I hope everyone has enjoyed this off-season outlook series because I certainly have. It is fun to have a young competitive team that seems to have everything in front of them right now. You match a young team with barely any money spent with a flourishing free-agent market, and you have a nice space for discussion. The Orioles can go in any direction they want with this market, and as I have written this, the market has moved slowly. Such is the curse of the MLB free agent market, a slow-moving train that has to speed up at the last moments to reach its destination on time.
So, to end this series, I wanted to do something fun. Using the knowledge we have now from rumors from a couple of writers, I decided to do a little exercise to see if I can create a 2023 Orioles team that satisfies the need to spend money and also be reasonable. Yes, the Orioles have no cash on the books outside of John Means, but that doesn’t mean they spend up to the threshold of $233 million.
A compromise has to be reached here, and the compromise I’ll make here is $90 Million. This could be me guessing, but Mike Elias’s comments about the payroll not going from “0 to 120” means they aren’t spending up to that limit in one offseason.
Before we begin the free agent discussion, we have to look at the arbitration numbers that affect the payroll. The Orioles didn’t non-tender a single player from their roster before the deadline, so they probably feel confident that most of them will come back. Thanks to MLB Trade Rumors, we have the players who are arbitration eligible; here are the players and their projected salaries,
Anthony Santander: $7.5 Million
Cedric Mullins: $4.4 Million
Austin Hays $3.1 Million
Austin Voth: $2 Million
Dillon Tate: $1.5 Million
Jorge Mateo: $1.8 Million
Cam Gallagher: $1 Million
These projected numbers add up to around $21.3 million; you add this onto the current payroll, and the Orioles have a $44.1 million payroll. While these numbers may be a little off, they are usually in the neighborhood.
For starters, I won’t pay Gallagher $1 million.
So we have about $43 million on the payroll with that move, giving us around $47 million to spend. That is a decent chunk of cash so let’s see what I can do and step into the GM’s Chair where I make the Orioles a true contender in 2023.
The first area I would like to add to is the rotation. Multiple writers with good sources have said the Orioles are looking into this market; even MASN’s Roch Kubatko said they want to acquire “multiple veteran starting pitchers.” The key word there is acquire, not sign. I believe the Orioles at least sign and trade for a starting pitcher each. The trade market has shaken a bit, with names like Pablo Lopez, Shane Bieber, and Corbin Burnes thrown around in pieces from established writers.
The Orioles are looking at the second and third tiers of pitchers, which I agree with. They don’t need an Ace-type pitcher and those are probably too expensive anyway. So let’s dive into that tier and get some quality pitchers.
Sign Sean Manaea: 1 year, $8 million
I understand Manaea was terrible last year, but let me explain. Before last year Manaea was one of the more consistent starters in the league. In years where he has pitched at least 140 innings, he has around a 4.00 ERA and a FIP in the high threes. That is a quality starter.
Last year, his stuff wasn’t good down the stretch. He got barreled up more, and his hard contact rates were downright awful.
So why is he here, then?
Manaea is the perfect candidate for a bounce-back year. He only faltered down the stretch, and he has the track record of a solid pitcher and won’t be expensive. He also fits the need for a left-handed starter and is the preferred option over someone like Andrew Heaney, who has proven he can’t handle the AL East, and seems like a Dodgers pitching lab merchant to me.
The Orioles have this new pitching lab they are building that is fixing these starters, so Manaea just fits them.
After this move, we now have around $39 million to spend.
Here is; the big fish. Lopez was awesome last year for the Marlins. He had an underwhelming second half, but those first-half numbers were special. The Marlins tried to trade Lopez to the Yankees at last year’s deadline, but they didn’t want to give up Gleyber Torres.
What is interesting about Lopez is that his ERA was better away (3.00) than at home in cavernous Marlins Park (4.55). Lopez is the trade the Orioles should be making right now. He is cheap, as he is only due around $6.5 million according to MLB Trade Rumors, has three-plus years of team control, and is affordable in a trade.
I used Baseball Trade Value’s Trade Simulator for this trade. This tool helps see how much it will cost, give or take, to get a player. Lopez’s value was 38.7, and prospects from the Orioles was 39.10. The piece that worries me the most about losing in this trade is Norby. He showed something last year, making it up to Triple-A, showing off his new impressive power. He will stick at second base, which does limit his value, but having a power-hitting second baseman who can already hit for a good average and get on base is quite a luxury. However, Jordan Westburg and Joey Ortiz make Norby expendable. I like Drew Rom, but we have to give up prospects we like here.
As for the other pieces, I mentioned the need to trade both Hays & Urias in their respective sections in the offseason outlook series. Urias needs to be moved to make way for Gunnar Henderson, and Hays has just run out of time to show me anything. These players are also relatively cheap, as Hays is only $3 million. The Orioles get the high-caliber pitcher they seek and clear spots for younger pieces. The Marlins get a Gold Glove third baseman, a solid second base prospect with tools not seen in the majors, a solid pitching prospect, and a cheap left fielder who could bounce back. If you think this is an overpay, it might be a little, but good pitchers take a lot to get, and the Orioles have what it takes to get anyone. Sometimes you have to overpay to get a good piece.
The Marlins take on Hays and Urias’s salaries, and in return, the Orioles pay Lopez’s projected $6 million. The Orioles lost Hays’ $3 million and Urias’ $705,500. That leaves us with 34.2 million. Now we have $41.8 million to add the infield, outfield, and DH.
Let’s get to the infield.
If you are here hoping for a significant addition to here, I have bad news. Roch’s comments and writers mentioning nothing about getting a big name shortstop has killed the dream. That doesn’t mean we can’t get better. In this reality, we need a second baseman that fills the gap until Jordan Westburg is ready.
We need one, so let’s get one.
Sign Brandon Drury: 1 year,$ 9 Million
Drury probably won’t be the popular move, but it makes sense, so let me explain. Drury played a ton of second before moving to third for the Reds prior to going to the Padres at the trade deadline. Drury is surprisingly versatile. Last year he played third the most (67 games), with first base (30), second base (27), shortstop (2), and right field (1). That shows versatility, which is essential because when Westburg does come up, Drury can play anywhere they want him and give guys a break. Baseball’s is a long season, and a team needs a veteran guy who can play anywhere.
Offensively, he was a mixed bag. He didn’t hit as well in San Diego, but his overall numbers were fine, at .263/.320/.492, with 31 doubles and 28 home runs for an .817 OPS. Drury made a lot of hard contact, and barrelled the life out of the ball. He also ranked very well defensively at third, despite his poor arm.
Drury would be a good signing due to his good offensive numbers, ability to hit the ball hard, and competence to play anywhere.
With this move, we now have $32.8 Million and need a guy who can play first and profile as a DH; thankfully, we have a guy that fits like a glove.
Sign Josh Bell: 3 years $41.4 Million.
If any move in this article has to be made, this is the one I want. Josh Bell fits what the Orioles want. He doesn’t strike out, walks, and hits the ball hard. He also is a switch hitter and is familiar with the DMV area. Bell didn’t have the best counting numbers in San Diego, but he is a professional hitter with power. He would play mostly DH with a little first sprinkled in. The Orioles need to improve at DH, and while banking on Santander isn’t the worst idea in the world, we are making the team better anywhere we can. This does create a bit of a jam in the outfield, but we can figure that out. Bell is just such a good fit for Baltimore.
With this move, we now have $19.5 million to address left field.
I need a guy who can play left and handle “Walltimore.” I also need someone who would be relativity cheap because of the expected emergence of Colton Cowser later in the season.
Luckily I think I have found a fit that works.
Sign David Peralta: One year, $8 Million.
We are getting weird with this one so let me explain. Peralta has been a solid veteran outfielder for a long time, spending most of his time in Arizona before being traded to Tampa. He provides a left-handed bat that hits the ball hard and plays great defense. In this scenario, he is the inverse of Hays, having good defensive metrics but a bad arm. This worries me a bit with Mullins’s throwing issues, but Peralta won’t be an everyday starter after May or early June because of Cowser.
I get this isn’t the most popular move, but convincing a player to come in and play half the time isn’t attractive and we only need him for a little while anyway. Peralta is a good player and fills a couple of months’ need.
With this signing, we have $11.5 million remaining, but we have added all needs.
Where does this money go? It goes into this:
Extend Adley Rutschman: 7 Years, $165 Million.
In this scenario, the Orioles lock up their dude for years. This would be the second-highest extension ever for a catcher, and I could see him making up toward the top two catcher money in the future.
For this exercise, though, he gets $5 million this year, which is the important part.
So the Orioles will sit on about $6.5 Million to do anything else in the season or at the trade deadline.
As for the bullpen, our moves in the rotation opened up Tyler Wells, D.L. Hall, or Austin Voth to either win the 6th man in the rotation or move to the Bullpen.
So the Opening Day Roster looks like this
Setup man: Cionel Perez
Late inning man: Dillon Tate
Closer: Felix Bautista
Catchers: Adley Rutschman, Anthony Bemboom
First base/Designated Hitter: Ryan Mountcastle, Josh Bell
Second Base/Utility: Brandon Drury, Terrin Vavra
Shortstop: Jorge Mateo
Third Base: Gunnar Henderson
Left Field: David Peralta/ Ryan McKenna
Center Field: Cedric Mullins
Right Field: Anthony Santander/Kyle Stowers
Add in guys like Westburg and Cowser who could make their debuts early and boom, you have the makings of a great team.
This team isn’t perfect; it might not even be what I or most fans want. However, this seems to be the ideal in terms of spending money while being smart and not paying for a $30 million player (as much as I would want it, I don’t feel like the Orioles want to spend that much on one player. This doesn’t make them cheap; it just means being smart with the money you do have).
Now we sit back and watch to see if Elias & the Angeloses are ready to put their money where their mouths are, and if they are for real.
Enjoy the Winter Meetings, and who knows, Elias might surprise us.