Winter Meetings are starting and Orioles still seek pitching

NASHVILLE – Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias is arriving this morning at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, transferring some of his phone conversations to face-to-face discussions. Matt Blood, vice president of player development and domestic scouting, Sig Mejdal, vice president and assistant general manager, and Koby Perez, vice president of international scouting and operations, were counted among team officials who flew into Nashville yesterday.

The Winter Meetings are underway.

The multiple lobbies, miles in between them and hordes of families wandering through the hotel make it challenging to decipher the buzz. It’s beginning to look a lot like chaos in this holiday-themed establishment.

I like to pass along what I’m hearing, with the caveat that it isn’t necessarily confirmed. Just what scouts, agents and others in the industry are saying about the Orioles. Their hot takes on the club's business.

The interest in trading for Dylan Cease is legitimate. The Orioles are among the teams in discussions with the White Sox.

Cease isn’t a free agent until after the 2025 season, the extra year of team control adding to his appeal and the White Sox’s demands for him. We’re not talking about a rental here.

There are warts with Cease. His ERA increased this year from 2.20 to 4.58 and his WHIP from 1.109 to 1.418. He averages 4.0 walks per nine innings, but also 10.8 strikeouts.

The number of starts are bountiful, which the Orioles could use at the top of their rotation, especially with Kyle Gibson gone. He’s made 32, 32 and 33 over the past three seasons.

The Braves are viewed as favorites to sign the Georgia native. However, the Orioles are packing the No. 1 farm system in baseball in their holster. It’s just a question of how much they’re willing to surrender.

One scout from another organization said yesterday that a starting pitcher and an infield prospect are requirements to get a deal done. He also suggested that Jordan Westburg could be a key piece, a player the White Sox would want in a package, but the Orioles’ willingness to move him isn’t known.

Westburg could be the primary second baseman in 2024 or split time between second and third. But he also qualifies as a chip.

The scout also said he thinks Austin Hays and Anthony Santander are available in the right deal, though Elias has held onto them. It’s the same chatter every winter. Stop me if you've heard it. Teams like them. The Orioles like them.

Free-agent reliever Robert Stephenson is drawing lots of interest on the market and the Orioles are involved in talks. He doesn't necessarily fit Elias' quest for closing experience with three career saves in 271 games, but he posted a 2.35 ERA and 0.678 WHIP this season in 42 appearances with the Rays and struck out 60 batters with only eight walks over 38 1/3 innings.

That's high leverage.

The sense here is that bullpen arms really could begin to fly off the board, so teams must be aggressive.

An important reminder this week is that Elias will perform his due diligence and contact agents and rival executives about players who probably aren’t a financial fit. The Orioles aren’t real players in the Juan Soto trade sweepstakes – the prospect cost is exorbitant - but that doesn’t mean Elias hasn’t made contact.

In similar fashion, expressing interest in a starter like Aaron Nola isn’t an indication that they would have spent in the neighborhood of $172 million for him.

Today begins with a morning press conference detailing the latest auction held by Major League Baseball and the 30 teams to benefit “Stand Up to Cancer.”

This is the 10th auction, the first taking place in Nashville, that’s inspired by the numerous employees, friends and fans of the game who have been directly affected by cancer and other tragedies. The Orioles lost former public relations director Monica Barlow to Stage 4 lung cancer in February 2014.

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