Oriole pitchers and catchers will report for spring training in less than two months and – as everyone should know by now – they aren’t going to sneak up on anybody in 2024.
The proof is in the futures odds, which are devised by unseen individuals almost certainly using some mysterious AI program in a glitzy desert town far, far away from Baltimore and Sarasota. And hopefully, they won’t be as wrong as they were last year.
If you’re a sketchy gambler like me, you might remember that FanDuel was selling the Orioles at 50-1 to win the American League East in mid-April, and that was after they had run off seven straight wins to inch surprisingly close to the seeming runaway Tampa Bay Rays. Easy to say now, but we all could have been rich.
No such luck this year. I happened to drop by Maryland Live last week to check out the 2024 futures odds and the odds against the Orioles repeating as division champion were just 2.8 to 1. Note the period between the 2 and the 8. The only AL East team with better odds were the Yankees at 2.5 to 1 after finishing a distant fourth behind the O’s this year, and their odds had dropped even lower (+140) by Sunday, but there are reasons for that.
About 300 million of them.
The current odds against the Orioles winning the pennant are just 7-1 and the odds against them winning the World Series are 15-1. Just a hunch, but maybe FanGraphs will have them winning more than 79 games this year.
The new guy
For reasons that can only be explained as general laziness, I have yet to comment on the signing of free agent closer Craig Kimbrel, though many of you have voiced concerns about his last few playoff appearances.
Clearly, he struggled badly in the Phillies’ NLCS loss to the surprising Diamondbacks and he’s not the same guy who averaged 41 saves from 2011 to 2018, but I still like the move because he still is a very experienced closer and the O’s have other options if he falters.
Rule 5 Draft revisited
For once, the Orioles won’t go into spring training agonizing over whether to keep a Rule 5 pick on the major league roster all year, but I’m going to miss that little bit of preseason intrigue.
The Orioles had space on the roster for another longshot castaway, but the decision to forego a pick this time is a nod to the number of major-league-ready players who will compete for places on the 26-man Opening Day roster when camp opens in mid-February.
Still, I was a bit surprised, since they’ve had decent luck over the years using Rule 5 to acquire some depth (or better) on the cheap.
The most notable recent draftees to become productive players in Baltimore are Anthony Santander and Tyler Wells. The Orioles also can point regretfully to a couple of pretty good players they drafted and then waived during spring training — current Yankees starter Nestor Cortes (2017) and big-time Blue Jays slugger José Bautista (2002).