Roster decisions developing slowly

There is going to be a point in the offseason when the Orioles are directing the vast majority of their collective energy toward constructing their 25-man roster and providing new manager Brandon Hyde with more options by improving the overall depth.

Hires will be completed, staffs will be filled and the Orioles can expend most of their energy on free agency and the trade market.

Trades are more likely until later in the winter, when the Orioles can scratch their free agent itch. Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias has made clear that they’ll be - and this isn’t unusual - slower and joining the free agent party much later than other teams.

Is that a concern? Not with the Orioles already far removed from the real impactful talent on the market. They aren’t in a position to fight for the higher-priced players and therefore don’t need to jump into the ring this early. They can react much as former executive Dan Duquette always did and find some bargains closer to, and in the middle of, spring training in Sarasota.

They haven’t fallen behind in courting Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.

Though Elias was preoccupied with the business of deciding on a manager and making a formal offer, the Winter Meetings didn’t conclude with the Oriole on mute for trade discussions. They met with executives from other clubs. They sifted through prospects made available and learned which ones were off the table. They expressed interest in specific outfielders, whether to man the corners or perhaps play center.

Nunez-Throws-White-Sidebar.jpgElias has to decide whether Renato Núñez and Rio Ruiz, the latter claimed off waivers from the Braves on Monday, are adequate competitors for third base or if he needs to upgrade. He’s aware that a durable, veteran catcher is missing from the roster.

The need for a veteran starter grows if Alex Cobb is traded. An outfielder could come back to the Orioles under that scenario.

The shortstop position already is getting some attention via the Rule 5 draft, with Richie Martin and Drew Jackson filling out the 40-man roster.

The Orioles will get around to adding scouts in various departments, but the perception that there’s an abundance of openings may be a bit exaggerated.

John Stockstill is the only major league scout who was removed, with Dave Engle and Jim Howard remaining under contract. The Orioles need an East Coast crosschecker to replace Kirk Fredriksson, who’s still searching for a job. National crosscheckers Danny and Matt Haas were let go and now work in other organizations.

Director of scouting Gary Rajsich has taken a scouting position with the Braves and the Orioles also must replace pro director Patrick Di Gregory, who hasn’t latched on with another club. Northeast area scout Dana Duquette is working for the Marlins.

Elias wants to build up the international side, with Joel Bradley’s departure creating one vacancy in scouting. Cale Cox, assistant director of minor league and international operations, also was removed.

We don’t know whether Elias will bring in a bunch of new hires or reassign some individuals within the organization. Does he, for example, target someone specifically to replace Joe McIlvaine and Lee Thomas in baseball operations?

Getting the departments to maximum size might not happen until the following offseason because clubs could deny Elias permission to poach. It’s one of the downsides of his late hiring.

Another part of the rebuild that’s going to require a tremendous amount of patience across the board.

I’m getting the sense again that most of the minor league managers and coaches will remain in the organization for the 2019 season. Triple-A Norfolk manager Ron Johnson was let go, but pitching coach Mike Griffin is under contract.

Griffin could stay with the Tides or switch affiliates. Remember that Alan Mills, the Orioles bullpen coach the past two seasons, has a minor league contract and likely will serve as a pitching coach.

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