LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Are the Orioles rebuilding or reloading? Are they doing something in the middle? Are they still deciding which direction they are heading?
After Day One of the Winter Meetings, it does seem that the Orioles are open to listening to trade offers for pending free agent third baseman Manny Machado. That certainly doesn’t signal the team is ready for any selloff or complete rebuild, but it possibly could be a bit of a change in thinking from the club’s top management.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette did not dismiss the reports and speculation that some trade talk may be ongoing involving Machado. Teams have interest and they have approached the Orioles.
“There have been reports in the media about Manny being on the trade market and a lot of clubs are checking in,” Duquette said. “You know, the organization has a big decision on Manny. And, you know, Manny was a top player in the draft. He’s been a top performer for us and we have to decide what is the future for the Orioles beyond this year. Manny has one year left on his contract. So that’s a big decision for the Orioles. That is something we give a lot of consideration to. We’re taking a look at all of the considerations. Manny is highly skilled and he’s coveted by a lot of teams.”
Nothing Duquette said yesterday in a late afternoon update with reporters indicated the team has made any major course change after the Yankees’ addition of Giancarlo Stanton. But the challenge ahead - to try and catch New York and Boston with only two starters set for the rotation right now - is daunting, to say the least.
Perhaps the O’s brass is starting to ponder that a trade of Machado and being open to moving players like Zach Britton may be the best move right now for the future of the franchise.
Graham on the farm and more: In an interview with Orioles director of player development Brian Graham on Monday at the Winter Meetings, we discussed several topics, including the players the Orioles added to the 40-man roster from their farm system last month.
Click here to read his comments on Hunter Harvey. Graham was also asked about right-handed pitcher David Hess, who went 11-9 with a 3.85 ERA for Double-A Bowie. He ranked second in the Eastern League in innings (154 1/3), third in strikeouts (123), third in average against among starters (.235) and tied for third in wins. Over his last six starts, he went 3-2 with a 2.25 ERA. In those 40 innings, he gave up just 23 hits with seven walks to 33 strikeouts.
“He’s a starter. He has a four-pitch mix and throws four pitches for strikes,” Graham said. “He’s logged 150 innings back-to-back years. Commands the baseball. He does a lot of things that you need a guy to do. To have an optionable piece at Triple-A as a starting pitcher that is homegrown out of your own organization, you know that is a huge plus.”
Catcher Austin Wynns also made the 40-man in November. A 10th-round draft pick out of Fresno State in 2013, Wynns batted .281/.377/.419 with 19 doubles, a triple, 10 home runs and 46 RBIs in 105 games with Bowie. He’s a career .269/.336/.369 hitter in five minor league seasons, but his defense is what really got him on the 40-man.
“He can catch,” Graham said. “He flat out can receive. He blocks well, throws well, calls a great game and he has great makeup. Offensively, he had a really good year this year. To have a catcher that can catch at the major league level and have him on option at Triple-A is a huge plus for the organization.”
I asked Graham about criticism the Orioles farm system has gotten over the last few years. The Orioles seemed to get more recognition this season on the farm and several national analysts told me they see the O’s organization ranking now in the middle of the pack among all the major league clubs.
Like a proud dad, Graham strongly defends the work his staff and his players have done.
“We have a very good farm system and a very good player development system,” he said. “The development process that we have in place is easily one of the best in baseball. Easily. I think what happens is national media outlets gauge us and judge us based on how many prospects they believe we have. And it really doesn’t reflect the kind of player development system we have. I’m proud of it. We have great guys that teach, coach and instruct. So I think we are going in the right direction.”
I also interviewed ESPN’s Keith Law yesterday. Check here to read his comments and watch our video interview.
Watch the one-on-one interview from yesterday with Duquette below as he talks Machado and more.
Check out “MASN All Access” today on Facebook with more live coverage from the Winter Meetings at 11 a.m. A two-hour edition of the “The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report” airs today at 5 p.m. on MASN.