Martin undergoing surgery on left hand (plus other notes)

Made available this afternoon to talk about the Freddy Galvis signing, Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias shifted focus to another shortstop in the organization who’s undergoing a second surgery. An unexpected piece of news dumped within a 20-minute interview.

Elias revealed that Richie Martin broke the hamate bone in his left hand, apparently in a workout mishap over the weekend, and will undergo a procedure in Sarasota to remove it.

Thumbnail image for Martin-Swings-Triple-Gray-Sidebar.jpgMartin was expected to be ready for game activity in early March, but obviously won’t be available for the start of the 2021 season - if it happens without delay.

The former Rule 5 pick didn’t play last summer due to a broken bone in his right wrist sustained while diving back into first base during a July intrasquad game at Camden Yards. He was competing for a utility job.

The latest injury apparently came after Martin played in 15 games with Criollos de Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League, though exact details are unclear.

Elias said the Orioles learned of Martin’s condition this morning and the injury is less serious than the 2020 break because it’s his non-throwing hand.

Hamate bone surgery is fairly routine. There’s no repair. The bone is simply removed and the player rehabs.

“It’s a pretty straightforward recovery,” Elias said in a Zoom call with local media.

“This happened after we reached the agreement with Galvis, so it’s unrelated, but certainly having signed Galvis now, I think we can breathe a little easier knowing we’re not going to be able to see Richie now for about five weeks. But shouldn’t impact his regular season. Might have a little bit later start to spring training.

“He’s a guy who’s had a very unusual career path thus far. We took him out of the Rule 5 draft, he went straight to the big leagues from Double-A with the Oakland A’s, kind of kept his head above water at the big league level very impressively. Came into summer camp last year with the shortened season, broke his hand and ended up missing an entire year of major league service on the injured list because of that.

“So this is a guy who’s never played in Triple-A, has missed a whole year and ever since we’ve taken him in the Rule 5 and he satisfied the Rule 5 requirements, we’ve wanted to take an opportunity to prioritize Richie’s development, and so I think this is going to continue to kind of liberate us to do that. So whether he’s on the team as a starter or utility man or he’s in Triple-A, we’re going to be able to do what’s right by him and we view him as a long-term piece, which is why we took him with that pick and kept him all year. But he’s had a couple wrinkles along the way and this is one more, but I think this is much more minor than what happened last year.”

Pat Valaika is the leading utility candidate heading into camp. Ramón Urías is on the 40-man roster and the Orioles re-signed Stevie Wilkerson to a minor league deal. They also are attempting to sign another infielder who can back up at multiple positions.

Rylan Bannon was placed on the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 draft, but is likely to begin the season at Triple-A Norfolk. Elias said, “We might see him this year.”

Galvis signed a $1.5 million contract that includes a $250,000 payment if he’s traded. He’s the replacement for shortstop José Iglesias.

“Freddy will be entering the roster and the organization as the primary shortstop for our team this year,” Elias said. “He’s somebody that over an eight-, nine-year track record in the major leagues across multiple organizations has established a reputation as a very reliable, very durable defensive shortstop, and also a really solid offensive contributor for that position.

“Looking at our teams this year, especially in light of the moves at the beginning of the offseason, we wanted to target some proven veteran middle infield presences, and I think that Freddy Galvis is an ideal solution for us to that end with what he brings to the table with his accomplishments. Being a proven commodity and how we feel that he’s going to fit in with young lineup, both as a defensive presence behind our young pitching staff, but also as a switch-hitter with the blend that we have lefty-righty up and down the lineup. We think he’s a really good fit.

“On top of his on-the-field credentials, we’ve done our background work on Freddy and he’s got an exemplary reputation as a human being, as a teammate and most recently as kind of a veteran mentor, so we’re looking forward to those contributions, as well. We feel that signing Freddy brings us a big step closer to having the club that we want to see in Sarasota this spring completed.”

The Orioles had immediate interest in Galvis, though they also considered Jonathan Villar, Daniel Robertson and Ehire Adrianza. Only Villar remains on the market.

“(Galvis) definitely looked like a really good fit all along,” Elias said. “This was a rather plentiful, kind of saturated shortstop market and we just saw a flurry of moves. Last night a lot of guys signed one-year deals, next year’s shortstop class is going to be, unless there are a bunch of extensions reached, it’s going to be even more so. We recognized that looking for a defensive reputation, the sort of versatile presence that a switch-bat brings, the veteran status, that he was kind of a guy that fit for us and for what our goals were for the position. He was toward the top of the board.

“As you saw, it took a while for the infield market to get moving, and we’re really pleased with the way it turned out. And our hope and expectation is that he’s a big contributor for us all year and, who knows, potentially beyond that.”

Asked about the trade clause, Elias mentioned how the Orioles “look for creative ways” to sign players when competing against other teams. They lured Galvis for a guaranteed $1.5 million, which appears to be a bargain given the $5.5 million he was set to earn before the pandemic.

The Orioles will search for more of them. They can’t sell free agents on the chance to play in the postseason, but there are other factors.

