Assessing the Baltimore Orioles after the winter meetings
By Tim Smart
As expected, the Baltimore Orioles weren’t very active at the winter meetings. But several minor moves were made, and one major rumor surfaced. We’re looking at where the Orioles stand as we push deeper into the offseason
Heading into the winter meetings this past Sunday, the Baltimore Orioles weren’t expected to make much noise. Former GM Dan Duquette moved almost all of the Orioles tradeable assets at the 2018 non-waiver deadline, and current GM Mike Elias has stated that the club will likely wait out the free agent market to find some cheap deals closer to the start of 2019.
For the most part, the Orioles lived up to the billing. Priorities first, the Orioles came into the winter meetings as the only team without a manager, and ultimately left in the same condition, despite the rumored hiring of Brandon Hyde.
Hyde could eventually end up being the guy, but Elias kept everything about the managerial search under wraps while he was in Vegas, declining to confirm anything about the process, including the candidates who’d been interviewed.
Though unconfirmed by Elias, we did get word that early this week, Rockies bench coach Mike Redmond and Mariners bench coach Manny Acta both interviewed for the job in Baltimore, becoming the fifth and sixth candidates to sit with Elias and the Orioles about their managerial opening.
We have a rough timetable for the hire, with Elias stating that a decision could be made by the end of the month. Elias has acknowledged the benefits of getting someone in place sooner than later, but he’s not in a rush to make a decision here, nor should he be.
The Orioles made a minor move on Monday afternoon, claiming Braves infielder Rio Ruiz off waivers, while RHP Ryan Meisinger was placed on waivers and claimed by the Cardinals. We wrote in-depth about the Ruiz claim, and how his presence on the roster could push Renato Nunez this coming season. If all goes right, Ruiz will be a serviceable utility guy for the O’s next year; it feels like the Orioles have a lot of these types of guys.
We received word from Elias that both Mark Trumbo and Richard Bleier are expected to be 100% healthy by the start of the 2019 season, barring any setbacks in their recoveries.
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Trumbo is in the final year of his contract next year; Elias and the Orioles will surely look to move him mid-season, but he’ll have to prove he’s healthy and can contribute before they can do so. Expect Trumbo to get playing time early on, but if he struggles, he’s going to have to fight for playing time with Trey Mancini and Chris Davis.
If Bleier is healthy, he’ll slot right into the middle of the bullpen as he did last year. Bleier has been quite effective despite having average to below raw stuff. Mychal Givens will get the first opportunity to close out games for the Orioles next year, but Bleier could work his way into the discussion if Givens either struggles or is moved in a trade.
Speaking of trades, Elias and the Orioles made it known they’re willing to shop Alex Cobb. Cobb’s 3/$43 million remaining isn’t much more than market value and it would be a surprise if they were willing to eat any of his remaining money in order to move him.
After all, the Orioles need someone to pitch next year and Cobb could very well be the O’s opening day starter in 2019. Cobb was very effective in the second half until the blister issue cropped up; he clearly still has some left in the tank. Moving him solely for salary relief doesn’t seem like the smartest idea.
Rule 5 draft
Thursday’s Rule 5 draft brought a bit of excitement to Orioles fans, as we knew for sure that the O’s would be involved. The Orioles used their first overall pick on A’s shortstop Richie Martin, a strong defender with some upside at the plate, but who hasn’t yet played above Double-A. Roch Kubatko of MASN had a great write-up about him, and there’s plenty of info about Martin over at Fangraphs.
The Orioles passed on their second round pick in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft, and they didn’t lose anyone, including LHP Luis Gonzalez and catcher Martin Cervenka.
The Orioles were active in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft, selecting RHP Taylor Grover from the Reds. Additionally, the O’s ended up losing four players in the minor league portion: Jeffeson Medina, Randolph Gassaway, Wilson Garcia, and Corban Joseph.
Later on Thursday, the Orioles made their lone trade of the winter meetings, sending International bonus pool money to the Phillies for infielder Drew Jackson, who snagged the final open spot on the 40-man.
Where we’re at
As it stands, the Orioles have a full 40-man roster, though admittedly it does look bleak. There are a handful of potential utility types with low ceilings, and the bullpen needs help. We know that the Orioles 2019 season isn’t going to be fun, and that the majority of prospects in the system aren’t ready for the big leagues.
The Orioles will likely continue to actively shop Alex Cobb, and if the price is right, they’ll move him. The O’s could still add a player or two in free agency, whether a veteran catcher or a starter who can eat innings for them.
And the Orioles still don’t have a manager, though we’re getting closer every day to them finding Buck’s replacement. Whether that turns out to be Brandon Hyde is to be seen. Realistically, we’re not that far from where we were on Sunday, but we know a bit more about the managerial candidates, and the Orioles have a full 40-man roster. That said, there’s plenty of time left in the offseason for things to change.