NASHVILLE – The question almost made Mike Elias recoil.
How does the Orioles’ executive vice president/general manager view the state of his rotation with its improved depth and the potential influence on trade and free agent negotiations?
“I definitely don’t like to talk about starting pitcher depth with the baseball gods always within earshot,” Elias replied.
He assumed the risk and kept going. Can’t always play it safe.
“We’ve got a decent group that’s returning,” he said. “A lot of successes last year. We feel pretty good about some of the numbers that we had. But I think 30 of these suites right now, there’s teams talking about, we’re out looking for pitching and pitching depth. So, it’s a very competitive market.
“I think that we’ve expressed the desire to maybe come away with a rotation upgrade this offseason if we can, but I can tell you a few weeks in, they’re not growing on trees and it’s not easy, so we’re doing the best that we can within the market and I’m hopeful that this pitching staff will look stronger at the end of the offseason than it did a month ago. But the way, shape or form or person that’s coming in, I just don’t have a crystal ball right now.”
Nothing new was gleaned yesterday from Elias’ media session relating to Winter Meetings business that didn’t already become apparent prior to the first day.
The Orioles want a starter and a reliever who can slot into the back end of the bullpen. We knew that. Anything else is secondary. They’re willing to deal prospects but understandably have their limits.
And don’t come at Elias with logjam talk. He isn’t pressured to move guys. He’s willing to be a prospect hoarder but also knows he has the upper hand with the No. 1 farm system in baseball.
Money also doesn't grow on trees.
* Elias and manager Brandon Hyde expect reliever Dillon Tate to be full-go in camp. That was a much-needed update.
Tate is throwing off a mound after recovering from a right forearm flexor strain and stress reaction in his elbow. A team in the market for late-inning relief is getting a high-leverage, ground ball-inducing arm without surrendering a prospect or shelling out big bucks.
“Dillon Tate was an impact for us in 2022 and one of the best set-up guys in the game,” Hyde said yesterday during an interview with "MASN All Access."
“That was a big loss for us. D just never could quite get back to feeling as healthy as he could the year before. Hopefully, with this time off, we expect him to come into camp healthy, and hopefully he can impact our club next year.”
* The Brewers became the latest team to lock up a top prospect with a long-term deal, giving Jackson Chourio an eight-year extension for a guaranteed $82 million with two club options that can bring the total value to $142.5 million.
The richest contract in history for a player who hasn’t made his major league debut.
He’s only 19.
Jackson Holliday turned 20 yesterday.
You knew that Elias would be asked for his opinion, with the Orioles thus far unwilling or unable to make that sort of bold commitment.
“A lot of these have yet to play out and they’re so fresh,” Elias said. “I think as somebody that celebrates baseball and enjoys it, we like seeing players stay with their teams when they’re playing well as fans, but that’s not always what happens with the way that the system is set up and free agency and a lot of the rights that the players’ side has put in place the last 70 years.
"I’ve said all along, this is something that we kind of quietly work on in the background. I hope if we find good deals … We certainly have good players. I hope if we find the right deals, which is not easy to do, that we’re able to add some of those to the list for the Orioles. But you won’t hear about it from me until it’s out there."
* Former Orioles pitcher Spenser Watkins is expected to sign with a team in the Korea Baseball Organization.
The Orioles traded Watkins to the Astros on June 23 for cash considerations. The Athletics selected him off waivers in August and he became a free agent after the season.
Watkins has drawn interest from the KBO in recent years, but the Orioles held onto him for pitching depth.
* Former Orioles reliever Brad Brach was spotted with his agent at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
Brach isn’t making a comeback. He lives in Nashville and had some business that brought him to the Winter Meetings, though I reminded him that the Orioles are seeking a reliever with closing experience.
He wasn’t interested.
Brach enjoyed his stint in the MASN booth last summer and would like to do more broadcasts next season.
* Also from the former Orioles files, Caleb Joseph spent much of the day at the hotel. He, too, lives in Nashville.
This must be a hot spot.
Joseph does studio and radio work for Sportsnet in Toronto but always has wanted to come back to Baltimore.