The Orioles don't typically make a big splash at the baseball winter meetings — and the organization has few holes to fill going into the offseason's showcase event — but the Orioles will arrive at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort in Oxon Hill with plenty of business to do.
The meetings, which run today through Thursday outside Washington, serve as an opportunity for teams to lay groundwork on possible trades and free-agent signings. Clubs can also have preliminary discussions on contract extensions.
In recent years, the meetings have become more of a spectacle, with focus on all the rumors flying through the hotel lobby. But for the most part, the Orioles brass will be several floors above that, inside the team's suite working to improve on the club's third trip to the postseason in five years.
Still, the Orioles haven't done much in terms of acquisitions during the meetings. In 2012, they retained outfielder Nate McLouth on a one-year flier, but otherwise, the Orioles' recent significant winter meetings action has been limited to taking players in the annual Rule 5 draft.
But that's not to say the Orioles won't be active in the rumor mill. Here are four pressing questions about the Orioles entering the meetings.
How much trade talk will involve the Orioles? The Orioles won't land a big fish such as Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, but for the first time in several years, they enter the offseason with a surplus of starting pitchers. Veterans Ubaldo Jimenez, Yovani Gallardo and Wade Miley will make significant money this season, but a five-man rotation won't likely include all three, barring injuries.
The club would be willing to move one for the right price, a major league piece or multiple prospects, but maybe more importantly, dealing one early in the offseason would free up payroll that could allow the Orioles to make a key free-agent signing.
Despite contract options, all three could become free agents at the end of the season.
The Orioles were close to shipping Jimenez to the San Diego Padres at the nonwaiver trade deadline at the end of July, but he stayed with the team and enjoyed a solid final two months. Provided the Orioles could find a trade partner that would take on Jimenez's $13.5 million salary for the final year of his four-year, $50 million deal, moving Jimenez could affect the Orioles the most.
Gallardo will make $11 million in 2017 but is guaranteed $13 million because of a $2 million buyout tied to a $13 million club option for 2018.
Miley, the team's trade-deadline acquisition in 2016, might be the easiest to move, simply because there's a premium on left-handers and he will make just $8.92 million this season. Miley's deal includes a 2018 club option for $12 million, but his $500,000 buyout is minute.
All three have had their ups and downs as Orioles, and six pitchers in a starting rotation doesn't work. But the Orioles don't necessarily have the best rotation depth, so having a surplus of starting pitching isn't a bad thing. It's just a matter of whether the Orioles are willing to pay a premium for that, and all signs point to no.
Are the Orioles still in the mix for Mark Trumbo? Now that a new collective bargaining agreement has been signed, free-agent signings should pick up this week after a slow start to the offseason. The New York Mets' signing of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $110 million deal set the market standard, but Trumbo's landing spot still appears to be tied to where Edwin Encarnacion — another top-tier power-hitting first baseman-designated hitter — winds up.
Trumbo's market is still developing. Early projections had him in line for the four-year, $57 million deal that Nelson Cruz netted after leading the American League in home runs with the Orioles in 2014. And though Trumbo led the majors with 47 homers this past season — and every lineup can benefit from additional power — his destinations are limited.
Few teams would sign Trumbo to play the outfield — he made 96 starts in the outfield for the Orioles and posted minus-11 defensive runs saved — so he would likely have to slot as a first baseman or full-time designated hitter. That could take most National League teams out of the fold.
There is a possibility Trumbo, who declined the Orioles' $17.2 million qualifying offer, comes back to the Orioles, but that's not likely to happen until later in the offseason.
Will there be any talk of an extension for Manny Machado? The sides could touch base on an extension for Machado — who will be eligible to become a free agent after the 2018 season — at the meetings, but there are no signs that any extension is in the works to keep Machado in an Orioles uniform long term.
At 24, Machado is coming off the best season of his career. There's nothing to suggest he won't continue to get better, so the cost of retaining Machado isn't going to fall. And because he could hit the open market at 26, a lucrative deal awaits in free agency.
Center fielder Adam Jones and closer Zach Britton also will be eligible to become free agents after the 2018 season. That's also when the contracts of executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter also are scheduled to expire.
So the Orioles have these two years to decide which players they want to keep, and it's not to say that Machado isn't one of them, but progress on an extension hasn't happened yet.
The window is also closing on right-hander Chris Tillman, who is eligible to become a free agent after this season. The Orioles don't usually sign players to extensions during the final year of their contract, with shortstop J.J. Hardy's three-year extension signed during the 2014 postseason being the exception, so now is also the time to reconnect with Tillman about his long-term future in Baltimore.
Will the Orioles be active in Thursday's Rule 5 draft? This is the easiest question of them all. In each of the previous five years under Duquette, the Orioles have made at least one Rule 5 pick, and the club has been successful in using the draft to supplement its roster. The 40-man roster has space, so the club could return from the meetings with one or two Rule 5 players.
Five of the Orioles' six Rule 5 picks since 2011 are on the organization's 40-man roster — third baseman Michael Almanzar, the team's pick in 2013, was returned to the Boston Red Sox, but came back to the Orioles in a trade — so the club has done a solid job of retention.
Utility man Ryan Flaherty (2011) and reliever T.J. McFarland (2012) have long been major league players, and outfielder Joey Rickard was a contributor to last year's team before suffering a season-ending injury. The club also recently reacquired right-hander Logan Verrett, the second of two picks in 2014, in a trade with the Mets.
Still, carrying a Rule 5 pick has its challenges. The Orioles struggled keeping right-hander Jason Garcia, their first 2014 pick, in the back of their bullpen. Garcia landed on the disabled list and logged enough time on the active roster to meet his Rule 5 requirement.
In most seasons, the Orioles tap the Rule 5 draft for areas of need, so don't be surprised if they select a pitcher or corner outfielder.