Qualls reviews three players chosen in Triple-A phase of Rule 5 draft

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The Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft, previously known as the minor league phase, tends to be skimmed in the minds of fans and some media because the players don’t land on the 40-man roster. They aren’t spring training storylines.

My personal experience is I’m busy looking up statistics and writing about the major league selection or selections and which players are lost to other teams, and must pause to tweet out the other stuff. Those names get tagged at the bottom.

The Orioles made three selections in the Triple-A phase: right-hander Alfred Vega from the Yankees’ system, left-hander Trey McGough from the Pirates and catcher Randy Florentino from the Rangers.

McGough was interesting because he attended Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Md. Who doesn’t love a local angle? We learned later that he is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Nothing else really stood out among the group. Vega is 21 and he pitched in the Florida Complex League. His story requires some deep digging.

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A handful of Orioles questions that remain unanswered

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The Orioles experienced a quiet Friday in terms of transactions.

There were none.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias has been in contact with a large number of agents and executives throughout the offseason, and it’s hardly the kind of news that qualifies as “breaking.” This is front office due diligence that we often talk about, even if a player is likely out of its price range.

Doesn’t hurt to check the market unless the cringing causes a headache.

I’ve got some lingering questions, to be expected in the third week of December, that probably are shared by many people in the industry and the team’s fan base. The first one went from a possibility to unlikely to perhaps in the discussion again.

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Frazier eager to join "an exciting young team" in Baltimore

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The Orioles have arranged a video introduction in a few days between Adam Frazier and their hitting coaches who want to learn more about him before they tackle the reasons why his offensive production took a nosedive this summer.

The front office already has gotten ahead of the process.

Frazier signed a one-year, $8 million contract on Thursday to wrap up a recruiting mission that began early in the offseason. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and others in the organization sold him on the data available to hitters, the favorable aspects of Camden Yards, the chance to stay in the lineup.

Their interest was made abundantly clear through words and actions.

“I didn’t have my best offensive performance last season and Mike had asked what kind of adjustments I was making or trying to make this offseason, and then pulled up a frame of exactly what I had said,” Frazier said today in a Zoom call with the media, “so it seems like they’ve done their homework on myself and it seemed like we kind of view things in a similar manner.”

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This, that and the other

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With so much attention thrown at the Orioles’ rotation and the free-agent starters who keep signing with other clubs, Adam Frazier looked like a guy yesterday sneaking through the back door.

The Orioles signed Frazier to a one-year, $8 million contract, increasing their offseason spending on the major league roster to $18 million.

Left-handed bats have been a priority. Finding a player who can replace Rougned Odor at second base has been a priority. Frazier checks those boxes, and he also can play the corner outfield.

That’s three boxes. Or four if breaking it down to left and right.

Frazier won’t duplicate Odor’s power, but he makes contact - he ranked in the top five percent in the majors with a 12.1 percent strikeout rate and 14.4 whiff rate this year, per Statcast – and he hit .305/.368/.411 in 2021 during his only All-Star season. He’s an above-average fielder at second, with 15 defensive runs saved, a 1.5 ultimate zone rating and 11 outs above average, and he's twice been a finalist for a Gold Glove.

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Orioles sign Adam Frazier to 2023 contract

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The Orioles found their left-handed hitting second baseman.

Adam Frazier signed a one-year contract this afternoon worth a guaranteed $8 million. The club announced the length of the deal and an industry source confirmed the amount.

Frazier, who turned 31 yesterday, will be joining his fourth team since 2021. He appeared in a career-high 156 games for the Mariners this season, most on the club, and slashed .238/.301/.311 with 22 doubles, four triples, three home runs, 42 RBIs, 61 runs scored, 46 walks and a career-high 11 stolen bases.

The four triples also led the Mariners and tied for ninth in the American League.

Frazier was an All-Star in 2021, which he split between the Pirates and Padres. He hit a combined .305/.368/.411 in 155 games with 36 doubles, five triples, five home runs, 43 RBIs, 48 walks and 10 steals.

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How does Hall fit on Orioles' pitching staff

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The Orioles will break camp in March with five starting pitchers. They haven’t talked about the possibility of a six-man rotation, though the depth they’ve built allows for it.

They have the numbers, but who are the names?

