We’re down to two days before the trade deadline and the Orioles have made one deal, with the Athletics for reliever Shintaro Fujinami on July 19. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias is in contact with everyone, whether due diligence or doing it with legitimate hopes of reaching an agreement.
Elias’ 26-minute media session Friday afternoon, in the auxiliary clubhouse rather than the stifling dugout heat, provided confirmation on his plans.
Elias mentioned middle relief, which also came as no surprise. Fortify the bullpen, shorten games, and ease some of the strain on other relievers and the rotation.
The club also has engaged in talks for starting pitchers, though it isn’t clear how a newcomer would fit. A six-man rotation? A current starter sent to the ‘pen?
Among the moments from Elias’ presser that stood out to me was this quote:
“I don’t know that a single member of our rotation right now wants to go leave the rotation in some way, shape or form. There’s that, too. They’re having the seasons of their lives, they're competing, the team’s in first, they’ve got their whole careers ahead of them.”
Elias was responding to a question about managing innings of the younger starters, but it also applies to changing roles related to a trade.
Of course, Elias said this before Tyler Wells turned in his third short outing in a row last night, going 2 2/3 innings and throwing 63 pitches. He walked three more batters and hit one after walking four and hitting two over 4 1/3 innings against the Rays. He was finished after two innings against the Dodgers on July 18.
The All-Star break didn’t freshen up Wells, who’s thrown a career-high 113 2/3 innings. He had two stints on the injured list last summer, was a Rule 5 reliever in 2021 and didn’t pitch in 2019 or 2020.
We gained some clarity on whether Elias also was checking on available left-handed-hitting outfielders. Apparently not. The injuries to Cedric Mullins and especially Aaron Hicks are viewed as “temporary” and don’t seem to impact Elias’ conversations.
Seems like that leaves only pitching.
Also noticeable Friday was how Elias still must walk a line between eyeing the playoffs and – yes, he said it – the World Series, and also doing what’s best for future seasons. Not damaging those teams. Marty Feldman eyes pointed in different directions, if you’re old enough to remember the British actor and comedian.
Don’t try it at home or risk a banging headache.
Elias said multiple times that he’d “reach” if the right player is attainable. But there’s no pressure to deal just to make some sort of statement or appease the masses. He won’t “set the minor league system on fire just because we’re in first place,” and that, too, is no surprise.
It would be a 180 from how the front office as operated.
The Orioles aren’t backing up the prospect truck in front of another executive’s house and lending him or her a dolly.
Would the Orioles trade from their 26-man roster rather than the farm system?
Maybe yes, but it doesn’t seem like the preferred route. This group has the best record in the American League and has formed a bond that Elias doesn’t want to chip away at, let alone break.
“We have no intent of subtracting from the 26-man roster,” Elias said. But he added later, “It comes up in conversations, and if that’s something that we need to consider to make the trade that we want to make, we’ll balance all that. I can’t rule it out.”
So, maybe yes. But I doubt that it would be one of the regulars. And if I had to bet, I’d say the farm system is more likely to take the hit. But we’ll see.
DL Hall was extended to two scoreless innings Friday in the Florida Complex League, working in relief and allowing one hit with six strikeouts. His fastball is in the mid-90s and climbing.
Hall is going to throw an inning on Tuesday as he works toward a return to Triple-A Norfolk’s roster. And perhaps a return to the Orioles.
They keep talking about developing him as a starter, which is true. But circumstances keep changing the plan.
I found it interesting that Elias said the club is determining whether to build up Hall to four-plus innings, as the team would with a starter, or consider him as a relief option like in September 2022.
The calendar suggests that it makes more sense to take the shorter route and try again next spring. The Orioles could use that arm in the ‘pen, and especially if they don’t land another reliever at the deadline.
A promise wasn’t made regarding Joey Ortiz’s future in the organization, but Elias went further with a response about the young shortstop than anticipated.
Ortiz is tearing it up in Triple-A and remains a plus defender, and his name comes up a lot within the media as a prospect the Orioles might be willing to part with in a package for a starting pitcher. They have plenty of infielders and a limited number of spots.
“I think he’s going to have a long future as a starting shortstop, and here is the most likely place. We’re thrilled that we have him right now kind of waiting in the wings,” Elias said.
"We love Joey Ortiz, we love having him as part of our future."
Is this a guarantee that Ortiz won’t be traded? No. But it was a strong endorsement.
Ortiz could emerge later as the primary shortstop, with Gunnar Henderson playing third. He could be the 2024 version of Ramón Urías, capable of moving around the infield.
There are no guarantees that Urías and Jorge Mateo are back next season.
* Carter Baumler, the Orioles’ fifth-round pick in the 2020 draft who underwent surgery on his right shoulder during the offseason, tossed a scoreless and hitless first inning yesterday in a rehab start in the Florida Complex League.
MLB Pipeline ranks Baumler, 21, as the organization’s No. 21 prospect.
Baumler underwent Tommy John surgery in 2020 after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow during his second bullpen session in the fall instructional camp, allowed two earned runs and struck out 20 batters in 11 2/3 innings with Single-A Delmarva in 2022, and was shut down with shoulder inflammation.