kjerstad (No. 3), infielders Coby Mayo (No. 4), Joey Ortiz (No. 6) and Connor Norby (No. 7), catcher Samuel Basallo (No. 5) and others.

At the same time, Elias isn’t just going to give away prospects from a farm system that he and his staff have spent five years building into a juggernaut.

“This perception that we have too many prospects and we need to get rid of some of them, I mean, that doesn’t register with me,” Elias said. “We want to have a very talented organization. We need to make good trades; we don’t need to jettison players. That’s what we’re focused on doing.”

If negotiations lead Elias to a trade that seems logical and fair, he’ll make it happen. That was the case at the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline, when he parted with a trio of prospects (infielder César Prieto and pitchers Drew Rom and Zack Showalter) to acquire St. Louis right-hander Jack Flaherty.

Elias said he has continued to talk with teams regarding some of the top prospects in the Orioles’ system. But there’s “definitely no sense of urgency” from him to complete a trade -- or to acquire pitchers in another way -- before the Winter Meetings conclude Wednesday, as he views the four-day event as an opportunity to gather information via interactions with the fellow executives and agents in attendance.

“We’re not worried about making any deals while we’re here,” Elias said. “I think it’s possible that something happens or you hear something. But in no sense are we feeling any pressure just from the event.”