Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias returned from the General Managers Meetings yesterday without any new players. However, he had numerous face-to-face discussions with executives regarding trade possibilities and also sat down with a few agents.
There’s also the hours spent in league meetings that won’t necessarily impact the roster.
Here’s a sampling of my conversation with Elias from this afternoon:
How he spent his days in Arizona:
“We had a good trip there and a lot of it is just devoted to league meetings where we’re all sitting in the same room and there’s information provided to us from the commissioner’s office on a number of things. Rule changes. We vote on new rules that might happen. We talk about league economics, the health of the sport, trends around the industry. So most of the time is devoted to that. But the rest of it this year was having very preliminary and basic trade possibility discussions with other clubs.
“I did touch base with a few agents at the meetings, but most of the time was spent comparing notes with other clubs and other GMs because now that the playoffs are over and the budgeting and hiring seasons are slowing down a little bit, it’s really the time when everybody starts talking players.”
Other Orioles representatives on the trip:
“Sig (Mejdal), Mike Snyder, the director of pro scouting, and Kevin Buck, the director of baseball administration. And in the early part of the meetings, that’s kind of separate and takes place over the weekend, we also had Kent Qualls and Bill Wilkes there because those are sessions that are focused on arbitration. So those two guys and Kevin Buck are spearheading our arbitration efforts and they attended for that portion and then Kent and Wilkes left before the bulk of the meetings.”
Whether Orioles are more likely to tap into the free agent or trade markets:
“I think we’re going to make some free agent signings, but we’ve made no secret about the organizational mission at this point and that’s to bring as much young talent as we can, invest in our internal capabilities, invest in the amateur markets and give our young players space to play. So I think it’s fair to describe it as we won’t be behemoths in free agency, but we’ll be monitoring things and we will look heavily at any trade possibilities and I anticipate that we have some activity.”
Whether the cost of pitching is a problem:
“There is a shortage of legit starting pitching around the game. Even playoff teams, you saw where some of them lacked a true fourth starter, even a third starter in occasional cases. And it’s really elevated the value of those guys that teams feel can start and log innings.
“I think that the market values quality and the fact that prices are high on good pitchers is because they’re tough to come by and they help teams.”
The sense that there’s a lot of interest in his players:
“Oh, definitely. And really since I got here a year ago, almost to the day, it’s been a pretty steady amount of inquiries on the same group of players and some others. But there’s a particular group that has drawn interest. But these are guys that we have under control and continue to have under control for multiple years, so we’ve got to pick the right time and the right opportunity of we’re going to move them. But there’s definitely some interest that persists.
“We had a lot of guys who took steps forward this year based on what they had done in 2018, so that’s helpful for their value.”
Everyone is on the table, but some are more available than others:
“I think the amount of time that we have the player under control is a big factor. As you saw with Andrew Cashner, when it’s just a couple of months left of control and we clearly weren’t going to the playoffs, obviously the bar is very low to make a trade because you don’t want to hold a guy into free agency and get nothing in return. That’s a big factor for us as we kind of figure out where that threshold is.”
Pitching and a veteran middle infielder top the shopping list:
“I think those are the two areas that we can bolster with some depth and some backup plans and even in Triple-A have more depth there - middle infield and pitching. Those are popular for any team.
“I think that while we like our catching group right now - we like (Chance) Sisco and (Pedro) Severino and (Austin) Wynns - we’re probably going to look for a fourth catcher for that mix. You can’t have enough there. And four is the number that you want to go into spring training with. That’s something we’re working on. And I think anything else we’ll take a look at a little more opportunistically, but it’s those positions up the middle.
“I think in terms of center field we might like to add a minor league free agent type that can give us some center field depth with the hope that Austin Hays is healthy and has a good spring and is ready to seize the job on opening day. But you need a backup plan there and some competition in case he’s not.”
An update on the coaching staff, with no confirmation on FOX Sports report that the team interviewed Anthony Sanders for the first base coaching job:
“I’m not going to comment on any particular interviewees, but we have interviewed multiple people for that position and others and it’s something that we’re working on and haven’t made a decision or hire. As is always with these cases, there are moving parts in the sense that one hire might affect another depending on the first hire’s skill sets and so forth. We have to take them one at a time, but I think we’re going to have some movement here pretty quickly. Certainly before the month is out.”
Setting the 40-man roster by Nov. 20:
“We need to make our Rule 5 additions prior to that deadline and I don’t necessarily see why that would go right to the 5 p.m. deadline on the 20th. We’re going to have some internal meetings and get squared away. I think we have some really easy decisions to make there, but then there’s a couple that probably warrant some more conversation.”
Major League Baseball’s investigation into electronic sign stealing by the Astros:
“The fact that there’s apparently an investigation ongoing prohibits me from making any type of public comment about it. I was almost exclusively focused on the amateur scouting and the minor leagues, so I’ll leave it at that. But I can’t really talk on the issue because of the investigation.”