The Winter Meetings that officially begin Monday in San Diego are going to be filled with the usual trade and free agent rumors that flood the hotel lobby and cause sportswriters to nearly spill their Starbucks while rushing to get confirmation.
Here’s what you need to remember about the Orioles: Whatever deals are discussed with rival executives most likely will involve lower-level minor leaguers.
I wrote about the Orioles’ acquisition aim at the July deadline, how it wasn’t an aberration that they sought two Rookie-level Dominican Summer League teenagers from the Red Sox in exchange for veteran pitcher Andrew Cashner. The industry buzz included how they were scouting players in the Dominican and at the short-season and low Single-A levels.
Improve the depth down below and keep pushing the prospects up the ladder.
Cashner represented the only major league trade consummated until Monday night, when executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias sent infielder Jonathan Villar and his scary salary projection to the Marlins for pitcher Easton Lucas - a 14th round draft pick in 2019 who made 12 of his 13 appearances in the short-season Single-A New York-Penn League.
It’s smart to bookmark minorleaguebaseball.com and sharpen your Google search skills.
Here’s the possible exception: There are middle infield holes to be plugged with Villar’s exit and Richie Martin’s uncertain post-Rule 5 status. The Orioles could explore the trade market for solutions.
The fourth catcher also figures to arrive on a minor league deal, with Elias checking the list of non-tenders. He’s already engaged in talks.
* Lucas doesn’t have much of a professional track record with only 13 appearances this year, but the early returns show that he’s more of a flyball pitcher with only a 21 percent groundball rate in the New York-Penn League. His fastball averaged 88 mph.
As long as I’m shopping in the small sample size aisle, Lucas registered a 0.96 ERA against left-handed hitters in 9 1/3 innings and a 5.24 ERA against right-handers in 22 1/3. It’s important that Lucas is able to develop his changeup.
Lucas walked 16 batters and struck out 71 in 76 2/3 innings as a senior at Pepperdine. He walked nine and struck out 41 in 34 2/3 innings in his first professional season.
A scout from outside the organization envisions Lucas moving to the bullpen, but the Orioles want to try developing him first as a starter. The scout and Elias agree that Lucas would be slotted in the back end of the rotation.
“I don’t think they got fair value for Villar,” the scout said, “but I’m sure he’s been out there for a while. Everybody knows he’s been available. They’ve been trying to move him.
“It’s too early. In any trade, it always takes three to five years to really evaluate it.”
The Marlins could keep Villar for half a season and move him at the deadline, though the Orioles had no luck earlier this year and he’d be a rental.
* If it takes a village to raise a child, the same must be true of rehabbing an injured pitcher.
I posted a story Sunday about Josh Rogers’ second Tommy John procedure and how he’s aiming to pitch next year, though it might be in the low minors depending on his recovery. He’s got a team that’s working to get him back with the major league club.
Dr. Keith Meister performed the latest surgery in Arlington, Texas, and Rogers has returned to his alma mater, the University of Louisville, to undergo the rehab process.
Physical therapists Pat Hassell and Zach Farrel are included in the group that’s eventually going to get Rogers back on a mound, but the left-hander also is working with Orioles minor league medical coordinator Dave Walker and head athletic trainer Brian Ebel. And there’s a third physical therapist involved, Kyle Corrick, who was hired by the club last year as rehab coordinator.
Walker tends to reside behind the scenes due to his placement in Sarasota, Fla., though his contributions rank among the most important in the organization. And Corrick is pushed further back, but I’ve heard him described as “a great asset” and one of the smartest hires made in recent years.