Three full days and parts of two others spent at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in sunny San Diego taught us a few things about the Orioles and confirmed lots more.
They need pitching. In the same way that a sailboat needs a stiff breeze.
This didn’t qualify as breaking news at the Winter Meetings, but the possibility of sticking at least one of the Rule 5 picks in the rotation provided an interesting nugget.
The Orioles rule the Rule 5 kingdom. They’ve made a selection every year since 2006 and doubled down again Thursday with multiple picks. But none of them had been labeled as potential starters. It’s been bullpen pieces, often stashed until exposed, spare outfielders and utility players.
A better idea, of course, is to find a couple of veterans who offer better competitive odds and can be flipped at the trade deadline. Maybe Keegan Akin and circumstances force the Orioles to rethink their plans for him, which seemed to include a return to Triple-A Norfolk and bringing him up later.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde agreed that eight starter candidates is the preferred number heading into camp. They might not have a choice except to count Bailey and Rucker.
Elias stated that some pitchers who were outrighted off the 40-man roster could be involved in the competition, which sounds like new life for Luis Ortiz, Chandler Shepherd, Tom Eshelman and Ty Blach.
Shepherd drew interest last year from some teams in Asia, but the Red Sox didn’t let him out of his contract. The Orioles intend to bring him to Sarasota, Fla. in March.
It’s quite clear that the Orioles are focused on pitching after spending so much of their energy earlier in the year on improvements up the middle.
We also found out that the Orioles held some interest in infielder José Peraza, non-tendered by the Reds, but he signed with the Red Sox. They’re willing to offer major league deals, though likely of the one-year variety, to starting pitchers and middle infielders.
Agent Scott Boras still draws a crowd in the lobby and he continues to work with the Orioles toward solving Chris Davis’ offensive woes. They’re collaborating again after their attempts last winter yielded the same results.
Davis will be in camp. And every swing in the cage will be dissected again. Every ball that bounces off the roof of the batting cage beyond the right field fence will be blown out of proportion. And we’ll be reminded again that the front office takes his contract quite seriously.
A bullpen coach could be hired by next week to complete the staff. No names have leaked.
The four arbitration-eligible players who don’t have contracts for 2020 are sitting on the back burner while the Orioles concentrate on other matters.
Austin Hays could bat leadoff after the Jonathan Villar trade. Someone has to do it and he’s got the tools, though they’d also work nicely in the middle of the order.
Dilson Herrera, signed last week to a minor league deal, will be given a chance to play third base. Left-hander Tanner Scott remains in the bullpen plans. Fans will be able to watch catcher Adley Rutschman in spring training, though we don’t know whether he’ll be a roster invite or a visitor.
Ryan Mountcastle will play a new position in spring training, right field, while also continuing his education in left field and at third and first base. He’s allowed to climb the fence and run away if someone tosses him a catcher’s mitt.
DL Hall, the club’s first-round pick in 2017, is recovered from a lat injury that caused the Orioles to shut him down in September and he’ll be assigned to Double-A Bowie. Kyle Bradish, part of the four-pitcher return for Dylan Bundy, also will pitch for the Baysox.
Hyde wants to cut back on his pregame commitments or somehow manage his time more efficiently so he can be more “hands on.” He provided one example, being able to join the coaches on the field for early drills rather than hear about them later from his office.
As long as it doesn’t cut into our pregame radio taping.