Mike Elias will board a flight this afternoon for the return trip from Scottsdale, Ariz., and the 2019 General Managers Meetings. Which also included anyone with “executive vice president” in their title.
No trades have been consummated and aren’t expected to happen at this point. I got the sense that there wouldn’t be much activity from the Orioles beyond the sit-downs with executives and agents that could lead to moves made at next month’s Winter Meetings in San Diego.
The odds on Elias coming home this week with a new player were regarded as slim. But his flight isn’t departing until later today.
He did lose a pitcher, allowing Aaron Brooks to sign a contract with the Kia Tigers in the Korean Baseball Organization. The Orioles get a modest buyout in exchange, and a fifth opening on their 40-man roster that’s going to come in handy.
Brooks seemed more likely to compete for a bullpen spot next spring if he stayed in the organization. John Means, Dylan Bundy, Alex Cobb and Asher Wojciechowski rate ahead of him, and Elias is seeking at least one veteran starter on a one-year deal. He’s also going to keep sifting through the list of minor league free agents.
Brooks was a decent option as a long reliever/bulk guy, but no tears are shed from relinquishing a pitcher with a career 6.49 ERA and 1.506 WHIP in parts of four seasons in the majors. The rebuild plans haven’t been trashed.
Elias has estimated that four or five players will be protected prior to the Rule 5 draft. He’s got room for five if nothing changes before the Nov. 20 deadline to set rosters.
Finding a veteran middle infielder with plus defensive skills at shortstop occupied a portion of Elias’ time in Arizona. Former manager Buck Showalter liked Adeiny Hechavarría, who’s become a journeyman with seven teams on his resume, including six going back to 2017. The native of Cuba is back on the market and the Orioles are regarded as a good match.
They brought Alcides Escobar to spring training earlier this year and he was a late cut, with Hanser Alberto earning a roster spot. Rule 5 pick Drew Jackson also broke camp with the team but didn’t make it past April 10.
Meanwhile, Escobar spent his summer with Triple-A Charlotte before the White Sox released him on Aug. 2. He didn’t play in the majors this year.
Here’s a list of free-agent shortstops (and their ages), as provided by MLBTradeRumors.com:
Gordon Beckham (33)
Logan Forsythe (33)
Ryan Goins (32)
Phil Gosselin (31)
Didi Gregorius (30)
Adeiny Hechavarría (31)
Brock Holt (32)
José Iglesias (30)
Jordy Mercer (33)
Hernán Pérez (29)
Sean Rodríguez (35)
Eric Sogard (34)
Iglesias has been linked to the Orioles in the past, but he brings some baggage. They did their homework on him last winter, found that he’s developed a reputation as a negative influence in the clubhouse and passed on him.
Iglesias has registered a career 6.3 dWAR, per Baseball-Reference.com, and Hechavarría has a 6.2 dWAR. They’d both make sense as far as what the club is seeking on the field.
If you’re ranking the possibilities, I think you’d be wise to place Hechavarría ahead of Iglesias.
Elias is approaching his one-year anniversary in the Orioles front office. His hire became official on Nov. 16, 2018.
“One of the fastest years I’ve ever experienced, in a good way,” he said last week. “We’ve got so much going on. It’s a whirlwind being a general manager by itself, but to come into an organization that’s in flux, that’s rebooting its operation from top to bottom, it’s certainly been a fast year and it’s hard to believe a year ago I was still thinking about the Houston Astros and working for the Houston Astros, and now here we are. But I’m really very thrilled to be here and thrilled with where we’re going.”
His vision for the club and how the rebuild needs to be executed has remained the same.
“It hasn’t changed,” he said, “and this isn’t something that only the Orioles are trying to do, so it’s a challenge. But we’re trying to have a really top-notch scouting and player development apparatus that feeds talent to the major league team on a regular basis, that allows a team and a market of our size to maintain competitiveness.
“A lot of that is just basic kind of scouting and player development blocking and tackling, so to speak, that we weren’t really investing in a lot as an organization - international scouting, international development, so much of the analytics that now goes into draft decisions and player development. But it’s also being at the forefront of a lot of those movements. So kind of simultaneously we’re trying to get up to speed, but also get ahead a little bit.”
Elias needs to be a master multi-tasker, unable to focus only on the roster or remaining hires.
“It’s very challenging, but I’ve had a lot of good help and more help is coming,” he said. “We have made a lot of high-level hires since coming in, and first and most prominent being Sig Mejdal, who came over with me from Houston and serves as assistant general manager, but really one of the top analytics people in the game and is also a player development expert. Did a lot of that work for Houston, came here with me.
“We brought our pitching coordinator, Chris Holt, over here from Houston, Koby Perez from the Cleveland Indians to launch our international program from scratch. And we’ve made a lot of other hires and there are more coming. I’d expect in the next month we’ll have other high-level front office hires in addition to all the coaches and scouts and so forth that we’re bringing in.
“So it’s a challenge to balance all that with the roster things and taking care of the big league club and basic decisions, but you kind of learn how to delegate, compartmentalize everything and get it done day by day.”