Orioles fans probably didn't think they'd be pondering the team's upcoming offseason in September. Alas, the current season is no longer worth caring about, so here we are. It's been known for some time that the Orioles had major departures pending for the end of the 2015 season, with Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Wei-Yin Chen, Steve Pearce and Darren O'Day all being free agents (in addition to the now-departed Bud Norris, Alejandro De Aza and Delmon Young, and the recently arrived Gerardo Parra). They could, of course, re-sign one or more of those players, but you can't assume that they will, any more than you should assume they'll sign any other particular free agents. So let's take a look at what we do know about the Orioles roster for 2016, barring any trades of the team's current assets:
Three players under contract
Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy and Ubaldo Jimenez are all signed to the 2016 squad, for a total of $41.8 million.
Six pre-arbitration players
Kevin Gausman, Jonathan Schoop and Caleb Joseph are virtual locks for the 2016 squad. Chaz Roe, T.J. McFarland and Jimmy Paredes may be on the bubble come spring training, but for the sake of this thought exercise we'll assume that they're likely to make the team. That's ~$3M for those six. Other guys with minor-league options fit this bill as well (Jason Garcia, Mychal Givens, Mike Wright, Henry Urrutia), but we'll leave them out of this equation at the moment, somewhat arbitrarily.
Eight arbitration eligible players
There's not much to discuss with Manny Machado, entering his first year of arbitration, or Chris Tillman, in his second. Other guys who are virtual locks at various stages of arbitration include Miguel Gonzalez, Zach Britton and even Brad Brach (though he may be a fungible commodity, he's been a valuable reliever and he'll still be relatively cheap). There could be arguments for non-tendering Ryan Flaherty or Steve Clevenger, since utility infielders and backup catchers are very replaceable, but they'll each still be cheap enough (and the team has already gone through enough to keep each) that I expect to see them remain on the roster.
The last man to discuss is Brian Matusz. Plenty of Orioles fans would have loved to see Matusz non-tendered last offseason, but they'll probably get their wish this year, as Matusz is in his final year of arbitration, and would be due entirely too much money for an unreliable platoon reliever.
MLB Trade Rumors puts out very reliable arbitration salary estimates each year, but they're not out yet. Just doing napkin math on the seven guys I expect the Orioles to keep around, they add up to somewhere in the neighborhood of $25M.
Heading into the offseason
Total all of that up and the Orioles should carry over 16 players for approximately $70 million. They'll have to fill their 25-man roster with nine players: Five batters (first base, two outfielders and two bench bats) and four pitchers (a starter and three relievers).
For most of these positions, the Orioles have at least one internal option (some of the above pre-arb players, as well as Christian Walker, Dariel Alvarez, Steve Johnson and Jorge Rondon). They'll need to sign at least one outside outfielder -- it's really not much of an option -- and probably two. First base would be a huge drop in offensive production if they opt for Walker, so they'll probably want to bring in outside help there if they don't track down a big corner outfield bat.
The starting pitching hole is also one the team will probably want to fill from outside the roster, not just because the internal options are so uncertain, but because they're all right-handed, as are the team's four remaining starters. The team will likely want at least one lefty in the rotation, one way or another.
Trades are always an option, of course, as are Dan Duquette's continued dumpster dive signings (which had an unusually low success rate this year). But for whatever needs the team decides to address in the free agent market, if its payroll doesn't rise much from its current ~$120M, and if they don't shed any payroll elsewhere, they will have about $50M to work with in plugging holes. If they make a serious effort to retain Davis (which I hope they do), they can expect him to soak up as much as $20M of that.
So, yes, the Orioles have lots of money coming off the books, but realistically, that money is going to fly off the table very quickly to plug as many holes as the team is facing. The team's transition from this season to next will be its most drastic in recent memory. How they decide to address it could shape the team for years to come -- it will be an offseason to watch much more closely than the last few for Orioles fans.