The hiring of Mike Elias as executive vice president and general manager doesn’t remove all of the uncertainty attached to the franchise. It barely makes a dent.
Elias was the biggest piece, of course, as the person who will run the baseball operations department. Who will assemble the rest of the front office, choose a manager and drag the scouting department into the 21st century. But having so many slots to fill is an example of the work that lies ahead.
The 40-man roster must be set by Tuesday in order to protect players in the Rule 5 draft that closes the Winter Meetings. Which leads me to two guarantees:
1). Pitcher Dillon Tate, acquired from the Yankees in the Zach Britton trade, will be protected. Even if it seems farfetched that a team would carry Tate on its roster the entire season rather than offer him back, the Orioles aren’t taking any chances of losing him and will make room on a 40-man that’s currently full.
2). The Orioles will make another selection in the Rule 5 draft. At least one. They have the first pick and aren’t going to pass. However, they won’t try again to carry three on opening day. There could be two, though, with reliever Pedro Araujo needing to stay on the active roster for the first 17 days.
Here are two predictions:
1). Tate will be the only player protected. Catcher Martin Cervenka and left-hander Luis Gonzalez also are under consideration, but I’ll say that Tate is the only one placed on the 40-man. And the Orioles need to get his shoulder healthy. He was shut down in September, which might have cost him a chance at making his major league debut.
2). Catcher Andrew Susac will be removed from the 40-man roster. A spot easily can be cleared for Tate and I’ll repeat that Susac is likely to be let go this month unless Elias has some sort of affinity for him. Too many health issues over the years and he’s a career .221/.283/.373 career slash line in 113 major league games. He went 3-for-26 with the Orioles.
Elias and the other hires bring fresh eyes to the process, but I don’t think they’re going to save Susac.
At least one more opening is necessary for the Orioles to make a selection. They can’t just add Tate and subtract a player.
The deadline for offering contract to arbitration-eligible players is Nov. 30 and Elias will get to decide on infielder Tim Beckham. I’m sure he’s going to receive lots of input from the people who watched Beckham all season and for two months after last year’s non-waiver trade.
Catcher Caleb Joseph is another non-tender candidate, but I know that he’s got some strong supporters who remain in the organization. And there isn’t a proven starter to take his spot. Removing Joseph, as I’ve written, likely would lead the Orioles to search for a veteran replacement.
I’m expecting Beckham to be non-tendered, though saying so requires getting inside the head of a front office hire who’s a total stranger to me. The flurry of moves made since the season ended took away some of Beckham’s supporters and detractors.
Finding a shortstop has become a priority for the Orioles and Elias doesn’t figure to put up a fight. Another starting pitcher could be on the shopping list if it’s determined that there aren’t enough viable in-house contenders for the last two spots. And this is assuming that Dylan Bundy, Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner remain with the club.
As I’ve written, no one is untouchable and the new executives could check the trade market.
Elias’ title removes the clumsiness of having Brady Anderson continue to serve as vice president of baseball operations. Assuming that Anderson remains in the organization, which is the expectation, Elias’ title matches his status as the head of the baseball operations department.
Shameless plug alert: I’m appearing on “Wall to Wall Baseball” from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on MASN.