The Baltimore Orioles shocked the MLB world by winning the AL East and earning the American League's No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs. For all of the Orioles efforts this season, general manager Mike Elias has been recognized.
Elias was named the 2023 Executive of the Year, via Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Brandon Hyde is one of the finalists for Manager of the Year.
With a bevvy of young stars on their roster and a 101-win season under their belt, Baltimore's arrow is pointing up. As their top prospects continue to develop, the Orioles will only get scarier.
However, while Baltimore was surely successful in 2023, they were quickly bounced out of the playoffs via a clean 3-0 sweep by the eventual World Series champion Texas Rangers. The Orioles are looking to make a much deeper playoff run in 2024.
As Mike Elias looks to build off of his Executive of the Year award, there's a clear area of need Baltimore must address.
Orioles sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto
While Shohei Ohtani will be the most sought after free agent, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the latest star to be joining the MLB ranks. At 25-years old, Yamamoto has a chance to take the league by storm.
Yamamoto has pitched in 188 games for the Orix Buffaloes in the Nippon Professional League. He holds a 75-30 record with a 1.72 ERA and a 986/216 K/BB ratio. He has won the Pacific League MVP as well as the Sawamura Award – Japan's equivalent of Cy Young – the past two seasons. Furthermore, he was earned the pitching Triple Crown the past three seasons.
With Ohtani set to just hit in 2024, Yamamoto is arguably the most intriguing pitcher in the free agent market. With him going through the posting system, his free agency will be much different than many. However, with the pure talent his possesses, he will surely be on the mind of many teams. Many expected him to slide effortlessly into the top of any pitching rotation.
The Orioles have plenty of burgeoning stars on offense. Adley Rutschman, Gunner Henderson and a hoard of up-and-coming talent is set to carry Baltimore's bats for years to come. However, if the Orioles truly want to be competitive, they'll need an ace atop their rotation.
Last season, Baltimore's starting pitchers ranked 11th in the MLB with a 4.14 ERA. Their .246 batting average against ranked 12th. While on the surface, the Orioles seem to have an above average staff, things fell apart in the postseason. Over their three postseason games, the Orioles' starters had a 14.63 ERA and a .455 batting average against. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers were worse.
The Orioles have plenty of intriguing options such as Kyle Braddish, Dean Kremer and Grayson Rodriguez. However, Baltimore needs a star atop their rotation they can trust in crunch time. With the offense taken care of, the Orioles need to focus on adding consistency and firepower to their pitching staff.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto may not seem like a safe option, simply because he has never pitched in MLB. However, he was on an absolute tear in the NPB. With back-to-back Sawamura Awards, Yamamoto has been the crown jewel of the NPB. The Orioles need to make a splash after Mike Elias' honor and they're surprising playoff push. Signing Yamamoto would do exactly that, proving to the rest of the league that Baltimore is for real.