Take another look at Orioles interests in the offseason
The enterprise carried out by the Orioles can be brought out into the open, from the beginning or at its end, or held behind closed doors. The public learns of the decisions made on the list of 40 men and in the arbitration talks without knowing all the mechanisms.
Negotiations with free agents and executives are usually kept private, at least by the club. Too much leaked information can undo progress, with other teams perhaps using it to their advantage.
The Orioles were busy yesterday with bids for arbitration-eligible players Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Jorge Mateo, Dillon Tate and Austin Voth, and the group ineligible on the 40-man roster. They can negotiate contracts until January 13 and, in case of failure, go to hearings.
But there is always something else going on beyond what we see.
Wide receiver Mark Kolozsvary passed waivers and was fired outright at Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday, a hidden process until the Orioles announced the result. This was significant because there was only one receiver left on the 40-man roster and the total number of players fell to 38.
Kolozsvary can’t refuse the assignment – it’s his first and he hasn’t accrued the necessary service time – so the assumption is that he will be invited to spring training and compete for the backup position .
I got a message this week from a fan asking if EVP/GM Mike Elias was waiting after the Rule 5 draft to “make any moves.” My answer: “Not if he can do it sooner.”
Elias does not wait. He just doesn’t share.
I’ve heard from people in the industry that the Orioles are talking to representatives of several free agent pitchers and setting up meetings between the players, Elias and manager Brandon Hyde, whose inclusion is important. Part of selling a pitcher in Baltimore is introducing him to the guy who quickly conquered the clubhouse after he was hired.
The Orioles aren’t expected to be serious bidders for the priciest pitchers on the market, though it doesn’t hurt to open the lines of communication and maybe launch an offer. There are plenty in the second tier who could be somewhere in the top three starters in the rotation.
Early offseason rumbles have the Orioles active in the markets for left-handed corner fielders, first basemen and designated hitters.
While the team is already deep in outfielders on the 40-man roster and among its top prospects, with Colton Cowser set to make his debut at some point in 2023 and Heston Kjerstad at least a consideration to start the year at Double-A Bowie, he can use the DH spot to rotate players and rest Ryan Mountcastle.
Joc Pederson could have been a good fit, but he accepted the Giants’ qualifying offer. I’m a bit intrigued by Michael Brantley, a professional hitter with an injury history that might scare off some teams. Brandon Belt is also on the market after 12 seasons with the Giants.
Cody Bellinger, anyone? The Dodgers didn’t offer him, with MLBTradeRumors.com projecting his salary at $18.1 million. He’s taken a powerful dive since his 2019 Most Valuable Player season.
A key designation here is an apparent preference for left-handed hitters, regardless of names. And that includes second basemen with the departure of Rougned Odor.
I still haven’t heard or felt like the Orioles are targeting shortstops to improve the roster. At least for now, they seem more inclined to lean on their internal candidates while focusing on the aforementioned positions.
The flexibility of the current roster allows the Orioles to put Mateo, Gunnar Henderson or Ramón Urías at shortstop. They can co-exist in the same formation, with Henderson proving to be a quality defender at third base and Urías earning a Golden Glove in that position.
Mateo has only played at shortstop this year, with the Orioles wanting him to focus on one position while they evaluate him. He thrived, of course, winning a Fielding Bible Award, but he’s capable of moving in the infield.
Joey Ortiz, added to the 40-player roster this week, is a shorter defender who is also capable of moving into second or third. Jordan Westburg, the organization’s minor league player of the year who is expected to be invited to camp, also had to bounce back on the field due to the number of prospects in the field.
Terrin Vavra was a rookie second baseman and corner fielder, but he played a lot of shortstops in the Rockies system.
Field exercises during spring training could be very interesting. Track where players take ground balls and perform important work.
Note: Orioles Dominican Summer League pitcher Henry Tejada received a 60-game unpaid suspension after testing positive for the performance-enhancing substance nandrolone in violation of the prevention and treatment program minor league drugs. The suspension will take effect at the start of his 2023 season.
Tejada, 18, had a 2.10 ERA in seven games, including three starts. He walked 15 batters and struck out 25 in 25 2/3 innings in his first professional season after signing in January.