Notes on Orioles' draft slots, Rule 5 update and more

NASHVILLE – The Orioles weren’t eligible for today’s draft lottery but moved up two spots for next year’s first selection.

They went from holding the 24th to the 22nd because of luxury tax penalties imposed on the Yankees and Padres.

“That’s a pretty high pick coming off a 101-win season,” said executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.

It’s the lowest for the Orioles since pitcher Cody Sedlock was taken 27th overall out of the University of Illinois in 2016.

They also have the 32nd selection, a prospect promotion incentive pick for Gunnar Henderson winning the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award, and the 34th in the Competitive Balance A round.

Elias reminded the media that infielder Jordan Westburg and outfielder Dylan Beavers came to the organization in the Competitive Balance A round.

“Those are huge prospects for us,” he said.

The Orioles are hoping to keep picking in the 20s in the first round as an indicator that they can remain a contender, but also can sustain the health of the organization with the extra PPI and Competitive Balance selections.

“We’ll take all the picks MLB wants to give us. We need them,” Elias said.

“You look at the finances, there’s a lot of disparity in baseball and there’s a lot of markets that have been identified as ones that should receive Competitive Balance picks, and we’re one of them. … I think it’s an important life blood if you’re Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, so we appreciate that part of the system. And honestly, I’d like to see it be more because it’s a drop in the bucket compared to some of the market disparities that we have.”

Elias is prepared for the ebbs and flows in farm system rankings, knowing how hard it is to maintain the No. 1 spot with players graduating and the major league team aiming for yearly playoff appearances.

“I can promise you this, it will not dry up and we’re going to be a first-rate scouting and player development organization as long as the people who are in this room are here being in charge of that,” he said. “Whether that’s top 10 or 11th one year or something, I don’t know, but I can point to other franchises that you don’t necessarily know where they’re ranked every year, but you know that they do a good job in scouting and player development. It’s just part of their identity and I think that’s the Orioles.”

Asked whether there are any prospects that he wouldn’t be willing to trade, Elias said, “I can think of at least one.”

Hello, Jackson Holliday.

“There are several others that are quite unlikely," Elias said, "but in terms of who we wouldn’t trade for all the tea in China, there’s a lot of people on our major league team, and there’s people in the minors, too.”

Other teams also are expressing interest in players on the major league roster during these meetings.

“It’s been coming up a lot in our trade talks,” Elias said. “We’ve got a really talented team now, and they’re young, so even though they’re not technically prospects, they are players that have several years’ worth of value to outside onlookers and they inquire about them quite a bit.

“I think it’s hard to line up on those trades. It’s got to be kind of a demographic difference usually, but it’s been coming up a lot and it’s definitely not something that we’re taking off the table.”

Meanwhile, Elias downplayed the possibility of the Orioles taking a player in Wednesday’s Rule 5 draft, saying it’s “probably a lot less likely than ever.” They’ve been active every year since 2006.

“We’ve got a really good roster, so that’s a big part of it,” said Elias, whose club holds the 29th pick. “This is also a Rule 5 class that is less populated than usual because the 2020 (amateur) draft was only five rounds, so I’d say the odds are we don’t. But I think my impression from our conversations thus far is we may have a player or two who, if they’re still left, we’d consider it.”

A bullpen with multiple pitchers out of options makes it harder to carry a Rule 5 reliever who can’t be sent down without passing through waivers and being offered back to his original club.

“I think that’s definitely a factor if we’re looking at bullpen considerations,” Elias said. “This group is more kind of mature in their careers now and a lot of them are either unoptionable or just people that are unlikely to be optioned, and it’s something that we’re cognizant of and on top of it.

“We may be bringing in more veteran relievers on some type of inflexible contracts, so we’ll keep that in mind. But that’s something we’ve definitely had talks about while we’re planning the pitching staff.”

Elias had two media sessions today, joining other executives in the media workroom before sitting down with the local beat crew in his suite.

“I do feel like it was a productive day,” Elias said. “Nothing that I’m at liberty to get into particulars about, but we’re having a lot of good conversations. Obviously, there are a ton of free agents still on the market and things really haven’t broken loose. It’s a little bit of a surprise, but every Winter Meetings is different. But it makes for a lot of possibilities still out there, both trade and free agent, and we’re working on it.”

Elias also said the new academy in the Dominican Republic remains on schedule to open over the winter.

“It’s going great,” he said. “I just visited it a couple weeks ago. It looks phenomenal. The buildings are up, the fields are out. It’s in a last kind of stage of construction and it’s going to be a really cool facility.”

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