The Orioles will leave the Winter Meetings with at least one selection in Thursday morning’s Rule 5 draft. This is the only lock. They’re holding the first overall pick and intend to use it.
Only the names change. Of the players chosen and the executives in charge of making the decisions.
Everything else that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias will invite the media into his suite each afternoon beginning on Monday. Dan Duquette used to provide updates without revealing too much. Estimates on the number of agents and executives who met with him. Positions that were prioritized. His read on the markets.
Elias is a total mystery to the local media. Our interaction has been limited to his introduction at Camden Yards. He was a call-in guest to the “Orioles Hot Stove” show on 105.7 The Fan.
No one knows how he’s going to handle these daily sessions and he’s never been the guy in charge, so there’s no track record to consult.
If the secrecy from the executive and managerial searches is any indication, the desert won’t be flooded with information unless it’s leaking out of other organizations.
The heavy lifting for Elias could involve the search for a new manager. Interviews could take place inside the suite, with other candidates besides Chip Hale, Brandon Hyde, Mike Bell and Pedro Grifol. Perhaps Elias and assistant Sig Mejdal are able to bring back a few scouts.
The Orioles need a director of player development and director of scouting. They need to construct an analytics department that fits Mejdal’s vision. They could burn most of their hours in Vegas attending to these matters.
Former director of scouting Gary Rajsich has been hired by the Braves to do professional and amateur scouting, according to an industry source. The Braves also hired former Orioles East Coast scouting supervisor Kirk Fredriksson as an area scout.
As for roster business, the Orioles might have to settle for the Rule 5 pick while - here’s one of those phrases you’ll hear as if it’s on a loop - laying the groundwork for future transactions.
Elias indicated that the Orioles will be active in free agency, but it might happen later in the winter. He didn’t say it, but they aren’t going top shelf. The payroll restrictions and rebuild will limit the Orioles to moves intended to plug some holes and allow prospects more time to develop in the minors.
Duquette acquired pitcher Dana Eveland from the Dodgers on the final day of his first Winter Meetings with the Orioles. He closed last year’s session by alerting the media that the Orioles signed minor league free agent pitcher Michael Kelly to a major league deal - the news coming to us as we gathered to talk about the three Rule 5 selections.
Cue the Google searches on Michael Kelly.
The running joke over the years is, “We did all this work for Dana Eveland?” Yes. Yes we did.
The Orioles want to find a plus defender at shortstop, which would keep Jonathan Villar at second base. They’re always in the market for starting pitching and relievers. They also are expected to search for a veteran catcher and an outfielder, and they need an alternative to Renato Núñez at third base if he’s deemed a liability in the field.
All of these moves could come after the brain trust returns home.
The veteran catcher makes sense because he can aid the development of the young pitchers. It’s one facet of a rebuild. The guiding hand should be a steady one.
The Winter Meetings primer always includes reminders that the busiest days are Monday through Wednesday. There’s a mad scramble for the airport on Thursday following the Rule 5 draft. I always enjoy taking a leisurely stroll through the lobby after it has emptied. I can exhale. I’ve survived another session. And maybe I’ll bump into super-agent Scott Boras, as I did a few years ago, for an impromptu one-on-one.
Boras will hold court, as usual, on Wednesday outside the media workroom. The scrum has become legendary. And the key is finding out where he’s going to stand for it so you don’t end up too far back and unable to record his every syllable.
Not that there’s important Orioles news expected to come from him.
I’ll fly into Vegas later today, gaining three hours and losing a couple of pounds unless I stock up on snacks. Elias won’t be available to the media until Monday, but I can spend the rest of the day and night wandering around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and seeking the shortest paths from the media workroom to the lobby and the elevator to my room.
(Hopefully, a map isn’t needed like the ones handed out at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, the absolute worst location for these meetings.)
A few cocktails might be consumed in the late hours while reconnecting with some industry types. I’ve seen it done from a distance.
I always have to fight the guilt as I pack up my laptop after midnight. The lobby is still hoppin’, but any amount of sleep is crucial.
Last year’s meetings were dominated by the trade talks involving Manny Machado. Gauging the Orioles’ willingness to part with him and which teams were the most serious suitors. I’ll repeat that he would have been a Dodger much sooner if Los Angeles had been willing to part with Walker Buehler. Also, the Diamondbacks doubled back late in the meetings to re-engage in talks.
The Orioles don’t have anyone of Machado’s caliber to dangle in the desert.