John Angelos casts doubt on Orioles’ ability to retain young stars, speaks about Kevin Brown’s discipline

In recent months, Orioles CEO and Chairman John Angelos has often compared his vision for the future of Camden Yards to The Battery area near the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park.

But Angelos told The New York Times it’s unlikely the Orioles echo the Braves by signing several members of their core to long-term contract extensions.

“We’re going to have to raise the prices here — dramatically,” Angelos told The Times in terms of what he saw as the only way for the Orioles to retain their collection of young stars.

Baltimore opened the season with MLB’s second-lowest player payroll, ahead of only the Oakland Athletics, who similarly had a talented young core in recent seasons but eventually traded those players away before becoming the majors’ worst team in 2023. The Orioles, conversely, have the best record in the American League, with that low payroll partly a product of young players who have yet to reach the expensive portion of their careers.

Catcher Adley Rutschman and infielder Gunnar Henderson both ranked as baseball’s No. 1 prospect, while right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, infielder Jordan Westburg, first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, left fielder Austin Hays and center fielder Cedric Mullins were all well-regarded minor leaguers. All of those players are within the first five years of their careers, with only Hays and Mullins having reached salary arbitration.

Although that group is under team control through at least 2025, the Orioles have no guaranteed contracts on the books for that season or those beyond. The Braves, meanwhile, have nine. Those include center fielder Michael Harris II and right-hander Spencer Strider, who were the top two finishers in 2022′s National League Rookie of the Year voting. Seattle Mariners center fielder Julio Rodríguez, the AL winner, also received a long-term deal from his club. Rutschman was his runner-up and is without such a contract.

“The hardest thing to do in sports is be a small-market team in baseball and be competitive, because everything is stacked against you — everything,” Angelos told The Times. He continued, “I don’t think you should run losses. I think you should live within your means and within your market.”

For at least the third time this year, Angelos made the unprompted suggestion of going over the club’s finances with a reporter; he is yet to follow through. In January, Angelos interrupted a rant about his unwillingness to answer questions about the team because it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day to say that he told assembled media he would “show you the financials of the Orioles” the “next week.” That meeting never took place, nor did the one Angelos offered to reporters the next month during spring training, when he said, “When I say something — like I’m gonna sit down with you guys, explain the business from my perspective — I’m gonna do it. I’m not gonna say it and walk away from it.”

In an interview with 105.7 The Fan on opening day, Angelos questioned why reporters were so fascinated with the Orioles’ finances, despite him being the one repeatedly offering to go over them.

“Let’s say we sat down and showed you the financials for the Orioles,” Angelos told The Times. “You will quickly see that when people talk about giving this player $200 million, that player $150 million, we would be so financially underwater that you’d have to raise the prices massively. Now, are people going to come and pay that? I don’t know if we’re at the limit, to your point. I don’t know if we’re in equilibrium elasticity, supply and demand. Maybe we are. But really that’s just one team. What I’m really trying to think about is macro.”

Angelos’ fascination with what Mid-Atlantic Sports Network announcers say during Orioles broadcasts suggests an interest in the micro, too. He also spoke with The Times about play-by-play announcer Kevin Brown’s removal from air after Brown cited team-provided stats about the Orioles’ struggles on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays to show their improvement in 2023. Brown did not call an Orioles game on MASN — of which Angelos is also CEO — for almost three weeks after, with multiple media outlets reporting his absence was Angelos’ choice. Before Brown returned to the network Friday, he issued a statement that YES Network and ESPN broadcaster Michael Kay referred to as a “hostage tape.”

Angelos told The Times that the organization was reviewing internal processes that led to Brown’s discipline and that he regretted it distracted from the team’s on-field successes.

“Nothing like that is going to happen again,” Angelos told The Times. “It shouldn’t have happened once.”

Angelos’ comments about the difficulty of signing players to long-term contracts come as he’s been unable to ink one with the Maryland Stadium Authority to keep the Orioles at Camden Yards. The entities’ current lease expires Dec. 31, though Angelos has long been adamant the club will remain in Baltimore. With a new long-term lease, the Orioles would gain access to $600 million in public funds, though Angelos has at various stages of negotiations requested an additional $300 million, developmental rights for state-owned parking lots and that the Orioles not have to pay rent.

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