This offseason features a group of shortstops often referred to as the “Big Four,” which consists of Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts an Dansby Swanson. While they have been connected in rumors to most of the high-spending clubs around the league, Jon Heyman of The New York Post reports that the Orioles have checked in on them. Heyman adds that it’s more likely they invest in starting pitching since their need at shortstop isn’t terribly strong and there are other teams involved, but the interest is noteworthy nonetheless.
The O’s have been deeply committed to a rebuild in recent years and have been among the least active teams in free agency. The last time they gave a free agent a contract longer than one year was to Alex Cobb back in March of 2018. The rebuild resulted in five straight losing seasons from 2017 to 2021, with the club finishing last in the American League East in all four full seasons in that stretch. However, the club turned a corner in 2022, with their young core starting to emerge and helping the club go 83-79. That still only amounted to a fourth place finish in the division, but they flirted with the postseason race for much of the second half and seem poised to see better results going forward.
On the heels of that step forward, general manager Mike Elias has spoken about going into a more competitive phase of the club’s rebuilding plan, though he has also attempted to temper expectations at the same time. “We’re not going to go from zero miles an hour to 60 miles an hour in one offseason,” Elias said, which would seem to be a coded way of saying that they will be more active than in years past but aren’t planning to suddenly jump to the top of the market.
Still, there are reasons for them to at least hover around the market and keep an eye on it. Just one year ago, Correa didn’t find the long-term deal he was looking for and ended up settling for a three-year deal with high salaries and opt outs after each season. If one of the “Big Four” found themselves in a similar situation this year, the O’s would be a good to try to take advantage of it.
Since the O’s have eschewed spending for so long, their payroll outlook is essentially clear. Their commitments for 2023 are just $41MM, according to Roster Resource, less than what Max Scherzer will make by himself. Despite their recent devotion to skinflintism, they ran payrolls around $150MM from 2016 to 2018 and can surely start inching their…