Recapping the Winter Meetings on the final day

LAS VEGAS - The Orioles are on the clock this morning with the first pick in the Rule 5 draft. Their contingent at the Winter Meetings will be on a plane later in the day.

A review of the business conducted so far includes claiming third baseman Rio Ruiz off waivers from the Braves and losing pitcher Ryan Meisinger to the Cardinals. And, yes, the decision on a new manager that should be announced by next week.

There wasn’t much of a buzz here related to the Orioles, as so many people in the industry and media pointed out or confirmed when I broached the subject. Think about it. How many players were attached to the club in Las Vegas?

I’m setting the over/under at zero.

Agent Scott Boras met with team officials Tuesday night to talk about Chris Davis. That one doesn’t count.

Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias didn’t deny that the majority of his focus has been on securing Buck Showalter’s replacement and discussing other potential hires. The roster business, or what constituted it, often fell upon the rest of the traveling party.

This isn’t a complete roll call, but among the individuals joining Elias on the trip were assistant Sig Mejdal, vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson, director of baseball operations Tripp Norton, coordinator of advance scouting Bill Wilkes, advance scouting assistant Ben Sussman-Hyde, director of Pacific Rim operations and baseball development Mike Snyder, director of minor league operations Kent Qualls and director of team travel Kevin Buck.

I also saw major league scouts Dave Engle and Jim Howard, international scouts Calvin Maduro and Luis Noel and missed plenty of others, I’m sure, though it wasn’t a particularly large group compared to past years. And there are employees here to attend their own meetings.

I always bump into head athletic trainer Brian Ebel and minor league equipment manager Jake Parker at these sessions. Area scout Dean Albany is in town for the international showcase.

Elias did confirm the hiring of Chris Holt as minor league pitching coordinator, which had been reported earlier.

Cobb-Gray@TB-sidebar.jpgThe Orioles definitely made it known that starter Alex Cobb is available and had discussions with at least one club, according to sources. Cobb has three years and $43 million remaining on his contract that he signed in spring training, and the Orioles likely would need to absorb a portion of it.

Tracking the progress on hiring a manager presented the usual challenges. For example, I heard that Elias seemed to be leaning toward someone with experience at the major league level, but that changed with Brandon Hyde. And earlier rumblings that the Orioles also could hire Mike Bell for a coaching position have quieted, though I’m told that he seemed to be an early favorite to become manager before the process moved forward.

The activity from other clubs leading into the Winter Meetings suggested that it would be a newsworthy four days here, with deals and signings happening left and right, but it didn’t materialize beyond a small flurry yesterday afternoon.

The podium mostly has been collecting dust.

As for today’s Rule 5 draft, Elias could again reach into his past and take someone from the Astros system such as right-handers Riley Ferrell and Cy Snead or shortstop Jonathan Arauz. Shortstop Richie Martin from the Athletics’ system also is a possibility if the Orioles pass on pitching.

The position could be a tiebreaker, but there are other factors.

“The Rule 5 draft is tricky, because they need to stay on the major league roster all year,” Elias said. “So even when your approach is to go for the best talent available, which is our approach this year, you still have to be cognizant of, ‘Boy, can we keep this guy on the roster all year?’ And then you have to start thinking about things like position.

“It’s a balancing act. But it is a secondary consideration in our case this year. We’re going to be thinking about the talent first and then saying, ‘OK, can we successfully keep this player on the 25-man roster all year?’ “

Elias will talk about the selection, and if there’s a second one, before heading out - his first Winter Meetings as the head of baseball operations in the books.

“It’s really busy,” he said. “Not only my first Winter Meetings as a GM, but also only being three weeks into the job and as much as we’re trying to do, specifically with the major league coaching staff and the managerial hire, it’s been challenging to personally engage in all of the conversations and activities that a general manager normally does. But it’s been great, it’s been productive for us on a number of fronts. And the staff here has done a great job of helping me out where I’m not able to devote my time.

“I’m really look forward to coming here next year with a manager and a full staff and really, hopefully, making some moves.”



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