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The Opener: Orioles, Blue Jays, Workouts

With just two weeks until Spring Training, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world throughout the day today:

1. Orioles under new management?

A surprise report yesterday indicated that the Angelos family, majority owners of the Orioles for the past three decades, have agreed to sell the club to a group led by David Rubenstein of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. Though the deal has not yet been approved by the league — reporting has indicated that a vote on the matter could come as soon as next week— the change in ownership could prove to be a seismic shift for the Orioles if approved.

Baltimore projects for just an $81MM payroll this year per Roster Resource, the third-lowest figure in the majors. That’s well below the club’s previous payroll capacity even while under the Angelos family, as the club topped out with a payroll of more than $164MM back in 2017 according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. (That level of spending came under Peter Angelos, but his son John is now the team’s control person.) It’s unlikely the club would officially change hands in time for the new ownership group to approve a top-of-the-market free agent signing. With that being said, could news of the club changing hands give GM Mike Elias and his front office more leeway to pursue extensions with members of their star-studded young core, or perhaps even spend prospect capital to land a significant arm like right-hander Dylan Cease? John Angelos had previously cast serious doubt on the team’s ability to pursue extension with young stars such as Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson, suggesting the Orioles would have to “raise prices massively” in order to afford contracts of that magnitude.

2. What’s next for the Blue Jays?

The Blue Jays made an addition to their offense yesterday by signing veteran infielder Justin Turner to a one-year deal yesterday. Turner joins infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier in signing contracts worth between $10-15MM to help the Blue Jays round out a positional mix that could lose Whit Merrifield, Brandon Belt, and Matt Chapman. While Turner was able to be added to the 40-man roster without a corresponding move, the roster is now at capacity which will make a 40-man move necessary when the club’s previously-reported deal with Yariel Rodriguez eventually becomes official.

The addition of Turner, who figures to primarily spend time at DH while also getting occasional reps at the infield corners, makes other top free agent hitters remaining on the market something of a tricky fit for the Blue Jays. While the addition of Cody Bellinger or especially a reunion with Chapman is possible to make work from a roster building perspective, it’s unclear if Toronto has the appetite for making a star-level addition to a payroll that’s already top-four in the sport, per Roster Resource. On the other hand, replacing two quality bats from the club’s lineup last year in Chapman and Belt with just one above-average run producer in Turner could leave the club’s offense in a tricky situation entering the season.

3. Thor, Barnes audition for teams:

Veteran right-handers Noah Syndergaard and Matt Barnes worked out for interested clubs yesterday (as noted by Jon Heyman of the New York Post and Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, respectively) as they hope to find a role with a big league club in the final weeks prior to Spring Training. Both righties are coming off difficult years in 2023. Syndergaard posted a brutal 6.50 ERA in 18 starts split between the Dodgers and Guardians, while Barnes struggled to a 5.48 ERA in 24 appearances with the Marlins before hip surgery cut his 2024 season short.

Despite those recent struggles, both veterans have substantial track records of MLB success prior to the 2023 campaign. Syndergaard, of course, was among the most fearsome pitchers in the game earlier in his career and showcased the ability to perform as a capable back-end starter as recently as the 2022 campaign. Barnes, meanwhile, rattled off six consecutive seasons of above-average production out of the bullpen for the Red Sox from 2016 to 2021 and posted a respectable 4.31 ERA with a 3.87 FIP just two seasons ago. Will either righty find renewed interest in his services after throwing for scouts?


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