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O’s Improve, But Not by Much

Adam Frazier
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It has been a while since my last Winter update. Since then, the free-agent market has dried up, with only a handful of players remaining that could be useful to the Orioles. Despite teams milking the market of quality free agents these last couple of weeks while influencing MLB odds, the O’s did make a couple of solid moves and have been linked in a couple of trade rumors.

So why not discuss all these moves and rumors in one nice tightly wrapped gift this Holiday season?

Orioles sign Adam Frazier for One year, $8 Million

Adam Frazier has had a weird last couple of years, hasn’t he? He had a breakout 2021 first half with the Pirates, where he became the National League’s All-star Second Baseman. After this, he was traded to the Padres mid-season and regressed heavily. He never found his groove in San Diego. They had a crowded infield and made Frazier a super utility player, which never made sense. The Padres realized this quickly and sold him off to the Mariners last offseason.

Frazier had a down 2022 in Seattle, which saw his average go down, and the things he did well on offense fell apart.

The Orioles are banking on Frazier returning to his old form in a much better hitting environment. When Frazier is right, he is making a ton of contact, getting on base, and not striking out. He didn’t make much contact in 2021, which is weird. He did manage to keep his K rate down and walk a lot, but if he is going to help this team, he will have to make contact.

He never hit for power, so it isn’t surprising that he never really has put up a great OPS. Frazier is still an upgrade over Rougned Odor (which honestly isn’t hard to do), and he will play good defense and get on base and not strikeout.

Frazier will probably play better this year; my issue with him is that I don’t want him blocking an opportunity for Jordan Westburg if he is ready out of Spring. Last year, it felt like Brandon Hyde chose to play veterans over prospects for some reason, so history repeating itself wouldn’t be ideal. Despite my concerns about Frazier blocking prospects, he still is a good value signing, but it does bring up more questions than answers, which will be addressed later.

Orioles sign Mychal Givens for One Year, $5 Million

The Orioles brought home a familiar face. Mychal Givens was one of the Orioles’ best relievers a couple of years ago before he got traded to Colorado in 2020. Since that trade, Givens has had a hard time sticking with one club, bouncing around from Colorado to Cincinnati until last year.

He signed with the Cubs and found himself again. He was traded to the Mets, where he saw his numbers fall off slightly. Givens is great as a low-leverage reliever who can come in the sixth or earlier and can keep the game close. He struggles when he has to go into high-leverage situations. Luckily he shouldn’t have to do that with the back end of the bullpen returning (please don’t think about putting Givens in over any of the big three, Hyde).

Givens makes this bullpen into a high-powered weapon.

Orioles trade for James McCann

The Orioles made their first big league trade of the off-season. James McCann was horrible for the Mets last year; there are no ifs or buts about it. He couldn’t stay healthy, and when he did play, he was terrible. The Mets had to get rid of him and his disaster of a contract. The Orioles are only on the hook for $5 million, while the Mets have to pay the rest. Baltimore will also have to give up a PTBNL, but it doesn’t sound like he will be a top-30 guy and won’t be all that impactful.

This trade all depends on how you look at it. If McCann is a starter, you are in deep trouble, but as a backup, he is fine. Orioles will view McCann as a backup to Adley Rutschman, and yes, he is a massive upgrade over Robinson Chirinos (no, I don’t know why he was in Baltimore for the whole year). McCann for a PTBNL and $5 Million is fine.

With that out of the way, the Orioles have been named in two trade rumors so let’s take a peek and check them out.

Orioles trade Jorge Mateo?

This Rumor was stated by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. He said that other teams around the league are calling the Orioles about Jorge Mateo and his availability. Ken’s choice of words is important, because it seems like Mike Elias isn’t shopping Mateo, rather teams want to know what it will take to get him.

It makes sense for a contender to want Mateo. He is cheap, plays phenomenal defense, has shown flashes offensively while still having his electric speed. For all the reasons listed, he would be the best option for a contender like the Dodgers or the Braves. I mentioned before how the Frazier signing is creating more questions than answers for the infield but is trading Mateo the answer? It depends on the return. The Orioles are beyond trading major leaguers for prospects, so it would have to be a deal for a major leaguer. Dealing Mateo for a young high, upside pitcher would be awesome, but if that isn’t the market, don’t trade him.

The Orioles can trade someone like Ramon Urias or a prospect if they want a younger pitcher, to fix the crowded infield, not someone with elite defense and one of the best base runners in the league. It would take a particular deal to trade Mateo, and if those requirements aren’t met, the phone gets hung up.

Orioles trade for an ace?

MLB.com linked the Orioles to the Brewers ace, Corbin Burnes.

The trade details are this:

Orioles get: Corbin Burnes

Brewers get: Colton Cowser, Jordan Westburg, Cade Povich, Kyle Bradish

This is what it takes to get a Cy Young award winner. He isn’t cheap and only comes with two guaranteed years of service time, so an extension would have to be reached. Giving up this much hurts, but if you can get Burns without Gunnar Henderson or Grayson Rodriguez in the deal, then I guess it would be a win.

The issue is that Cowser and Westburg are factoring into this organization’s next five to seven years. Is it worth it to give up all that, plus a solid major league Pitcher for Burnes? It is similar to what the Mariners had to give up for Luis Castillo, who was worse than Burnes. It doesn’t even seem like the Brewers are ready to trade off guys yet; they seem like they want to compete for now.

This might ruffle some feathers, but I say no to this deal. I understand that prospects are unknowns, but I am not in favor of giving up Cowser and Westburg, who should play a huge part of the team’s future. I get it: the Orioles have the best farm system in the league and can get any pitcher they need, but these prospects aren’t as unknown as some fans like to push.

So, in conclusion, the mindset hasn’t changed for this off-season. If they make a big splash move, it will come from the trade market. They signed two solid major leaguers, traded for a backup catcher, and are rumored to be in the market to do more.

Still, though this team is better than the 2022 orioles, getting rid of the dead weight like Odor and Chirinos, how much better will they be? Will these major league signings block prospects? Will they trade off major league pieces for young pitching or let the kids play it out?

Will they trade these Prospects for an Ace or something close?

Time will tell.

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