Allegany Communications Sports

Any time to talk and think about baseball is a good time, particularly after you’ve spent over an hour shoveling water-weighted snow from sidewalks, driveways, parked cars and driveway entrances in the cold winter air.

White Christmas, my arse; Bing Crosby is full of it. I don’t see any treetops glistening, nor children listening. Though I did see a handful of kids in the neighborhood playing in the snow, which was pretty cool, because, sadly, you don’t see much of that these days. Maybe they’re in from out of town, I don’t know …

Anyway, ever since the MLB Winter Meetings earlier this month in San Diego, Baltimore Orioles fans have been having a tizzy because the Orioles have yet to make the big splash free-agent signing or blockbuster trade, while I am of the mind that general manager Mike Elias is having himself and his team a merry little offseason.

I understand after trading Trey Mancini and closer Jorge Lopez (both deals that should have been made, IMO), Elias felt compelled to calm the lovesick fans who had not wanted Mancini or Lopez to go by saying, “I think it’s liftoff from here for this team.”

Liftoff, as Orioles fans are finding out, did not mean making a big free-agent play for any of the four shortstops (no, I don’t know if any of them are tenors), Aaron Judge, Justin Verlander, deGrom, Rondon or anybody of the type.

I believe what Elias meant by “liftoff” was this team, with the progress it made through the course of the entire 2022 season, is ready to get better and better because of the relative youth of the team and the talent, speed and baseball-playerness that exists up and down the 40-man roster as well as in the top farm system in the game.

The core of the Orioles big-league roster is beyond solid. Once it begins to mature, it’s going to be off the charts, and the Baltimore Orioles are going to be a very, very good baseball team for a long time to come.

In the meantime, when you’re set up the middle, beginning with catcher, and carry the depth to cover the corner infield and outfield positions, which the Orioles showed last season they are and do, you supplement that core with proven complementary players, and that is what Elias has been doing this winter.

On Wednesday, the Orioles acquired catcher James McCann and cash considerations from the New York Mets (talk about cash considerations) for a player to be named later who is not expected to be a prospect.

It is a low-risk, potentially high-reward move for Baltimore, which needed a No. 2 catcher after Robinson Chirinos became a free agent. McCann, a nine-year big league veteran who has played for the Tigers, White Sox and Mets, was an All-Star with Chicago in 2019.

In addition to backing up Adley Rutschman, McCann will get some starts at designated hitter, especially against left-handed pitchers, and can play first base where he can spell Ryan Mountcastle on his days off.

Previously, the Orioles had added starting pitcher Kyle Gibson, who will likely assume the role that Jordan Lyles held last season in leading and mentoring the young starters, and producing innings. If the Orioles do add another player to the 40-man roster this winter it is expected to be another starting pitcher.

The Birds have also added versatile infielder/outfielder Adam Frazier, a former All-Star in Pittsburgh, who could be the Opening Day second baseman, and brought back veteran reliever Mychal Givens to bolster the bullpen.

These are additions that make a good team better, because they help make the whole stronger than the sum of its parts. But don’t be fooled: The Orioles’ parts are very good and are going to become better and better.

These are the same kind of no-glitz or glamour offseason additions the Orioles used to make with the likes of John Lowenstein, Gary Roenicke, Benny Ayala, Jim Dwyer and Steve Stone, so there is successful precedent here, not only in Baltimore, but throughout baseball.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who you add unless your pitching is going to carry you, which Orioles pitching did last season in the club’s first winning season in six years.

Though they still may add starting pitching, the Orioles have put themselves in a good position to make a splash that fans love to see with an in-season trade, perhaps for a big bat, which would be nice, or for another veteran starting pitcher. Certainly, they have the capital in the farm system to do it once it comes time to pull the trigger and make the bigger push for the postseason.

In the meantime, frustrated Orioles fans need to chill. Whether they know it or not, this offseason has gone just the way they wanted it to. So they should just watch, enjoy and maybe learn something along the way.

Their days will be merry and bright.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT