Some leftovers from the Winter Meetings

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.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias expressed confidence in finding another starter for higher in the rotation. A trade might be the best avenue if the club is reluctant to offer longer-term deals to free agents.

This idea leads us back to whether they should part with some of their prospects or deal from the major league roster. Both methods are possibilities.

Jameson Taillon received four years from the Cubs (for $68 million), and the Orioles are believed to have offered less. The upper layer of the second tier might unexpectedly be out of reach.

Elias warned after the general managers meetings that the Orioles weren’t going zero-to-60. There will be a gradual buildup of payroll, which again makes any Carlos Rodón rumors sound ridiculous.

Fan hopes were inflated, and the media didn’t help in that regard, with “liftoff” and “increased payroll” welded together in articles. Sorry about that.

There also were the concerns expressed by Elias this week about blocking players in the organization. Don’t let them run into an inflated contract, which, I suppose, could replicate an airbag. But Elias also wants to lessen the pressure on Kyle Stowers and Terrin Vavra in his search for left-handed bats.

Again, it’s a bit complicated. Money remains a factor in making decisions. So does the batch of prospects that didn’t used to interfere because it didn’t exist.

The Orioles traditionally do most of their work after the Winter Meetings. Nothing has changed other than the expectations by many that they’d perform a cannonball at the Manchester Grand Hyatt while making a huge splash.

* Elias is dangling the Opening Day assignment in front of starters during meetings. Hitters are told that at-bats are available, that a contract doesn’t necessarily reserve a seat on the bench.

Names for the latter haven’t seemed to reach the media. It’s mostly just speculating on potential fits.

In that same vein …

Harold Castro, a versatile left-handed hitter who was non-tendered by the Tigers, makes sense to me as a utility player who can start at second base, which is the infield position that’s closest to unsettled.

Name a position and he plays it – though assigns him a minus-3.74 dWAR. And he made four relief appearances this year, allowing two runs in four innings, after tossing 2 2/3 scoreless and hitless in 2021.

Castro, who turned 29 last month, is a career .400/.432/.571 hitter with a double, triple and home run in 37 plate appearances against the Orioles. He has a career .290 average with all 15 of his home runs against right-handers over 1,028 plate appearances.

* The Orioles have put on the back burner any negotiations to settle on salaries for their six arbitration players: Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Jorge Mateo, Dillon Tate and Austin Voth.

The sides must reach agreement by Jan. 13 or exchange figures and perhaps head to a hearing.

“There’s not too much on that front going on,” Elias said. “We tendered everybody and look forward to having those guys back.”

* A longtime National League scout said outfielder Heston Kjerstad was the best hitter he saw in the Arizona Fall League.

“He’s a middle-of-the-order bat,” the scout said. “He can hit and he has power.”

The same scout said Grayson Rodriguez is the best pitching prospect that he’s ever seen in the Orioles’ system. And I’ll stress again that he’s been doing this job, with multiple clubs, for a very long time.

* The roll call of people I spotted at the Manchester Grand Hyatt included Bo Jackson, Yasiel Puig, and former Orioles Rick Dempsey, José Bautista (Rule 5 pick), Ryan Flaherty, Gregg Zaun, Nelson Cruz, Bud Norris and Tripp Norton.

Norton was the baseball operations director until August 2019.

Flaherty has been promoted to Padres hitting coach but also will handle other tasks. Zaun, who’s Dempsey’s nephew, is trying to land a managing gig in the low minors.

Norris rushed over for a quick embrace and said he was headed somewhere further down the lobby.  I didn’t catch the rest.

Jackson, in a T-shirt and cap, was chatting with a national baseball writer in the lobby. The voice was unmistakable.

I saw him against yesterday morning stepping off an elevator, this time in a suit, as I waited to return to my room.

I held the doors open and leaned out to get another glimpse, wanting to say something before it was too late, but the moment passed. Jackson has lost a step but can still pull away from a sportswriter.

This was one of the few times I received confirmation on anything this week.

Bo knows the Winter Meetings.

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