Leftovers from the Winter Meetings

No longer in Las Vegas for baseball’s Winter Meetings, my body is in the process of adjusting to the time change and the lack of slot machines and second-hand smoke.

Anyone know where I can score a $40 sandwich?

In the span of a couple days, the Orioles indicated that Jonathan Villar was their starting shortstop and then grabbed two shortstops in the Rule 5 draft, selecting Richie Martin with the first overall pick and trading for Drew Jackson.

Villar-Leaps-Gray@SEA-sidebar.jpgI’m still inclined to believe that Villar will be the second baseman on opening day, that the Orioles will go with a plus defender at shortstop. And they want to stockpile as many choices as possible heading into spring training.

They also want the flexibility that all three players can offer, especially with Jackson playing three infield positions and center field in the minors.

“The versatility with both Richie and Drew gives us options with them,” said director of baseball operations Tripp Norton.

Martin has shown enough with the glove and arm to warrant consideration as the replacement for Manny Machado and later Tim Beckham and a few others.

“I think, judging by our reports, he’s someone that can play defensively at the major league level,” Norton said.

See what I mean?

The Orioles weren’t concerned about Martin’s past knee issues that included surgery to repair his meniscus.

“Yeah, I think they were minor,” Norton said. “More like meniscus, not structural or like a ligament. They were minor compared to other knee injuries.”

The Machado trade talks with the Dodgers over the summer, and all the research done by the Orioles on various prospects they might get in return, provided a nice scouting report on Jackson.

“I think so, yeah,” Norton said. “Some of that carried over. But obviously with Mike (Elias) and Sig (Mejdal) being over here and having some of the metrics that they’ve employed in the past also contributed to that.”

Scouting and analytics. They can go hand-in-hand.

I won’t predict whether the Orioles will try to carry both players because I’m still learning how Elias operates and I’ve never met Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde, who figures to be introduced as the new manager next week. Though I also should pass on trying to predict a timetable.

The Orioles again figured out which players needed to be protected in the Rule 5 and which ones likely would be passed over or returned later. They dangled catcher Martin Cervenka and left-hander Luis Gonzalez - for a second consecutive time - and no one bit.

“I think we did a pretty good job of protecting our Triple-A roster,” said director of minor league operations Kent Qualls, “and the fact that we didn’t lose anybody means we made the right choices there.”

The Winter Meetings also provided confirmation that pitcher Ryan Meisinger was coming off the 40-man roster, which I hinted at multiple times, any free agent signings are happening closer to spring training and the Orioles wouldn’t mind moving starter Alex Cobb despite the lack of proven veterans in the rotation.

What we learned is that outfielder Mark Trumbo’s speedy recovery from knee surgery should have him ready on opening day. Reliever Richard Bleier already has started a throwing program following lat surgery and said he’d be full-go, but Trumbo was questionable.

We found out that former hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh joined the Dodgers organization as hitting coach at Triple-A Oklahoma City, about three hours from his home in Texas. And that Elias at least is open to the idea of retaining other coaches from this year’s team, with the manager having the strongest input.

Also, fixing Chris Davis will be a collaborative effort that includes his agent but probably not the gardener.



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