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Thursday Bird Droppings: The Orioles made the biggest winter meetings free agent signing

Craig Kimbrel’s deal was enough to be the biggest signing at a slow meeting. Things popped off after everyone left.

Championship Series - Arizona Diamondbacks v Philadelphia Phillies - Game One
The strange pose is going to be coming to an Orioles uniform next season.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Hello, friends.

There are now 112 days remaining until Orioles Opening Day 2024.

A new Oriole is in the fold today! As you likely already know if you were paying attention yesterday, the Orioles signed free agent reliever Craig Kimbrel to a one-year contract that will guarantee him $13 million. There is also a club option for 2025 that could kick the contract up to a total value of two years and $25 million. Check out my article reacting to the news of the signing.

As general manager Mike Elias was happy to tell reporters in his availability after the signing, this turned out to be the biggest free agent signing that went down at this week’s winter meetings. The formal time spent for the meetings in Nashville was not a time for blockbuster deals getting made.

Even the Yankees inevitable acquisition of Juan Soto from the Padres did not end up getting completed before the principal executives headed out of town and back to their home cities. That deal did get completed late on Wednesday night, though. Soto is joining the Yankees for next year. I’m not excited about that. Also finished late Wednesday night, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported: Eduardo Rodriguez to the Diamondbacks for four years and about $80 million.

As for Kimbrel, he will be 36 next season. He’s a number of years removed from his time at the top of the game’s list of elite relievers. He’s still held strong fastball velocity even into his mid-30s, and he had some decent if not amazing regular season results for the Phillies in 2023. It was a mess for him once his team made it into the NLCS.

Elias said that Kimbrel will be the closer. He’s saved 417 games in his career, plus ten more in the postseason. Replacing for Félix Bautista was not going to be easy. I think there will be players who sign for more money or more years than Kimbrel who do worse than him next year. Looking for some more thoughts about the Kimbrel signing? Give my podcast a listen:

Yesterday, the Rule 5 Draft took place. It’s been a constant for more than 15 years that the Orioles would select a player in this draft; they’d made a pick every year the draft took place since 2006. The 2021 draft was canceled due to the owner-imposed lockout that offseason.

That stretch is over. The Orioles drafted nobody. They also had nobody selected from them in the major league phase of the draft. In total, ten teams selected players. This was expected to be a thin Rule 5 class due to the short five round 2020 draft and that seems to be how things played out. This was the smallest Rule 5 class in every draft since 2014. The O’s decision not to protect any minor leaguers who weren’t already on the 40-man roster has been validated. If you lost sleep over whether someone would pick Hudson Haskin, well, you can’t get that sleep back but at least you can stop losing sleep for that reason.

In the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, the O’s selected 20-year-old pitcher Nelvis Ochoa from the Rockies organization. Ochoa has yet to pitch above the Dominican Summer League level. The Guardians picked 26-year-old pitcher Connor Gillispie away from the Orioles. Gillispie had a 3.89 ERA and 1.150 WHIP for Double-A Bowie this season. Life is too short to care any more than this basic awareness of the minor league Rule 5.

With the winter meetings out of the way, there aren’t any big things left on the baseball calendar for the rest of the year. However, it’s anticipated there will still be some big baseball news remaining, with a decision from Shohei Ohtani about where to sign expected this weekend, newly-arriving Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto narrowing down his list. The O’s certainly won’t be directly involved with this duo, but those decisions and the one finished up by Eduardo Rodriguez will probably make a ripple effect onto whatever part of the free agent or trade market they decide they want to pursue.

Around the blogO’sphere

Orioles sign Craig Kimbrel (FanGraphs)
The FG analysis of the signing spends a lot of time talking about some of Kimbrel’s career postseason failures. It’s not that I don’t think this matters at all, but if we get to the point where that’s something to worry about then the season will have gone alright.

One-year deals like Craig Kimbrel’s are on the Orioles’ comfort zone. Now, the stakes are higher (The Baltimore Banner)
The Banner’s Jon Meoli notes that there’s a lot more risk in counting on Kimbrel to be good enough as the closer than there was in signing Kyle Gibson or Jordan Lyles. He ain’t wrong.

Elias on Kimbrel: “I think it’s a great deal for all sides” (School of Roch)
Among Elias’s remarks is that the first meeting he had last month at the general manager’s meetings was with Kimbrel’s agent. This was not a sudden whim of a signing.

Scott Boras jokes Orioles reach out “only once or twice a day” regarding contract extensions for Gunnar Henderson, Jackson Holliday (The Baltimore Sun)
The agent’s ritual holding of court at the winter meetings included some Orioles flavor this year. He said that it’s up to his team to decide what to relay to players, and then it’s up to players what they decide they want to pursue. Which is probably to say that the Orioles haven’t offered enough years and dollars.

A door is ajar: With Elias’s comments, O’s provide Jackson Holliday a path to Opening Day roster (Steve Melewski)
Elias said it’s a “very strong possibility” to end up with Holliday on the Opening Day roster next year. It will be exciting if Holliday plays his way onto the team right out of the gate.

Birthdays and Orioles anniversaries

In 1977, the Orioles made a three-for-three trade with the Montreal Expos that brought both Gary Roenicke and Don “Full Pack” Stanhouse to Baltimore.

There are a pair of former Orioles who were born on this day. They are: 1972-74 outfielder Rich Coggins, and 1955-56 catcher Hal Smith. Smith passed away in 2020 at age 89.

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday to you! Your birthday buddies for today include: author Willa Cather (1873), baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench (1947), basketball Hall of Famer Larry Bird (1956), and musician Sara Bareilles (1979).

On this day in history...

In 1776, the Frenchman Gilbert du Motier - that is, the Marquis de Lafayette - formally joined the Continental Army as a major general.

In 1941, the Navy base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan, leading to close than 2,500 fatalities and the sinking of four battleships. The “date which will live in infamy” prompted American entry into World War II.

In 1972, the most recent mission that brought men to the moon, Apollo 17, had its launch. Under current plans, 2024 will see the Artemis 2 mission orbiting the moon in 2024, with Artemis 3 landing people on the moon in 2025.


And that’s the way it is in Birdland on December 7. Have a safe Thursday.