This morning marks my last story minus a Nashville dateline until probably Friday. I’m boarding a flight in a few hours and landing into the next phase of baseball’s offseason.
The Winter Meetings are held this week at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, a space so large it has its own mayor. Families come from all over the country to check out the holiday decorations and ask, “Has anyone seen my kid?”
The Orioles are searching for starting and relief pitching.
The first media session with executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias will be held Monday afternoon in his suite, and all 30 executives will be available Tuesday afternoon. Manager Brandon Hyde will have his own scrum Tuesday afternoon in "Delta Lobby A," which I'm hoping is within a 25-mile radius of the workroom.
(I’ll stop complaining about the location today. That’s my promise to you.)
The Orioles have the 29th pick in the first round of Wednesday afternoon's Rule 5 draft.
I’m bringing a carry-on bag, laptop and questions. The rest is up to Elias and Hyde. What they’re at liberty to divulge and what is decided.
I’m wondering …
Have there been follow-up discussions from the general managers meetings in Arizona?
That’s supposed to be the time to lay the groundwork, to get a better read on the trade and free agent markets. This is a standard opener in suites.
How many teams and agents did Elias meet with today?
Also a Winter Meetings classic. Monitoring suite traffic. Finding out how busy Elias is while also knowing that his day isn’t over after he’s done with us.
Is a trade for pitching more likely than a free agent contract?
Elias is exploring both options. He won’t dismiss one. But he might begin to get a feel for the best tactic.
How much cash weight can the payroll hold?
Don’t expect an exact calculation and definitive budget. That isn’t happening. But perhaps we can get a better sense of how far the club can go, what’s a realistic pursuit of certain free agents.
Can any rumors be put to bed?
This is one of my favorites. An answer isn’t always forthcoming, but it’s a chance to do everyone a favor. Spare Elias the questions and save the media from wasting its time.
Following on the above idea, is there interest in Japanese right-hander Naoyuki Uwasawa?
Uwasawa has been posted by the Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball, and some Japanese media are citing U.S. sources as saying the Orioles are prepared to offer him a multi-year deal to work as a fourth or fifth starter. Would the Orioles really do that? Is there concrete confirmation available on this subject?
Any concrete decisions on the roles for Tyler Wells and DL Hall?
They could start or work in relief. I’m curious whether the team already has informed them or if it’s willing to let the situation play out in spring training. Seems easier to do your offseason business if you know how they’re going to be used. Wells was told over the winter of 2021 that he’d report to camp the following spring as a starter, and to be ready to train as one.
How’s Dillon Tate?
At the risk of sounding like I’m obsessed with Tate, I’d like to know if he’s 100 percent recovered from forearm/elbow injuries or where he is in his rehab. If the Orioles are penciling him into their bullpen. Anything that qualifies as an update.
Any progress made on the 13 arbitration-eligible players tendered contracts?
This could be a back-burner issue. The sides don’t have to exchange salary figures and think about hearing dates until Jan. 12. Shortstop Jorge Mateo signed for $2.7 million, reliever Keegan Akin for $825,000 and outfielders Ryan McKenna and Sam Hilliard for $800,000. On hold are Wells, Tate, Anthony Santander, John Means, Danny Coulombe, Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Ryan O’Hearn, Ryan Mountcastle, Cionel Pérez, Cole Irvin, Jacob Webb and Ramón Urías.
Is Elias in the market for a right-handed-hitting outfielder?
In other words, whether he needs to replace switch-hitting Aaron Hicks. He could want someone besides McKenna.
Could the Orioles ignore the crowd in their infield and sign a veteran?
Adam Frazier is a free agent and seems easy to replace if you take a head count. However, the Orioles might want another veteran who could supply leadership and serve as insurance. Lessen the reliance on a young prospect.
How much closing experience is sought in a new reliever?
Elias could clarify whether the Orioles are checking on a pitcher to handle the bulk of the save situations or just be a candidate based on his experience. They have some in-house options, including All-Star Yennier Cano, who notched eight saves. The New York Post’s Jon Heyman reported that the Orioles made contact with Josh Hader, Jordan Hicks, Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman. I’m assuming their representatives. Tap the brakes on Hader. As the article says, he “may be a bit pricey for the O’s.” But we’re talking big-time closing experience in this group. We’re also talking 5.0 walks and 15.5 strikeouts per nine innings from Chapman. Buckle up if it’s him. MLB Network's Jon Morosi said the Orioles are "showing interest" in Robert Stephenson.
Which prospects are teams demanding and is anyone untouchable?
A two-parter! Answers might be more forthcoming from people outside the organization who are familiar with negotiations. However, there are ways for Elias to say, “We’re keeping Jackson Holliday” without using the word “untouchable.” Or use it. Holliday isn’t on the table. What about Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser?
Have the Orioles completed their board of Rule 5-eligible players that they could select, and is there a positional preference?
Another two-parter! I'm sticking with my prediction that a reliever is chosen in the first round. I'm not as confident that the club will confirm or deny. We could get a rough estimate on the number of players on the board. Picking 29th makes it a lot harder because the most appealing ones might be long gone.
Is there anything to say about new pitching coach Drew French?
The Orioles haven’t announced French’s hiring after his three seasons as Braves bullpen coach. Elias could confirm it, however, and offer a scouting report going back to their days in the Astros organization. Hyde could talk about having French on his staff.
Any updates on assistant pitching coach?
Darren Holmes isn’t returning and we don’t have any other details about his departure. We also haven’t been told whether he’ll be replaced and if the job title remains intact.
Any updates on possible extensions for Adley Rutschman or Gunnar Henderson?
Elias doesn’t go public with talks, if they exist, because he sees no benefit to it. He’s said it many times, but he’s asked anyway. Don’t be surprised if it happens again this week.
Does the club plan to make Jordan Westburg a regular in the lineup?
This one is for Hyde. Whether Westburg could shed a platoon-type role and play second or third base on most nights and maybe get some starts at shortstop. Anything to keep him in the lineup. Probably too soon for lineup questions but it’s a manager’s scrum. Awards and the weather won’t carry it.
Is the left field wall moving again?
Don't bother. I was in the MASN web studio Thursday, glanced out the window and didn't notice any changes.
* The Era Committee will reveal its votes tonight for the Hall of Fame. The 16-person panel must choose among former executives Hank Peters and Bill White, managers Davey Johnson, Jim Leyland, Lou Piniella and Cito Gaston, and umpires Ed Montague and Joe West.
Peters was the Orioles’ general manager from 1976-87. They won two American League pennants, with Peters named The Sporting News Executive of the Year, and the 1983 World Series. He died in 2015 of complications from a stroke at age 90.
Johnson played second base for the Orioles for eight seasons, winning three Gold Gloves and making three All-Star teams, before they traded him to the Braves in November 1972 to make room for Bobby Grich. He managed the club to the 1996 and ’97 playoffs, earning American League Manager of the Year honors in his second and final season.
Johnson was my first manager on the beat in ’97. I can’t say that he remembers me fondly.
Piniella is a candidate based on his managerial career, but he played his first four major league games with the Orioles in 1964.
I’ll pass along the results of the voting later tonight.
Update: Leyland was the only one elected.
Leyland received 15 of 16 votes, with 12 needed for election. Piniella received 11 votes.