SAN DIEGO - Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias met earlier today with several agents representing middle infielders and starting pitchers, again targeting the two biggest areas of need. However, he doesn’t expect any signings or deals to be completed at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.
The Winter Meetings will close with the Orioles claiming pitcher Marcos Diplán off waivers Monday and selecting one or more players in the Rule 5 draft. The extent of their activity that moved beyond conversations.
“I don’t think anything’s going to happen here this week in San Diego, but more information, more progress,” Elias said.
“Right now, our focus is on preparing for the Rule 5 draft tomorrow, which we’re still trying to make a decision on.”
Elias indicated that the Orioles could attempt to carry two Rule 5 players. There are two openings on the 40-man roster.
“I’m not sure yet whether we’ll use the second-round pick,” he said. “Usually there’s only like, let’s say, five or six players that you would even take and none of them get to you, you might not. It is tough to carry two all year. It might be easier this year because of the extra position player on the roster.
“Last year, when we took the two infielders (Richie Martin and Drew Jackson), we had the idea of being able to kind of see both of them ourselves in spring training and keep the one that we liked more. Drew Jackson had a nice spring training, we were impressed with him, we tried to carry him and we kind of saw the writing on the wall. But it’s a difficult thing to do, for sure.”
The Orioles haven’t made any decisions regarding their choice with the second selection, but they could use the Rule 5 draft to fill a spot in the rotation. The Orioles want eight candidates in spring training, a number agreed upon by Elias and manager Brandon Hyde.
“We’re going to try to,” Elias said. “I think very many of them will be (non-roster invites), so even though they’re competing in spring training, they might not be part of the organization at the end of spring training. And I also think the Rule 5 draft could throw an entrant or two into that.
“I think that is a good number that we’re kind of gunning for. We also have some of the guys who were in Triple-A last year that are going to be competing for those jobs.”
Elias also raised the possibility that the Orioles could select a position player.
“If it ends up just being, ‘Boy, this is the top guy,’ we might take a hitter,” Elias said. “But if we’re going to come out of this with a list of five or six guys that we would use either pick on and just build a board, there will be, it sounds to me, two or three guys that could credibly compete for our starting rotation.”
Which could place a pitcher from high Single-A or Double-A into a major league rotation.
“It’s interesting,” Elias said. “It’s not something that you see a lot. It probably speaks a little bit to our pitching situation, but some of these organizations are pretty stocked and a 40-man roster is kind of tight, especially when you’re in the throes of a playoff kind of cycle and you need every bit of depth that you can. And there are good pitchers available this year.”
Elias has received confirmation at the Winter Meetings that starting pitching again is in demand.
“The guys that people feel are reliable starters, they’re commanding good price tags,” he said. “Obviously, we’re seeing records set at the top of the market, so that tells you some things, too. When you’re looking for opportunities toward the back end of that market, it’s difficult. It’s not a market that provides a lot of excess.
“We’ve had a couple of face-to-face conversations with (pitchers) and talking about the opportunity that we have, which I think, people know we’re a rebuilding club, a young club, but we do have a large avenue for innings and rotation jobs and that’s attractive. And we’ve got a good team of pitching coaches and a fun group to be around. There are some positives there if you’re a free agent kind of looking for a one-year deal. There’s some opportunity here.”
The search for a veteran shortstop prompted industry speculation that the Orioles might consider Addison Russell, a free agent who served a 40-game suspension with the Cubs for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic abuse policy.
Elias didn’t talk specifically about Russell when asked whether the rebuilding Orioles would be more or less inclined to consider a player with character issues and baggage.
“I think we always look at that in any case,” he replied. “We’re always looking at case-by-case aspects about players, backgrounds and reputations and makeup. We would generally speaking weigh that into the evaluation. But that said, I do think there are certain degrees of background issues that can and would rule out players for us in any market.”
The Orioles are trying to sign a fourth catcher to a minor league deal, which is complicated by a “thin and competitive market” that’s moving at a brisk pace, Elias said.
The presence of Adley Rutschman in the minors isn’t impacting efforts to sign a catcher.
“Not for this year,” Elias said. “I think everyone knows he’s not going to advance through all four minor league levels this year and the fourth catcher ... Actually, we’re a great opportunity because we’re a team where there’s a lot of motion between Triple-A and the big leagues and we don’t have catchers on big contracts or anything like that.”
The Orioles are willing to offer one-year major league contracts for starting pitchers and middle infielders.
“It’s definitely on the table for both the infield jobs and those starting rotation candidacy jobs,” Elias said, “and if that’s something that we need to do to get the guy that we like, we’re prepared to do it.
“I bet that when we’re done we have a mix of major and minor league contracts as part of our signings for candidates for these competitions.”