Four days in Nashville for baseball’s Winter Meetings allowed media to gather and sometimes break news, like the app downloaded on phones to provide assistance in getting around the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center without taking a wrong turn every 30 seconds, slipping into panic mode and remembering that airport security confiscated my flare gun.
It was the most important discovery of the week. Bigger than the Juan Soto trade talks.
That place is the North Pole at Christmas if José Canseco bought it.
I boarded my flight on Sunday morning filled with questions, which I shared with readers, and wanted to check back for any resolutions. Don't stop me if you've heard these before.
Is there interest in Japanese right-hander Naoyuki Uwasawa?
Remember how some Japanese media cited U.S. sources as saying Uwasawa, posted by the Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball, would receive a multi-year offer from the Orioles to serve as a fourth or fifth starter? Seemed fishy to me, but I reposted it on the former Twitter.
They reeled me in.
There was no truth to the report. The Orioles weren’t interested in Uwasawa. I spoke to one person who hadn’t even heard of him.
But it’s good to know that Uwasawa would have been “willing” to pitch at the back end of the rotation.
How’s Dillon Tate?
In a word, “healthy.”
In multiple words, he’s throwing off a mound and the Orioles think he can be 2022 Dillon Tate instead of 2023 unavailable-to-pitch Dillon Tate.
This is bigger news than perhaps presented at the Winter Meetings. There was so much else to focus on, but if Tate is back to form, and that’s a pretty big “if,” he represents a significant bullpen addition without trading away talent or handing out a free-agent contract.
The Orioles tendered Tate. I love me a tender if it’s the right guy. Tate can be that guy and make the bullpen much deeper and fitting in all those relievers much more complicated.
Any concrete decisions on the roles for Tyler Wells and DL Hall?
Two interesting points came out of that question. One, the Orioles don’t appear to think they need to make a decision and alert the affected parties before spring training. Two, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias indicated that it probably would require an injury or some other circumstance for Wells and Hall to be in the rotation at the same time.
Elias wants another starting pitcher and space is limited. The ‘pen also is filling up fast.
We’ve stumbled upon a great spring training storyline.
Is Elias in the market for a right-handed-hitting outfielder?
Not to put anyone on the hot seat, but position players are sitting on the back burner. Elias is working hard to find a starter, with the trade market remaining the most likely solution.
An outfielder? Yes, Elias left open the possibility. And he said it didn’t necessarily have to be a right-handed bat.
I’m thinking it would be a right-handed bat, or a switch-hitter.
Is there anything to say about new pitching coach Drew French?
Elias confirmed French’s hiring as Chris Holt’s replacement.
“We had a great run of pitching development in our organization, and it continues to be the case,” Elias said. “Chris Holt was the person who took our pitching program to a whole new level, starting in the minor leagues at the end of 2018, early 2019, and we’re at a place now where we think it’s the best use of his skill set to allow him to supervise the entire system and put some focus back on the minor league development with his skill set, and also get a new voice in the dugout for these young pitchers as they kind of go into the next phase of their careers.
“These are guys who have had pretty successful maturation, whether they’re first-year pitchers or second-year pitchers on the starters side. But I think it’s often helpful to have some different influences as you’re graduating into another phase of your career.”
Elias also said there wouldn’t be “a wholesale philosophical change,” which makes sense because there’s no reason to overhaul what isn’t broken.
“It just kind of strengthens our pitching department up and down,” he said.
Elias also indicated that the club likely would hire an assistant pitching coach, with Darren Holmes no longer in the organization. Sounds like work already is being done to find a replacement.
Ryan Klimek stays as pitching strategy coach.
Any updates on possible extensions for Adley Rutschman or Gunnar Henderson?
Agent Scott Boras said he only talks to Elias about Henderson and Jackson Holliday “once or twice a day.” We’ll assume that he was joking.
But they do talk. And Elias hasn’t denied interest in obtaining long-term commitments, including one with Rutschman.
He just won’t go into any details because that isn’t the Oriole Way. Some business is kept private.
You never know how much to believe when Boras stands on a box at the Winter Meetings and entertains reporters who hang on his every word and clever turn of a phrase. He’s talking up his clients. He’s seeking more ground-breaking deals. He's taking all the air out of the room.
Does he really believe that the Orioles will make a huge financial investment in Henderson and Holliday, or at least make a serious attempt? I think he’s more encouraged by the way they do business and are run than in the past. But that’s as far as I can go on the topic.
Does the club plan to make Jordan Westburg a regular in the lineup?
I asked manager Brandon Hyde if Westburg could get more regular at-bats – not that fans care who asked and I usually avoid specifying it, but I just broke my rule – and he understandably responded that he needs to know the composition of his roster.
The offseason could dictate Westburg’s plate appearances, and he isn’t the only one.
Also, there are a lot of moveable pieces. An important factor.
Westburg will play second and third base, and shortstop also is a possibility. He did it a lot before reaching the majors.
Sit back and ponder a possible Opening Day double play combination of Holliday at second base and Gunnar Henderson at short, with Westburg at third. And then think about Henderson going to third, Holliday to shortstop and Westburg to second.
Pretty good, huh?
We’re told that Holliday’s playing second and short in spring training, so we’ll keep him away from third.
Who's on first? Honestly, who cares?
OK, Ryan Mountcastle and Ryan O'Hearn again, with Coby Mayo pounding on the door.
Going around the horn with Mayo, Holliday, Henderson and Westburg could cause some fans' heads to explode.