“We’ve got an attractive opportunity for a player like Freddy Galvis where you come in, you’re a leader on the roster, you’re a starter,” Elias said. “We’ve got a fun, competitive, high-profile division to play in, we’ve got a fun park to hit in, especially for him, a guy with some left-handed pop. People want to come and be the starting shortstop for the Orioles, and I think that played to our advantage.

“He was very interested in our job. I know he took it over some other opportunities.”

Little else has changed with the Orioles’ shopping list. They still could sign multiple starting pitchers via major and minor league deals and are seeking another infielder to serve in backup roles. Elias also said that the team could bring in a veteran outfielder on a non-roster invite, though he described the current group as fun and competitive, with a lot of young guys, most of whom are on the 40-man roster.

“I think we’re pretty content with the outfield competition going into the year,” Elias said.

Elias doesn’t appear to be interested in finding a veteran catcher. He’s content with Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco “as the primaries,” as well as Austin Wynns, Nick Ciuffo and Taylor Davis.

“We’ve got a good bit of upper-level depth there,” he said.

Elias said there will “definitely” be some minor league signings prior the start of camp and he has major league offers on the table for pitching.

“We feel the competition is there,” he said. “I think we’re very clear and consistently transparent about the fact that this team is still prioritizing the development of our talent infrastructure, our pipeline up and down the system, and we’ve done a lot of work to elevate ourselves into having one of the most talented organizations top to bottom, young talent, across the league at the minor league level. But we want to have healthy competition in camp, we want to have interesting players in camp.

“We’ve got playing time and opportunity to offer and we want to make sure that those opportunities are going to guys who, it makes sense. But with up-the-middle defense - center field, shortstop in particular- we’ve also been careful every year to try to have guys who are helping our young pitchers get the support that they deserve, so I think that’s a big part of the Galvis signing.”

Elias indicated late last year that the free agent market was a more likely avenue to acquire talent than trades. He’s taking phone calls on his veterans, which would bring back prospects, but doesn’t appear poised to strike a deal.

“I think everyone knows that we’re listening right now,” Elias said. “We’ve traded a number of veterans the last few years dating back to 2018. We’re pretty transparent about what we’re doing. I think if you’re a buying team right now, that puts us toward the top of the list. We’ve got some talented players, many of whom have a lot of years of contractual control left, and it’s natural to get those phone calls. But it doesn’t mean we’re going to do anything.

“We always do our job in terms of fielding calls, working the market and finding out what’s going on out there. But I can’t say that anything is likely. And in the reverse, as we were looking at shortstops, we did dabble in the trade possibilities a little bit, but this was a pretty robust free agent class and we are being pretty protective of our minor league stock right now, so to us it made much more sense where we were able to line up with Freddy Galvis to make a move like this rather than fill (shortstop) via a trade.”

Elias indicated today that he expects Trey Mancini to report to camp and be the primary first baseman. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported last night that the Braves “kicked the tires” on Mancini, who missed the 2020 season after undergoing colon cancer surgery and chemotherapy treatments.

The Marlins are one of the teams expressing interest in Anthony Santander, according to multiple sources.

Mancini underwent his latest in-depth checkup this week, including a colonoscopy, and continues to receive fantastic results. No signs of the cancer returning. Every reason to believe he’ll remain full-go in spring training and be ready for opening day.

When computing Mancini’s value, Elias said he points to the veteran being “one of the best hitters in baseball.”

“He missed a year last year, that was obviously a horrible surprise that we all got in spring training, but we got him the best medical care on Earth, he took it on like Trey Mancini,” Elias said. “He’s 100 percent, he’s looking great. We’re just super excited to see him in Sarasota. I think he’s going to go right back to hitting in the middle of our lineup and being one of the better hitters in baseball this year.

“We’re talking to him now about defensive playing time. I think we’re going to keep him going as an option in the corner outfield, but with (Ryan) Mountcastle up, with Santander having established himself the way that he did, with DJ Stewart and what he showed us last year, we’ve got a lot of really interesting options in the corner. Yusniel Diaz could come up this year. So we want to get Trey some more repetitions at first base, and then there’s obviously the DH spot, too.

“He’s going to be a big part of our team this year, obviously. To be sitting here, Jan. 27 with the news that we got in March and where he’s at right now, we’re at, I think, the top outcome we could have had. I’m so proud of him and our medical staff for everything they’ve done.”

Chris Davis could be relegated to the bench with two years and $46 million left on his contract.

“I think Brandon (Hyde) has said Chris Davis is going to have to compete for playing time, in the sense of, his production remains the way it’s been, it’s going to be more difficult for us to play him every day by default, but we’ll look for matchups,” Elias said.

“With our outfield mix right now, I expect to see Trey at first base a lot more than we’ve seen him there since he broke with the big league (club). A lot of that mix is going to be up to Chris and Trey and how Mountcastle and DJ Stewart and Santander perform, too. There’s a lot of competition and moving parts with it, but we’ve got options.”

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