Kyle Gibson is the one lock after signing for $10 million, with his placement being the only uncertainty.

A second veteran is expected to join him, but the Orioles keep watching candidates disappear from the free-agent market. The club made its video recruiting pitch to Noah Syndergaard, but he's going to the Dodgers on a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $13 million with $1.5 million in possible incentives.

The New York Post's Jon Heyman reported that Syndergaard had multi-year offers for more money elsewhere "but preferred one year in L.A."

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Urías could become latest Gold Glove winner to change positions

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The Orioles won’t open the 2023 season until March 30 in Boston. The first exhibition game is Feb. 25 in Sarasota. The date for pitchers and catchers reporting to camp hasn’t been announced, but the middle of the month usually is a safe projection.

Plenty of time remains before the Orioles are required to set their 26-man roster. Accuracy isn’t a prerequisite today for posting an Opening Day lineup.

Most of the starters appear set unless there’s a trade, but second base is unsettled and the designated hitter could come from outside the organization – maybe the left-handed bat that remains on the shopping list.

Or not. It’s still early.

I don’t know who’s starting for the Red Sox in the opener, but let’s not overthink it.

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Latest on pitching market and wondering where Orioles can find their starter

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Exactly one week ago, the Winter Meetings reached their busiest scheduled day with a Baseball Writers’ Association of America meeting, followed by Commissioner Rob Manfred’s media session, agent Scott Boras’ traditional lobby scrum, manager Brandon Hyde’s media gathering, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias’ daily session in his suite, and the first draft lottery.

The Orioles signed outfielder Nomar Mazara and infielder Josh Lester to minor league contracts.

Seems like only yesterday.

Four moves followed, but all of them in the Rule 5 draft – reliever Andrew Politi the lone selection in the major league phase. Others are coming, but at a slow pace rather than a sudden burst.

Two more free-agent pitchers linked to the Orioles have tumbled off the board.

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Orioles deciding how to handle second base in 2023

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A new week begins with the Orioles trying to land another veteran starting pitcher while choices are narrowed by a market that’s paying inflated salaries.

Left-handed bats for the corner outfield and first base also remain winter priorities, part of the vision to rotate players in the designated hitter spot. A backup catcher on a major league deal also could get done. A veteran for the bullpen is on the back burner but expected to happen.

The Orioles also would like to find a left-handed hitting second baseman to replace Rougned Odor, though it isn’t as high on their list as a starter.

“If we don’t, I think we’ll be OK,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said last week during a Winter Meetings interview with "MASN All Access."

“We’ve got Terrin Vavra, we’ve got Joey Ortiz, who we just added to the 40-man roster, we’ve got some other players that aren’t on the 40-man yet but are really good-looking prospects that are in Triple-A, so we’ve got options in the infield. But it is an area where there’s a fit for a veteran to come in just because (Ramón) Urías, Gunnar (Henderson) and (Jorge) Mateo, they can cover all those spots, but not all three of them are going to play 162 games, so we’ve got some more timeshare to be had at a minimum.”

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Matt Blood on Coby Mayo: "He's ahead of schedule"

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Coby Mayo celebrated his 21st birthday yesterday, which was a nice reminder that another Orioles prospect played at the Double-A level this summer before his legal drinking age.

Also a necessary reminder when evaluating Mayo’s season.

Back spasms forced Mayo onto the injured list and cost him about a month after he appeared in only three games with the Bowie Baysox. Reports that he was day-to-day proved inaccurate.

He was facing older and unfamiliar pitchers in a new setting who learned that challenging him with fastballs was a bad idea. That’s 100 percent true.

Drafted in the fourth round in 2020 and given an over-slot $1.75 million bonus, Mayo batted a combined .247/.326/.456 with 20 doubles, two triples, 19 home runs, 69 RBIs, 40 walks and 114 strikeouts in 439 plate appearances after beginning the season at High-A Aberdeen. MLBPipeline.com ranks him as the No. 7 prospect in the organization.

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Politi: "It was a great team to be picked by"

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Andrew Politi didn’t want to think about the Rule 5 draft.

Being in San Diego, near the Winter Meetings, was merely a coincidence. A way to escape the cold back East. He decided to go on a hike with his girlfriend, Molly, for the exercise and the distraction. Fresh air and clear mind.

