The Orioles are approaching the Christmas holiday with a shopping list that won’t be satisfied by a late trip to the mall.
Their search for a veteran starting pitcher and replacement for shortstop José Iglesias, to name two of the items, could stretch into January or February. The market is evolving. A drop in prices can expand it.
Their last transaction on this date occurred in 2014 with the signing of left-hander César Cabral to a minor league deal. Catcher Ryan Lavarnway was claimed off waivers from the Cubs the previous day.
How else is a team supposed to take that next step after reaching the American League Championship Series?
The Orioles have their sights set much lower in 2021, and I’m not talking about César Cabral. There will be other signings like that one to provide Triple-A depth and maybe some deeper camp competitions.
Free agency still seems like the most likely path for the Orioles to find their starter and shortstop, whether on major league or minor league deals. The same way they brought in Iglesias and left-handers Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone.
The desire to avoid multi-year contracts narrows the field. And that’s why some teams let the market play out. Someone can unexpectedly fall into their laps.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias probably has a pretty good idea which starters and shortstops already are ticketed for one-year contracts, perhaps with an option, no matter how long they stay on the board.
Freddy Galvis still makes a lot of sense and I’ll keep beating that drum. He’s more affordable than other shortstops on the market - think Andrelton Simmons, Didi Gregorius, Marcus Semien and Ha-Seong Kim - and would create a smooth defensive transition from Iglesias.
Past interest in Adeiny Hechavarría, his reputation with the glove and his availability on a one-year deal (or maybe a minor league deal) also make him a logical candidate and I’ll keep beating that drum, as well.
The Orioles put Jonathan Villar on waivers and traded him rather than absorb his rising salary. He’s a free agent and I can’t fathom a reunion because he should be able to land a better deal somewhere else.
I’ve had a few agents contact me to ask about Villar’s makeup. He’s a good guy in the clubhouse. He injects a healthy dose of adrenaline in the lineup. He can hit, hit for power and run. He can handle both middle infield positions.
Just don’t fall apart the next time he tries to steal third base with two outs and his team down by a couple runs.
There’s more on Elias’ plate besides finding new players.
He has to get two of his own under contract for 2021 to avoid arbitration hearings.
Outfielders Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander were tendered contracts earlier this month, but the terms haven’t been set. The deadline for teams to exchange figures with their arbitration-eligible players is Jan. 15.
MLBTradeRumors.com projected Mancini’s 2021 salary at $4.8 million and Santander’s at $1.7 million. One of them didn’t play this year. The other was chosen Most Valuable Oriole and a Gold Glove finalist in right field.
Not every case is the same.
The Orioles have adopted the file-and-trial approach rather than vowing publicly to continue negotiations. But they’d obviously prefer to reach agreements rather than go through a hearing.
Elias also needs to hire a third base coach to replace José Flores. The announcement was expected before Christmas.
Flores also worked with the infielders, so his replacement would need to do the same unless a holdover on the staff assumes the responsibilities.
Update: Though multiple media outlets in Cleveland reported that the Orioles hired Tony Mansolino as third base coach and infield instructor, the organization didn’t make an announcement. However, a source confirmed it.
So yes, it’s Mansolino, who was the Indians’ infield coordinator.
Mansolino spent 11 seasons with the Indians as a minor league coach, manager and instructor.