Despite the ongoing legal drama involving the sons and wife of Orioles principal owner Peter Angelos, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday he believes the team will continue to reside in Baltimore.
“As long as I have this job, I think you can count on the fact the Orioles are going to be in Baltimore,” Manfred said during his winter meetings news conference.
The Orioles’ lease at Camden Yards, their home for the past 31 seasons, is set to expire Dec. 31, 2023, though the team can exercise a one-time option for a five-year extension by Feb. 1. In a June lawsuit against his brother, Orioles chairman CEO John Angelos, and his mother, Georgia Angelos, Louis Angelos suggested his brother has considered moving the club, with Nashville mentioned as a possible destination. John Angelos has since reiterated his stance that the Orioles will remain in Baltimore “as long as Fort McHenry is standing watch over the Inner Harbor,” and his mother has since filed a suit against Louis.
Manfred said he has met in person with both John and Georgia Angelos to discuss the legal situation.
“I’m comfortable with the positions that they’ve taken,” Manfred said. “It’s absolutely clear that under baseball’s rules, John Angelos is the control person and he has the vote for the club. I’m sorry there’s litigation involved. It attracts all kind of negative attention to the game. Having said that, I’m really comfortable with the way the club is being run and our relationship with the club and Major League Baseball’s relationship with the club.”
Agent Scott Boras: Orioles ‘birds of prey’
For the first time in years, Scott Boras’ annual winter meetings media gathering featured talk of the Orioles, with the sport’s best-known agent saying the team has been active in early free-agent activity.
“Baltimore, they’re birds of prey,” Boras said. “They’ve feathered up. They’re guys that really have an amazing young core.
“There’s a number of young players they’re stocked with, and I think they’re trying to supplement this young nucleus because they really feel they’re ready to be competitive.”
That largely aligns with what executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said Monday, noting the club is targeting pitchers who could slot at the top of its rotation and position players who can complement its bevy of young hitters. Left-hander Carlos Rodón, the top remaining free-agent starter, is a Boras client, as are shortstops Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts, though both are less likely to align with Elias’ stated desire to “not block” rising prospects. Still, he has said he intends to increase Baltimore’s payroll and try to add significant players, though the level to which the Orioles will do either is unclear. Gunnar Henderson, Jackson Holliday and DL Hall, three of the Orioles’ top five prospects according to Baseball America, are also Boras clients.
“They’ve been very aggressive,” Boras said. “Mike has been in constant contact. The Orioles are in a different place, and Mike’s made us all very aware of that.”
Later in the day, Elias said he’s spoken with Boras about “a number of his clients” and that the club is “talking to every major agency here on a face-to-face basis.”
“I like the ‘feather up’ lingo,” Elias quipped. “We’re always looking for some different catchphrases and appreciated that.”
Thus far, the Orioles’ only major league free-agent signing was right-hander Kyle Gibson, whose $10 million agreement is the largest guaranteed salary Elias has given out in his four-plus years in Baltimore. The club has also made a handful of depth moves, particularly for left-handed hitters who play corner defensive positions. After claiming first baseman Lewin Díaz and signing outfielder Franchy Cordero to a minor league deal ahead of the winter meetings, the Orioles announced Tuesday they also brought in outfielder Nomar Mazara and infielder Josh Lester on a minor league agreement.
Mazara, 27, is a career .256/.314/.414 hitter in a seven-year career spent mostly with the Texas Rangers. He hit .264 with a .668 OPS in 55 games for the San Diego Padres in 2022, with Elias saying he and Cordero will be part of a group contending for a left-handed outfielder role in spring training. Lester, 28, previously spent his career in the Detroit Tigers’ system, going 0-for-5 in his first two major league games last season. Primarily a first baseman, Lester also played briefly at second base, third base and both corner outfield spots while hitting 29 home runs with 99 RBIs and a .791 OPS in Triple-A.
Orioles waiting out market for Rutschman backup
Baltimore spent most of last offseason with no catchers on its 40-man roster, and Elias suggested it might spend a while this winter with only one.
The Orioles are set for a starter at the position with Adley Rutschman, the former top prospect who finished as runner-up in American League Rookie of the Year voting. But given that Rutschman won’t play every game behind the plate, securing a sound backup figures to be a significant part of the Orioles’ offseason checklist.
The state of the market is delaying that pursuit, Elias said. Backup candidates Anthony Bemboom and Mark Kolozsvary are in the organization but not on the 40-man roster after being outright, but Elias said the Orioles are looking to sign a major league free agent for the role. With several starting-level catchers on the trade market, most notably Oakland’s Sean Murphy, Elias said he expects Baltimore’s options to become clearer once those trades are made or the teams dangling catchers elect to hold them.
It will be an important decision for the Orioles, with their backup catcher likely to start at least a quarter of their games. Elias offered the 125-game benchmark as the “upper bound” of what the Orioles could ask of Rutschman behind the plate in his second season, with time at designated hitter and also first base possibly in the mix.
“We want him back there catching as much as he can while not wearing his body down to where his performance suffers,” Elias said. “There is no one in the league who catches every single game.”