“Nothing crazy,” he said yesterday. “Just didn’t really want to sit there and watch it, because I know how unpredictable it is.”

The Tigers and Reds passed when their turns came, two teams believed to be interested in him. Politi stuffed his phone back in his pocket. He was done tracking the event. Just concentrate on his steps.

And then came the call from Eve Rosenbaum, the Orioles’ assistant general manager of baseball operations.

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Some leftovers from the Winter Meetings

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The dateline has been stripped from stories like an abandoned car in a bad neighborhood. I got a lot of mileage out of baseball’s Winter Meetings, but it was time to come home.

I flew. Just to clear the air.

Some fans may feel that the Orioles were grounded in San Diego because their most visible activity was signing pitcher Ofreidy Gómez, outfielder Nomar Mazara and infielder Josh Lester to minor league contracts and selecting reliever Andrew Politi in the Rule 5 draft.

They also announced the Kyle Gibson signing, which seemed to close the door on Jordan Lyles, though no one is saying it.

Pretty cool to me that Lyles helped to sell Gibson on the Orioles despite knowing that it probably removed his chance to re-sign. Such an unselfish act.

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Gibson: "I've always enjoyed playing in Baltimore"

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SAN DIEGO – Kyle Gibson reached out almost immediately to Jordan Lyles after hearing from the Orioles, an interesting twist in his free agent journey, since he appears to be replacing the veteran starter in the rotation.

The Orioles already began making their sales pitches to Gibson, which led to the agreement on a one-year, $10 million contract. Now, it was Lyles’ turn – no matter how it would impact his own professional life.

“I value his opinion, I value his friendship,” Gibson said of his former Rangers teammates, “and he only had glowing things to say about Baltimore, and that was one of the reasons why I felt so comfortable making the decision. Just hearing how he’d talk about the approach, why he thought he got better, to me was very interesting. And without going into it because I don’t want to speak for him too much, but that was really cool to hear him give credit where he thought credit was due.

“Talked about the makeup of the team, talked about even things like pitching to (Adley) Rutschman. Just the things that stood out to him. I look forward to hopefully being an extension of Jordan because I feel like we’re fairly similar when it comes to how we approach people.”

Similar but not identical.

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The continued quest for starting pitching and other Orioles Winter Meetings nuggets

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SAN DIEGO – Kyle Gibson may or may not count as a Winter Meetings acquisition, depending on your timeline. He reached agreement on a one-year, $10 million contract on Saturday but signed after the Orioles contingent checked into the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

This is the only major league deal brought back to Baltimore. There will be others before opening day.

Trust me on this. Or better yet, trust the process.

The pitching market hasn’t dried up, but logical fits for the Orioles are disappearing, with Jameson Taillon agreeing to terms with the Cubs, Taijuan Walker with the Phillies and José Quintana with the Mets. They were never linked to Jason deGrom (Rangers) or Justin Verlander (Mets).

So, who’s left?

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Orioles prepared to leave Winter Meetings with roster moves pending

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SAN DIEGO – The Orioles will return home from the Winter Meetings on Thursday satisfied with the advancements made in trying to improve their roster. To find another starting pitcher and some left-handed bats.

They just won’t have the bodies to show for it unless something breaks soon.

“I don’t know that we’re any closer to any acquisitions than we were at this time last night or this morning, but a lot of info’s come in, a lot of conversations have taken place,” Elias said during his last media session inside his suite at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

“We still have a great deal of players out there. This is just really the beginning of the offseason. Whether or not something comes together in the next day or two, I think there’s a lot of information to claim here today.”

Elias said he views these meetings as more of “an information gathering event, first and foremost.” But if there’s an opportunity to make a move for a player, “we’ll get into that competition.” That’s how the Orioles reached an agreement Saturday with starter Kyle Gibson, becoming more aggressive before boarding a flight to San Diego and more bidders began to surface.

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Orioles select Politi in Rule 5 draft (updated)

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SAN DIEGO – The Orioles maintained their streak of being active in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft, selecting right-hander Andrew Politi from the Red Sox organization.

Politi, 26, was a 15th-round draft pick in 2018 out of Seton Hall. He made 50 appearances this year between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester, including two starts, and registered a 2.34 ERA and 0.966 WHIP with eight saves. He struck out 83 batters in 69 1/3 innings.

