Orioles manager Buck Showalter spent about an hour yesterday meeting with executive vice president Dan Duquette and also talked to managing partner Peter Angelos before heading back to Dallas this weekend for his grandson’s christening. The push continues to locate starting pitching, the primary need by a mile, along with a left-handed hitter, left-handed reliever, utility player and veteran catcher.
Lots of teams are laying back and waiting for agents to lower their demands or rival executives to sweeten their offers in trades. However, Showalter understands why Orioles fans become more anxious.
The other clubs don’t have three openings in their rotations. No one else finished in last place in the American League East.
“Yes, I do,” Showalter said last night on the “Orioles Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan. “I sit there in my office and I think about it every day. ‘OK, if the season opened tomorrow, what are we going to do? Who’s going to be in right field, who’s going to be the utility infielder, who’s going to be the fourth outfielder? What happens if Adam Jones gets hurt?’ I think about those things every waking hour almost. Believe me. Ask my wife.
“You’ve got to think about those what-ifs because the season is too taxing. I share their sense of some anxiety, but I do know that the end game, we’ll end up getting there.
“I know a lot more than I’m letting on.”
He just isn’t divulging any names.
Showalter said he isn’t worried about the pace of the offseason. He’s gotten used to it.
“I think a lot of people are having short memories,” he said. “It doesn’t always proceed at the pace that you want it to be. We all want to know about something before it happens. ‘I want to know exactly who our team is. Who’s going to play here? Who’s going to pitch here?’ The game doesn’t always cooperate or work that way.
“You can do a lot of things in November, December that you’re going to regret. There’s a lot of things going on and we’re prepared for it. I think the final product is something we’re going to be proud of.”
People in the industry keep waiting for the floodgates to open, wondering when the bigger names will come off the board. Showalter is in his typical mode of centering his focus mostly on the players within the organization. It happens in the winter, the spring, at the non-waiver trade deadline and at the Aug. 31 deadline to include players on the postseason roster.
“I look at it like I’m in discussions with Miguel Castro and Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy and Nestor Cortes, and I give you maybe about eight more. Mike Wright, instead of coveting other people’s players,” Showalter said.
“In today’s game, you give four- or five-year contracts to pitchers, you’re going to be happy about two of those years, maybe. I want our guys in our organization to feel like the opportunity is going to be there first for them before we start looking elsewhere. Everybody out there has got a hiccup and got a pimple, and if you think that you’re going to take one player and change the whole climate, it doesn’t happen. And I want our guys to think as they go through the offseason that there’s going to be an opportunity. We’re going to out-opportunity people.”
And try to avoid bad contracts, which Showalter preached again last night.
“Where we are in the process and what we’re talking about is a good fit. Just bear with us, OK?” he said. “If you want to jump the gun and give somebody a four- or five-year deal and they’re hurt for three years of that and they don’t pitch well and we’re all going, ‘Why did you sign that guy?’ Then let’s go ahead and jump the gun. If you want to be patient and make good decisions for the organization for the short-term and the long-term, bear with us.”
Chris Tillman is a possible signing as he remains on the free agent market and continues to work out at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, where Showalter spoke with him at the minicamp.
“You think that I spent three days down there in Sarasota and didn’t sit down with Chris at some point?” Showalter said. “He looks great. We had a choice to make. We didn’t have to let him work out at our complex. He’s a free agent. I know our people down there called and I said, ‘Oh yeah, let’s alienate somebody we might want back and tell him he can’t work out at our complex and keep an eye on him.’ That would be real smart. Just try not to catch all those fish every day.
“Chris looks good. I was talking to Brian Ebel about him today, our new head (athletic) trainer. That’s another process.”
One subject from yesterday’s meeting between Showalter and Duquette involved the utility candidates. Ryan Flaherty is a free agent and the Orioles are searching for someone who can handle the infield positions and also move to the outfield.
“We’ve got our eyes on some people, including some people from within,” Showalter said. “Dan and I talked about a guy today. It’s an important part ... it may not be a starting pitcher like everybody’s talking about, but that piece is going to be as important for us because it solves a lot of what-if issues. We’ve got a guy we’ve got an eye on.”
Showalter brought up Luis Sardiñas name. I’d rate him as the in-house favorite.
I suggested Ryan Goins again. A left-handed hitter, non-tendered by the Blue Jays in December, who can move around the field.
“For full disclosure,” Showalter said, “this isn’t the first time you’ve mentioned this to me.”
Tim Beckham could handle the role if he isn’t the starting shortstop or third baseman. The possibility came up again last night after I asked Showalter about the odds of Manny Machado being in the opening day lineup.
Showalter started out by focusing on the position debate.
“This is something that I do not want to go to spring training with hanging over anybody,” he said. “In my gut I know where we’re going, but I’m not going to jump the gun. I’ve talked to Manny, I’ve talked to Beck and we’re going to come up with something that makes the Orioles the best possible. There’s enough in the pie for everybody. There’s plenty to go around.
“Tim’s capable of playing a lot of positions and Manny is, too, and it doesn’t increase or decrease their value and what they’re going to be able to reap in salary and contract-wise. So it’ll all work out, and as long as we all keep in mind what’s best for the Orioles.”
Going back to the original question, Showalter expects Machado to be with the Orioles on March 29.
“Sure I do,” he said. “I know some of the things that people have floated out there and I sure wouldn’t do it. And I’m a little biased. I’d like to have Manny.”
Showalter and Duquette also went over one of the right fielders on the free agent market.
“Dan’s already been talking to him about offers and physicals,” Showalter said. “We’re down the road real deep on a lot of guys. It’s just, you’ve got to be ready to go one way or the other. It’s not like you’re just sitting around, ‘Hey, let’s wait until Feb. 12 and go try to sign somebody cheap.’ It’s flowing every day. I was in there with Dan for an hour, an hour and 15 minutes, and he must have talked to seven or eight people. It’s not something that’s just stagnant. But you’ve got to be ready to strike when it’s right.”
Showalter spoke directly with a catcher four days ago.
“We’re a little thin with the catching depth,” he said. “I want to be honest with them. I don’t want to tell them something that makes them sign and they get down the camp and say, ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t what you told me.’ That doesn’t work. We are a destination where people would like to go for an opportunity, but I want to keep it that way by being honest with the players when we talk to them.”
Showalter also said the Orioles currently have 34 pitchers slated for major league camp next month in Sarasota. The challenge will be making certain that everyone gets a proper look. There are only so many sets of eyes and hours in the day.
Cortes is getting a lot of attention since the Orioles chose him from the Yankees organization in the Rule 5 draft. He was the hit of the three-day minicamp. But Showalter warns against overlooking fellow Rule 5 picks Pedro Araujo and Jose Mesa, who also will compete for spots on the pitching staff.
“I don’t want to run (Cortes) too far up the flag pole,” Showalter said before rattling off all the reasons why he likes the lefty.
Cortes will compete for a spot in the rotation, but he also could work in long relief.
Showalter also said he received a text from closer Zach Britton, who’s recovering from Achilles surgery.
“He sent me a picture of his legs,” Showalter said. “I said, ‘Don’t show that to anybody.’ But he’s coming along. I’m not going to start talking about earlier than they think or anything. But Zach’s right on schedule.”
As he stated at minicamp, Showalter said he wants to be able to pass around the closing load rather than place it on one reliever. He included left-hander Richard Bleier and also said he’d like for Mychal Givens to “graduate to a little more pressured role that we could count on.” Showalter and Givens already have talked about it.