The day after Christmas exists in many households to eat leftovers, vacuum pine needles and return unwanted gifts. There’s also time spent rehashing some of the most uncomfortable moments at the dinner table.
The Orioles haven’t been shy about keeping receipts and making returns, no matter whose feelings get hurt. Just ask Grant Balfour’s agent.
Sometimes they can be talked into returning home with the same item, but feeling much better about it. Just ask Yovani Gallardo’s agent.
(If you missed that one, Gallardo’s contract was restructured to go from three guaranteed years to two years and an option due to concerns about his shoulder.)
I would have refused to participate in another Secret Santa exchange if I gave away Nick Markakis and unwrapped Travis Snider.
There was no rule allowing the Orioles to return Billy Rowell after the 2006 draft and say, “Our bad. We mispronounced ‘Tim Lincecum.’ Is it too late?”
And no one was fooled by the fake receipt.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias has no intention of returning catcher Adley Rutschman, the first overall selection in 2019. Rutschman is going to be assigned to Double-A Bowie if there’s a minor league season and he could make his major league debut later in the summer.
“He looked really good at the alternate site,” Elias said last week on MLB Network Radio. “Went down to instructs to kind of polish off the whole experience. He performed really well at the alternate site, which, he’s a No. 1 pick and he came out of college and you’d expect that, but he was facing Triple-A, 4-A, major league, Double-A arms, our top prospects with huge stuff. We’ve got a pretty good group of arms there and he did really, really well, so that was nice to see.
“He’s a really mature kid. I think we all know the scouting profile by now and he should get here pretty quickly and I hope have a pretty smooth ride through the minor leagues. But he just hasn’t played minor league baseball yet, really. He went out after he signed in the summer for a few weeks like most players do and then the season got canceled. The guy hasn’t played in Double-A and Triple-A. That’s unprecedented. I think we have to take it one step at a time here and try to check off those boxes.
“I do anticipate him starting in Double-A based on what he did at the alternate site.”
Elias also thinks outfielder Heston Kjerstad is a keeper after the Orioles made him the second overall pick in June.
Kjerstad didn’t play in 2020. He didn’t work out at the alternate camp site and was excluded from the fall instructional camp due to a non-sports medical issue. But he’s still the same player that Elias coveted, the same player that Elias described as “the best left-handed hitter in the country.”
The same player who’s expected to roam right field at Camden Yards and slot in the middle of the order, whenever he’s deemed ready.
Again, making the bold assumption that spring training is permitted and the 2021 season exists in some form.
“Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer, I think by virtue of what they did in a shortened season, really have inside tracks or have put themselves on the map for starting jobs in 2021,” Elias said.
Ryan Mountcastle also is a keeper, the angst over his defensive struggles in the minors and lack of plate discipline disappearing like a plate of cookies on Christmas morning.
Elias wouldn’t go back in time, if the technology existed, and undo the Manny Machado trade with the Dodgers that’s given the organization Kremer, Yusniel Diaz, Rylan Bannon and Zach Pop - the latter lost in the Rule 5 draft but a possible returnee. He won’t hand back the pitching acquired for Dylan Bundy, which includes Isaac Mattson, added to the 40-man roster at the deadline, and Kyle Bradish, who really impressed at the alternate camp site.
“There is nothing not to like,” Double-A Bowie pitching coach Justin Ramsey told MASNsports.com.
“He’s a phenomenal person. Showed up a little later, but in shape and ready to go. Strong, physical kid. Different delivery than maybe what you are used to seeing. Higher arm slot, more over the top, but that’s OK. It works well for him. It was fun to watch.”
Bad contracts are non-refundable. Let’s move on.
Elias also is holding onto the international signings that provide rock-solid evidence of the organization’s commitment to the market. Dominican left-hander Luis Ortiz and Dominican outfielder Luis Gonzalez are two outstanding examples.
The Orioles announced the hiring of manager Brandon Hyde on Dec. 14, 2018. I don’t know whether he came with a warranty, but the assumption is that he received a contract with three guaranteed years on it.
Elias has no regrets. Keep the manager. And keep the change.