After Smith was designated for assignment earlier today, the Orioles were able to select Mason Williams’ contract from the alternate camp site in Bowie and upgrade defensively in the outfield.
“It’s a guy that can play three outfield spots, be able to defend, run, obviously the left-handed bat,” manager Brandon Hyde said during his Zoom conference call. “I think he offers us some versatility in the outfield with a guy who can play three spots and is athletic, so I’m excited to add Mason.
“It was extremely tough to see Smitty get designated. He’s really well-liked in our clubhouse, loved by the coaching staff, and I’m selfishly hoping that he either gets a major league opportunity with somebody else and he gets put on somebody’s roster or we get to have him back, because he’s just a class guy that I really enjoyed being around the last year-plus.”
“I think having Mason with the team along with Ryan Mountcastle will give us a versatile defensive option,” Elias said in his own video conference call. “Can play a legit center field and a similar left-handed bat off the bench.
“Dwight Smith is somebody that we have a lot of affection for and has had some really good runs here with us since joining the organization last spring training. A lot of promise in his bat, and there still is, and I think selfishly we hope he’ll remain with the organization after this designation period. But part of the process is other teams are going to have the opportunity to either trade for or claim Dwight here in the next few days, so we’ll have to work through that process.
“But great kid, great player and he’s been a big part of our clubhouse here. He got to a weird start this year, coming in and testing positive for the virus and then basically having no summer camp and starting right on the major league roster. So if we do end up keeping him, our hopes would be to get his feet underneath him at our site and get him back on our club, but we’re going to have to see what happens.”
The Orioles have 58 players in their 60-man pool.
Mountcastle convinced the organization that he was ready for the majors. His improvement in the field and with his approach at the plate instilled the necessary confidence.
“It was a difficult decision timing it,” Elias said. “I’ve spoken repeatedly about it with Ryan and he knows, not that any 23-year-old is a finished product by any means, but it’s somebody that we had introduced a pretty dramatic position change to midstream last year and there were still things he was working on very much so defensively and even offensively, trying to polish up.
“We wanted him to be the type of guy that when he gets promoted to the big leagues, he’s here to stay. We wanted to make sure that we gave him a good chance of that being the case. It may be the case. We hope it’s the case. It may not. And if not, it’s not the end of the world. But we always hope for that when we bring up a prospect of his caliber, he’s able to stay put. So we wanted to get him as many repetitions in left field as we could. That was the plan in Sarasota when he had been optioned, or was about to be, and then the shutdown hit.
“With the lack of a minor league season this year, it made for a very strange calculus where we wanted him to get work in in left field, we wanted him to work on the offensive development goals that we had for him this year, but there were no real games to be played and at some point it’s in his best interests to go see some other uniforms and play in some real games. So we felt this was the time for that.
“We understand and expect that he’s still developing and he’s still one of the youngest players in the big leagues now. There’s going to be ups and downs, but we’re excited to have him on the team. We feel he’s in a decent enough spot defensively in terms of his comfort in left field to at least survive out there right now. I think he might surprise us. He’s a good athlete, he’s a good baseball player. Getting the real in-game repetitions will be great for him. And he performed well at Bowie. He walked a lot more than he struck out, which was great to see, and there were some really legit arms down there throwing at him. ... It was nothing but velocity and plus stuff down there and he did well, so I think he’s ready for this challenge. We’ll take it as it comes, but I’m excited to see what he can do.”
The trade deadline is Aug. 31 and Hyde, in typical manager fashion, is interested only in the players in his dugout.
He tries to track the activity around the league, including the Red Sox dealing relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree to the Phillies last night while they were at Camden Yards. It’s easier when it happens right in front of your eyes.
“I think you’re aware of it,” he said. “I read the same things that everybody else does on Trade Rumors or whatever it is, but I think that was a little bit unusual last night, seeing what was going on. Because of the things that happened last night and what you read, I think that we’re aware of it. It’s not something that I’m overly concerned with or looking ahead to a certain date, but we’re aware of the date and aware of the situation.”
Elias has been working to gauge the trade market and potential activity during these most unusual circumstances. The Orioles have a few chips and are willing to deal in order to aid the rebuild process.
They sent left-hander Richard Bleier to the Marlins for a player to be named later. Reliever Mychal Givens is bound to attract interest. Alex Cobb, tonight’s starter, has repaired his value after making only three appearances last season and undergoing hip and knee surgery. Iglesias is on the injured list with a quadriceps injury, but has been a productive bat while maintaining his reputation as a plus-plus defender.
“I really don’t know what’s going to happen,” Elias said. “There’s so many dynamics and variables this year. It’s hard to list them all. It could be that nothing happens. It could be that we make three or four trades. I don’t know yet. We’re certainly talking and working on it.
“Despite the fact that our club is playing well and has a good record and is in the mix, we’re still listening on players that are on our major league roster if it makes sense for our future and for next year and the broader picture. But we’re not extra motivated to do anything, and we’re listening to baseball trades as they come along.
“We’re not going to just sell just to sell and get more prospects. But we’re not going to hold onto every single person on the team just because we’re close to a .500 club right now. We’re going to look at everything on a case-by-case basis. I still maintain from a strategic standpoint, from where we started from, with this being a 100-loss team now two years in a row and starting from that point and the total lack of international pipeline that everyone else has, we’ve got some catching up to do on a pipeline front, filling in the farm system. We’ve made a lot of progress, but we’re still keeping a broad eye on that.
“I think we’re going to continue to battle every night, but we’re going to be thinking about more than this season when we go into the trade deadline.”
“Both (Pedro) Severino and Sisco take ground balls at first base on the days they don’t catch,” he replied. “And that’s not to have a left-handed-hitting first baseman, but just to add versatility to them and to create more opportunities to get them in the lineup for not only for us but for their own personal careers, also.
“For me, it’s something important to have a second glove to be able to go somewhere else. You see guys like J.T. Realmuto and Buster Posey, they’ll shoot over to first base because it keeps their bat in the lineup, and I think that Chance and Sevie are along those lines of we’re trying to get them some experience over there in case, maybe I’ll utilize them at first.
“I think I played Chance a few innings over at first base last year. Remember in Houston I put him there late. But it’s always nice to have from a club standpoint, to be able to have a guy play more than one position, and for their own benefit, also.”
Hyde still thinks reliever Hunter Harvey can rejoin the team later this month. He’s facing hitters in Bowie.
Note: Steve Melewski is handling the game coverage tonight while I host my daughter’s baby shower. A typical sportswriter move.