In four minor league seasons, Politi has posted a 4.14 ERA and 1.250 WHIP with 16 saves in 125 games. He’s averaged 7.4 hits, 3.8 walks, 11.1 strikeouts and 0.8 home runs per nine innings.

Politi struck out 132 batters in 94 2/3 innings at Seton Hall. Baseball America ranked him as Boston’s No. 23 prospect in 2020 and No. 30 last year.

Baseball America’s 5.0 Rule 5 preview included the following about Politi:

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Can Orioles find Rule 5 success again later in first round?

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SAN DIEGO – The Rule 5 draft begins in less than two hours, and the Orioles aren’t committed to making a selection. Having the 17th pick creates a rare air of uncertainty.

They chose pitcher Tyler Wells from the Twins organization at No. 17 in 2020, the last year that the Rule 5 draft was held, but after they selected pitcher Mac Sceroler from the Reds at No. 5 – and returned him on June 26.

Wells impressed as a late-inning reliever during his rookie season and made a smooth transition to the rotation this year.

Pitcher Michael Rucker was chosen from the Cubs in 2019, but after the Orioles grabbed pitcher Brandon Bailey from the Astros with the second pick. They didn’t make it through spring training.

The Orioles made three selections in 2017, flexing their Rule 5 muscle to the point where they should have cramped up. They plucked left-hander Nestor Cortés Jr. from the Yankees at No. 9, right-hander Pedro Araújo from the Cubs at No. 16 and right-hander José Mesa Jr. from the Yankees at No. 18.

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Rule 5 draft next up at Winter Meetings

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SAN DIEGO – The Winter Meetings have reached their fourth day of activity if you include Sunday. Some do, some don’t. Depends on your flight schedule.

Let’s say third full day and get on with our lives.

The work rhythm seems a bit off, which I blame on a more condensed version with the Rule 5 draft happening this afternoon instead of Thursday morning. The embedding yesterday of the first draft lottery also provided a new wrinkle for the older beat and national crews.

The Orioles possess the 17th pick in the Rule 5, which lessens the chances that they’ll use it. Having the first or second makes it a no-brainer.

I’ve been relying on their track record of activity, with a selection made every year since 2006 - the exception, of course, being 2021 because the Winter Meetings were canceled – but executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias talked yesterday about the uncertainty that comes with a later selection and indicated that his club could pass.

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Orioles pick 17th in draft, Elias trying to strike another deal before leaving San Diego

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SAN DIEGO – The new draft lottery couldn’t budge the Orioles from the 17th spot.

Their 0.4 percent odds of receiving the first-overall pick proved to be accurate, with no amount of ping pong balls able to influence it. The Brewers remained 18th, also where they started the day.

The Orioles haven’t drafted outside the top five since taking high school pitcher Grayson Rodriguez 11th overall in 2018. They haven’t been pushed back this far since choosing prep left-hander DL Hall 21st overall in 2017.

The lottery system was approved in the new collective bargaining agreement for the 18 teams that missed the playoffs.

The Pirates were the big winners tonight – a rare distinction for the franchise - by receiving the first pick, followed by the Nationals, Tigers, Rangers, Twins, Athletics, Reds, Royals, Rockies, Marlins, Angels, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Red Sox, White Sox, Giants, Orioles and Brewers.

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Hyde tackles variety of topics during media session

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SAN DIEGO – Orioles manager Brandon Hyde took his turn in front of the media this afternoon at the Winter Meetings, talking about new starter Kyle Gibson, the desire for more pitching depth, the process of recruiting free agents to Baltimore, veteran leader replacements and Jorge Mateo’s snub in Gold Glove voting. He also fielded premature questions about the message he'll send to the team and positions on opening day.

Where to begin?

Gibson signed a one-year, $10 million contract yesterday to give the Orioles an experienced starter, though they aren’t done negotiating with others.

“I’m excited to add Kyle,” Hyde said. “Talked to him a couple times and traded texts last night. Excited to bring somebody with the career he’s had and playing on a World Series club. Somebody with his veteran aspects that he brings, it’s going to be huge for us.”

Hyde has participated in the video calls with pitchers on the market, a manager who also works in sales, highlighting the advantages of joining the Orioles while trying to build an early connection.

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