The process of hiring a head of baseball operations, whatever the title, didn’t interfere with business conducted this week at the general managers meetings.
Orioles director of player development Brian Graham, leading the department on an interim basis, flew home this afternoon from Carlsbad, Calif., after the meetings reached their conclusion. Director of baseball operations Tripp Norton also represented the organization.
The uncertainty over which individual will be calling the shots didn’t deter the Orioles from multiple face-to-face sessions that can lead to deals being struck at next month’s Winter Meetings or later in the offseason.
“We had a productive four days and we had good dialogue with every team,” Graham said.
“Fortunately for me, I know almost every GM from my years in baseball, so we had good communication with every club. Several agents reached out to us regarding their free agent players. We reached out to a number of agents regarding potential free agent targets. It was productive and I feel like we have a good foundation of information in place to hand over to the new head of baseball operations.”
The Orioles are poised to make two hires for the front office before settling on a manager and crafting a coaching staff. They can’t afford to fall behind with so many vacancies to fill, including ones in scouting and player development and on the roster.
The teardown must continue prior to taking the first steps toward a rebuild.
“The communication with the other clubs was easy. It was positive, it was informative,” Graham said.
“We have a couple players that other teams like and we have players they asked about. On the other side of that, we have some free agent targets in areas that we have needs and we were just laying the groundwork, so that when the new head of baseball operations comes in, we can tell him who we’ve reached out to and who we’ve shown interest in, and if he feels the same way, at least we’ve already made contact. So it was productive.
“You’re in such close quarters every day. You’re in very close quarters every day with every GM. And then in another area of the resort you’re in close quarters with the agents. And the agents reach out to you.
“We’ve got a few guys we feel like would be interesting for us and we reached out to their agents and it seems like the feelings are mutual.”
Graham won’t talk about specific areas of need, but it seems apparent that the infield is a concern. Do the Orioles tender a contract to Tim Beckham, which could push his salary around $4.3 million? Do they need a shortstop if Jonathan Villar returns to second base? Does Renato Núñez head into spring training as the third baseman or is a defensive upgrade a priority?
The Orioles also must decide whether they’re in the market for a catcher. Caleb Joseph is arbitration-eligible again and MLBTradeRumors.com projects his salary to reach $1.7 million. Chance Sisco could start next season at Triple-A Norfolk after breaking camp with the team this year and twice being optioned.
Meanwhile, the Orioles have a batch of candidates for the top front office position but aren’t commenting on the process.
Former general managers Ned Colletti and Ben Cherington are in the mix, along with Tigers assistant David Chadd, Astros assistant Mike Elias and Phillies assistant and former Orioles executive Ned Rice. Former Pirates executive Tyrone Brooks, who’s been Major League Baseball’s senior director of the front office and field staff diversity pipeline program since 2016, also has interviewed.
Royals assistant GM Scott Sharp has been in contact with ownership, but he might be on the fringes of candidacy. It’s difficult to determine the rankings.
As I wrote this morning, the titles will depend on who’s hired and there are no longer assurances that a president will be named.