Without a manager in place to offer an opinion, it really falls upon executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias to decide whether the Orioles should concentrate on finding a veteran catcher as the Winter Meetings commence in Las Vegas.
They can continue negotiations with Caleb Joseph, who’s attracting plenty of interest in free agency. Elias also can sit down with other executives to discuss trade proposals and representatives who are pitching their catching clients.
Rookies Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns appeared in 63 and 42 games, respectively, this summer and hopped on the Triple-A shuttle. The Orioles might want to start Sisco at Triple-A Norfolk while continuing a reset that twice led to demotions.
There are more pressing needs for the club, but an experienced backstop could be included on the desert menu. (See what I did there?)
Is it important?
“Very, I think,” Dylan Bundy said Thursday night on the “Orioles Hot Stove” show on 105.7 The Fan.
“Caleb, he knows pretty much every hitter in the league right now, so just having a veteran presence back there, some of the younger guys can put a little bit more trust in what he’s putting down rather than having a young guy out there behind the plate and a young guy on the mound, also. It can be difficult. But it’s also good learning, too, to be able to have that and work your way through a lineup.”
The Orioles will check on available outfielders with Adam Jones no longer occupying right. Trey Mancini is expected to stay in left, but he also will get in his work at first base. And he won’t assume that he’s breaking camp with the team.
“You’ve always got to be looking over your shoulder, I think no matter who you are,” Mancini said during Thursday’s show. “Even if you’re 100 percent guaranteed to have a spot, you still have to have that mentality. You can’t ever lose that.
“I said that last year and I’ll always say it again. You’ve got to work hard. And you never know where you’re going to be playing, so you’ve got to work hard. I’ve got to work hard at two positions. Even when you DH, that’s a whole different animal just from a mental perspective. You have to have a routine there and you’ve got to prepare for everything.”
A recent panel discussion on the Orioles that aired on MLB Network included multiple opinions that Mancini needs to play first base. But nothing about an alternate plan for Chris Davis, who would have to serve as the designated hitter or occupy a corner outfield spot.
“It’s not anything you can really put a ton of weight to,” Mancini said. “Everybody has an opinion and everybody’s entitled to that opinion, but I can just tell you this: I’m working hard in the outfield for sure. I’m doing my normal agility and running drills, trying to just continue to improve. I still think what I need to improve the most is getting reads right off the bat. That first step is so important.
“I’m working out there and I’m working at first, too. It is my natural position, it’s what I played my whole life, so like I always said, wherever they want to put me, I’ll go out there and put my whole heart and soul into it.”
He won’t be playing for the same manager, with Buck Showalter’s replacement to be revealed at a later date. And he could have different hitting and outfield coaches with Scott Coolbaugh and Wayne Kirby no longer under contract.
“It’s something that’s out of my control,” Mancini said. “I don’t really have any say on who the new hitting coach is. It could be bittersweet in a way, but I’m extremely looking forward to the future. It was an honor to work with all the coaches I’ve had the last few years up there. And there’s still a chance that a few of them could come back, too. I know as much about that as anybody else. But no matter who it is, I always look forward to working with whoever the hitting coach or outfield coach is. For sure.”
I asked Mancini to describe his relationship with Coolbaugh and Kirby.
“I had a great relationship with both of them,” he said. “I owe them both a lot. Scott was instrumental in helping me turn my year around, among a lot of other people. And Howie (Clark) was right there with him, and Brady (Anderson). It’s been such an honor to work with them and they were always willing to be in there and work with the guys.
“And the same goes for Kirby. I owe him a lot, too, for helping me go through like a three-week crash course, I always call it, in 2017 when I learned to play the outfield and make the team there. And that definitely changed my life.”
Hiring Elias really has created a buzz within the industry and it’s permeating the offseason homes of players who are intrigued by the new direction of the organization.
“I’m very excited,” Mancini said. “From everything I’ve heard and what I’ve seen, I’ve heard fantastic things about Mike and what he brings to the table. I’m actually really close to the Biggio family and obviously they’re still very involved down in Houston and they had nothing but great things to say. And in this day and age analytics are extremely important and I think that’s just a fact. It’s not really an opinion anymore.
“It seems like the new regime really depends on that a lot and it’s exciting.”
Note: Mancini is involved in one of the Orioles’ auction items that will be revealed Monday at the Winter Meetings. I’ll pass along more details as they become available. We already know that it’s going to be a tremendous cause.
Shameless plug alert: I’m on “Wall to Wall Baseball” today from noon-2 p.m. on MASN.