The Opener: Approaching Deadlines, Montero, Orioles

With more offseason deadlines on the horizon, here’s three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world today:

1. Qualifying offer, Rule 5 deadlines likely to spur movement

Two major offseason deadlines are coming tomorrow, which will likely be the focus of much of the offseason movement that happens today. Qualifying offer recipients must accept or reject the QO by 4pm EST tomorrow, and 40-man rosters must be set ahead of the Rule 5 Draft by 6pm EST tomorrow. The QO deadline could certainly see some recipients with less expected earning power, such as Joc Pederson or Martin Perez, either accept the QO or negotiate a multi-year deal with their previous team — perhaps after initially accepting, as Jose Abreu did during the 2019-20 offseason. While the names weighing the QO might garner more attention, it’s the Rule 5 deadline that will lead to more immediate action. Teams need to make room on their 40-man rosters for any prospects they want to protect from the Rule 5 Draft, which will require adding them to the 40-man roster. That forthcoming wave of additions will lead to a slew of players being designated for assignment, placed on waivers and perhaps traded, as teams create space on the fringes of their roster. This could also lead to some early non-tenders of arbitration-eligible players, as the Nov. 18 non-tender deadline is quickly approaching, too. As Mark Polishuk noted last night, the Rays figure to be one of the most proactive teams in terms of clearing up their 40-man roster in the coming days, having already shipped first baseman Ji-Man Choi to Pittsburgh last week.

2. Montero contract provides another data point on the relief market

In Friday’s Opener, I discussed the surprisingly strong relief market that relief pitchers have found this offseason, and how it could translate to the other relievers on the market. Rafael Montero indeed secured a third year on his new contract with the Astros, as predicted on MLBTR’s Top 50 free agent list, but his $34.5MM guarantee handily exceeded expectations. If that amount doesn’t seem particularly striking to you, consider righty Kendall Graveman, another former Astros/Mariners setup man, signed a three-year $24MM deal last winter despite being a year younger at the time of signing. Montero stands as a third pricey relief re-signing, to go with Edwin Diaz and Robert Suarez.

3. How aggressive will the Orioles be this offseason?

Orioles general manager Mike Elias pledged in August that payroll will rise in 2023 — though it’d be hard for it to decline much over its 2022 levels — which prompted many O’s fans to dream of marquee free-agent splashes as the team emerges from its rebuild. Over the weekend, however, Elias stated that the Orioles will not “go from zero miles an hour to 60 miles an hour in one offseason,” which casts doubt on whether the team will jump right into the deep end of the free-agent pool. At present, John Means’ $2.975MM salary is the only guarantee on the Orioles’ books, though between arbitration projections and a slate of pre-arb players to round out the roster, they project for a total of about $41MM, per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez. There’s ample space for multiple additions to the payroll, then, be it via free agency or perhaps by way of acquiring an established veteran in exchange for some minor league talent. With an impressive young core featuring the likes of Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays — plus righty Grayson Rodriguez and several more top prospects looming — the Orioles appear on the cusp of a return to contention — if they can make the right moves to supplement that group. With so much payroll space available and a deep farm from which to trade for Major League talent, they’re one of the most fascinating clubs of the offseason.

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