New Orioles major league coach Fredi González knows rebuilds. They got acquainted while he managed the Marlins and later served as third base coach, and they were reintroduced after he guided the Braves to back-to-back playoff appearances.
The front office made it clear to González that drastic changes were coming. The club got off to a 9-28 start in 2016 and he was fired as manager on May 17.
An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution included the following passage:
“Although it’s widely known that the Braves are in the midst of a rebuilding effort that gutted the major league team while fortifying the minor league system, Gonzalez had long been a lightning rod for criticism from fans and some media members, and he ultimately paid the price for the team’s dismal performance.”
That’s a tough gig. We’re stripping the major league team like an abandoned car, but you better stay competitive.
González has a new team and title, and he can relate to the process spearheaded by executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.
“I feel like I’ve been through it for the last 10 years,” González said last week on the “Orioles Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan.
“I’ve been through it and the one thing I’ve learned is you’ve got to be patient and you have to build through the minor league system. And talking to Mike and Brandon (Hyde) and reading some of the articles, I think that’s what they’re doing.”
The front office figures to be more patient that González’s former bosses.
Elias is busy trying to find a veteran starting pitcher and middle infielder and a fourth catcher. Only the latter is assured of receiving a minor league deal.
Former Red Sox infielder Brock Holt makes so much sense with his ability to play just about anywhere, but he earned $3.575 last season and the market figures to prevent him from signing at a big discount.
The Orioles also are prepping for negotiations and the possibility of salary submissions with their last four arbitration-eligible players - outfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini, infielder Hanser Alberto, and relievers Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro.
Elias has stated that director of minor league operations Kent Qualls, director of baseball administration Kevin Buck and coordinator of advance scouting Bill Wilkes are “spearheading” the club’s arbitration process.
Mancini earned $575,000 last season and his primed to receive a substantial raise, with MLBTradeRumors.com projecting his salary at $5.7 million and Cot’s Contracts at $5 million.
Imagine the awkward situation that would unfold at a hearing, with the Orioles’ side documenting the shortcomings that should keep Mancini’s salary below his agent’s submission. Meanwhile, the agent could just pull up every article with quotes from various members of the organization highlighting Mancini’s importance on and off the field.
It’s a weird sort of dance that no one wants to do and the Orioles certainly will try to avoid it by reaching agreement on a contract by Friday’s deadline. They’ll go to a hearing if necessary, which takes place in front of a three-person panel and usually lasts around two hours.
The player is required to attend and it’s worse if he has to leave camp. The hearing dates run from Feb. 3-21.
Outfielder Alejandro De Aza returned in 2015 without a trace of bitterness after losing his case in St. Petersburg, Fla. Being awarded $5 million likely kept a smile on his face, though it fell short of the $5.65 million that he sought.
“Honestly, I thought it was going to be worse,” he said while standing at his spring training locker. “It was something that they needed to do. It happened, and now (I have) a fresh mind going into spring training.”
Asked if there were any hard feelings, De Aza replied, “Not at all. I know this is a business and it is what it is. At the beginning of the season they said I was going to be in arbitration. Win or lose, life goes on. Everything is going to be the same.”
Well, not exactly. De Aza batted .214/.277/.359 in 30 games and was traded to the Red Sox, who sent him to the Giants at the August deadline.
Pitcher Rodrigo López was in a major funk in 2006 when he came back to the Fort Lauderdale complex after losing his hearing. There’s no doubt that the process impacted him negatively.
Former executive Jim Duquette recalls how López tried to reinvent himself after being told of his shortcomings, getting away from his successful flyball approach and attempting to induce more ground balls.
López went a career-worst 9-18 with a 5.90 ERA and 1.550 WHIP after posting ERAs of 3.59 and 4.90 and WHIPs of 1.277 and 1.409 the two previous seasons. He won 14 and 15 games during that stretch. His WAR was 4.8 in 2004 and -0.2 in 2006.
Duquette said agent Scott Boras used a statistic the previous day to enhance pitcher Kyle Lohse’s case, then minimized its importance as it related to López. The panel wasn’t buying it.
The Orioles traded López to the Rockies in January 2007 for pitchers Jim Miller and Jason Burch.