Of course. A new shortstop was a high priority and projections with Richie Martin at the position felt like he had become an offseason placeholder.
He’s going to play at Camden Yards in 2020. Maybe it’s in April, maybe it’s later. Maybe it’s in a utility role. But it’s going to happen.
The Orioles had to decide which shortstop to sign and how much to give him. Adeiny Hechavarría was the early favorite based on the team’s contact back in October, but they went the extra miles with Iglesias, handing him a major league deal and guaranteeing $3 million.
Any agreement is going to be low-risk for the low-spending Orioles, but $3 million is more of a financial commitment than I expected. And the organization’s track record suggested that a signing would be put on hold until February or later.
The team makes sense for Iglesias, given how he’s going to play shortstop every day and how he settled for a minor league deal from the Reds last February. But he also checked off the necessary boxes for the Orioles, who didn’t have middle infield prospects at the upper level of the farm system, craved a plus defender and wanted the option of flipping a player at the deadline.
All things considered, $3 million is a fair price and could really come across as a bargain.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias explained on yesterday’s conference call how the option benefits the team and the player - and again how it doesn’t mean the rebuild timetable has been shortened. Iglesias could stay beyond the season, the benefits spreading through the organization.
“I look at it like we need a starting shortstop this year,” Elias said. “Very fortunate that José was available and is a good fit from both sides and we got him, because he makes us better and he makes the whole organization better. But even if we’re not winning the division this year, I feel that his presence and bringing him into the organization now and into the future will further our rebuilding objectives.
“Not everything is going to come from within and there are certain jobs that need to be done really well on a baseball diamond. Catcher and shortstop and center field are right at the top of that list. So I think he’s going to help us in a lot of ways on the field. He’s going to make everyone else better around him, he’s going to make the other infielders better, he’s going to make the pitchers better. And we also look forward to his contributions in the clubhouse and during spring training and on the practice fields. It’s just going to be a big plus all around.”
The bench remains in an unsettled state with healthy guesses the only recourse.
Do the Orioles carry two utility players or just one to go with two extra outfielders? The latter scenario could put Stevie Wilkerson, Dwight Smith Jr. and Cedric Mullins or Mason Williams on the team if Martin is optioned. Or is it Pat Valaika, who remains on the 40-man roster, instead of Wilkerson?
So many questions.
Martin didn’t play any other position except shortstop last year, but he could be the utility guy based on his ability to do it.
It’s also possible that Elias chooses to bring in another player. He’s still checking the free agent market and discussing trades.
The safe lineup picks include Anthony Santander in left field, Austin Hays in center, Trey Mancini in right, Rio Ruiz at third base, Hanser Alberto at second, Chris Davis at first, Pedro Severino behind the plate and Renato Núñez as the designated hitter. Chance Sisco is the favorite to back up Severino.
Elias isn’t done searching for starting pitching and the minor league offer to reliever Fernando Abad at the Winter Meetings suggests that the bullpen could undergo more tweaking.
You could choose David Hess and Rule 5 pick Brandon Bailey and be correct. You could choose Hess and Kohl Stewart and be correct. You could be bold and choose Bailey and Michael Rucker, the other Rule 5 selection, and be correct.
You could include Keegan Akin and be correct, though the Orioles seem inclined to start him at Triple-A Norfolk and hope he cuts down on the walks.
The smarter move would be to wait for the veteran signing that’s on the horizon and leave yourself with only one open spot.
Assuming that the Orioles don’t trade Mychal Givens, he’s in a bullpen that should include Hunter Harvey, Miguel Castro, Shawn Armstrong, Richard Bleier and Paul Fry. I’ve placed Dillon Tate on my mock roster. Bailey, Rucker, Evan Phillips, Branden Kline, Tanner Scott, Cody Carroll and Cole Sulser are other possibilities.
The 40-man roster is full and there’s a chance that at least one of the above names disappears from it. It happened yesterday to pitcher Eric Hanhold, who didn’t pitch for the Orioles after they claimed him off waivers from the Mets in September.
Note: Castro posted on Instagram last night that two men robbed him at gunpoint at the facility where he trains in the Dominican Republic. He wasn’t injured.
“I’m alive by the mercy of God,” he wrote in Spanish.
“Now this has to stop. They take away my chain and they also wanted to kill me and this has to stop now.”
Castro’s agency, Ballengee Group, issued the following statement when contacted by MASNsports.com:
“Miguel is safe. He is shaken. He feels extremely blessed and fortunate to still be alive and thanks everyone for their support. He will continue to support his country and use his platform to be a role model.”
Update: The Orioles issued a statement late last night from Elias:
“We are in contact with Miguel Castro regarding today’s incident in La Roma, DR and we are very thankful that he is safe.”