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Are The Orioles Missing The Boat?

In a similar spot to the Cincinnati Reds, the Baltimore Orioles have a gluttony of talented position player prospects. In the AL East, the toughest division in baseball by quite a bit, with four teams that could easily win the division and another that is weird and random enough to make some noise if everything goes well (that's the Red Sox).

This is not the NL Central. The Rays, Yankees, and Blue Jays are all good and will only get better. Their pitching staff is, on paper, simply not up to snuff because they can't hit their way to a playoff showing, no matter how good their lineup may end up being this season. So, how do they address the elephant in the room that's their pitching staff?

Have They Made Any Moves To Address Their Pitching Staff?

Baltimore signed veteran reliever Craig Kimbrel who, despite Phillies fans' trepidations, is still a quality bullpen arm who can fill in for Bautista for a year, but their rotation is still a mess. Grayson Rodriguez, Kyle Braddish, and John Means are all fine and dandy, but last I checked, they won't be able to cover a whole season's worth of innings.

Some promising prospects are coming up the pipeline that Baltimore is likely going to have to depend on at some point this season as pitching injuries continue to mount across baseball, but with their very relaxed payroll and a group of young position players playing on pre-arbitration contracts, the time is now to spend money, even on mid-level pitchers who might not be as sexy as signing say, a Blake Snell or a Jordan Montgomery.

There's still plenty of time left in the offseason, and the slow-moving nature of this free agent class suggests that it still might be a while before anything else happens, but if the Orioles' goal is truly to compete for a World Series (as it should, and as should most teams if you're not at the bottom of your division), then some moves to sign some pitching would be prudent.

Well, Baltimore isn't New York

Sure, but the Orioles are also not the Rays. They shouldn't have the same salary constraints that the Rays do (although the Rays shouldn't either but that's another story), and they can afford to take some risks on some medium-to-high-priced arms. If their goal is to optimize and maximize their roster both in payroll and talent (similar to what the Rays do every year), not give your team the best chance to win the World Series every year, then that's a whole other discussion.

Otherwise, what are we doing here? Teams do not get a trophy for winning games and making the playoffs on a shoestring budget, and Baltimore will eventually have to extend some of their amazing young talent. Why not take advantage of this window, similar to what NFL teams do when they have QBs on rookie contracts?

Why So Critical?

The Orioles' record might have been wonderful last season, crossing the 100-win threshold and winning the division. Still, their baseline record says that they should have been an 89-win team, and that's with one of the best relievers in the game, Felix Bautista, who will miss all of 2024 due to Tommy John Surgery.

They aren't even projected to be a top-10 team in WAR, while the three other AL East powerhouses are certainly up there and making plenty of noise this offseason. Plus, their offensive performance last season was not as productive as people may think; their 4.98 runs per game are wonderful, but their .837 OPS with runners in scoring position had quite a bit to do with it.

Despite ranking in the middle of the pack in the AL when it comes to most other offensive categories, Baltimore was able to use their "clutch" ability (something that can't be proven to be a real thing) to score plenty of runs. This type of production with RISP may be unsustainable, but Orioles fans can at least take comfort in the fact that the lineup is so young that they're bound to improve on the rest of their offensive numbers.

Despite that comforting notion, the Orioles can't be done this offseason by making moves to address their team. Again, if they're under a mandate from ownership to create a Rays-like system of cheap, sustainable success, then fine, have fun with it, but the Orioles aren't at the Rays level.

Yet. We'll see if they ever get there, and how their potential method of thinking impacts this team's performance this season.

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