With exactly one week remaining before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the Orioles are applying the finishing touches to the construction of their minor league staffs and an announcement is coming within the next few days.
Certainly before I board my Monday flight to Sarasota.
What do we know? Well, let’s start with Gary Kendall, who’s replacing Ron Johnson as manager at Triple-A Norfolk. Mike Griffin returns as Tides pitching coach.
Buck Britton moves up from low Single-A Delmarva to Bowie as Kendall’s replacement. Kennie Steenstra remains as Baysox pitching coach.
I’ve heard that Alan Mills is going to manage the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League team, with Carlos Tosca serving as an outfield and baserunning instructor. Again, nothing has been announced by the Orioles. I’m just assuming that the plan didn’t change.
Kevin Bradshaw will manage short-season Single-A Aberdeen, which he was supposed to do last summer before being shelved with an injury. Kyle Moore changed roles from Single-A Frederick hitting coach to IronBirds manager in Bradshaw’s absence.
Tim Raines Jr. has left his position as hitting coach at Aberdeen. Former Harford Community College coach Tom Eller tweeted that he’s joining the IronBirds without offering specifics on his role, but he could be replacing Raines.
Minor league hitting coordinator Jeff Manto is staying in the organization.
Nova Southeastern University pitching coach Justin Ramsey has accepted a minor league position with the Orioles, who need a replacement for Frederick pitching coach Blaine Beatty.
Meanwhile, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias is leading an Orioles contingent in the Dominican Republic that’s scouting Cuban shortstop Yolbert Sanchez, as reported by MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez.
It’s a safe assumption that senior director of international scouting Koby Perez also is on the trip.
Sanchez, 21, is allowed to sign with any team starting today. Major League Baseball granted him free agency following his defection to the Dominican, where he’s been working out.
The Orioles hold the most international bonus signing slot money at around $6 million, but while the industry tries to tab them as the favorites for Sanchez, let’s remember that they weren’t able to sign Victor Victor Mesa, Victor Mesa Jr. or Sandy Gastón. They had limits on how far they were willing to go and couldn’t compete with the allure of South Florida as the Mesa brothers chose the Marlins.
Elias wasn’t in charge at the time, for what that’s worth.
Sanchez, lauded for his glove, could wait until the next signing period begins on July 2 and more teams have the resources to bid on him. The current period ends on June 15.
Sanchez was the starting shortstop for the Havana Industriales, as well as Cuba’s 23U and 18U teams.
Elias reminded the crowd at FanFest that the Orioles would spend wisely on the international market and most of the upper-tier talent already had committed to other organizations.
“To successfully scout and sign players in Latin America requires a great deal of infrastructure, so this isn’t going to be an immediate reward, but we’re investing very heavily in that area now. We’re getting our capabilities built up,” he said.
“We just hired a very accomplished and respected scouting director away from the Cleveland Indians who’s now leading our efforts there, Koby Perez. We’re doing a lot in those areas. We will be able to sustain that approach, absolutely, going forward in conjuncture with other types of expenditures and investments and major league payroll as that goes up as we get into a cycle of trying to maximize major league wins.
“The reality is, the way that the market works down there, a lot of these players are spoken for and sort of committed to signing with certain organizations long before the July 2 signing period. So the types of preparation you need to sign players takes place sometimes two years in advance but usually one year in advance, and you start to have an idea of where a player is going to sign. So we are in position right now where we have a lot of money and the simple reality is it’s going to be difficult to spend a great deal of this money in a smart way.
“We don’t want to just blow it and say, ‘Hey, we spent a bunch of money,’ and we have nothing to show for it. That’s not smart. It’s real money, we can use it in other areas to improve our operations and we’re prepared to do that. Now, that said, we are ready to react to anything that comes along that’s a worthwhile investment, large or small, in this signing period and the next one. So we’ve got activities going on right now, some players that we’re looking at, but we’re not going to just run around signing people for the sake of it.”