LAS VEGAS—Thursday’s end of the Winter Meetings has traditionally provided a bit of amusement for Orioles fans. During the years when Dan Duquette was the head of baseball operations, the Orioles were always active in the Rule 5 draft.
In his seven drafts, Duquette found some useful players: infielder Ryan Flaherty (2011), left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland (2012) and outfielder Joey Rickard (2016).
Of his 11 Rule 5 picks, only Rickard, outfielder Anthony Santander (2016) and reliever Pedro Araujo (2017) are still with the organization.
Araujo must begin the 2019 season on the major league roster and spend the first 17 days with the Orioles so that he can be freely optioned. Last year, Santander, who missed most of the 2017 season with a forearm injury, was in the majors for the initial 43 days of the season to fulfill his Rule 5 obligations.
The draft begins at 12 p.m. ET.
New GM Mike Elias doesn’t have any ties to previous Rule 5 picks. Unlike Duquette, he gets to pick first in the Rule 5, theoretically giving him access to the best player not on any other team’s 40-man roster.
“We had a big meeting [Tuesday] with all of our scouts,” Elias said. “Everyone was here, discussed the options and then we’re going to have another small meeting [Wednesday night] and then make a decision. We have not made a final decision.
“We will use the pick, and we will have a list of players that if they’re still available for the second pick, we’ll use the second pick. If those players all get taken and we run out, we will not use the second pick.”
Some of the players Elias could consider are Richie Martin, a shortstop ranked No. 12 in the Oakland Athletics organization, and Riley Ferrell, a right-handed pitcher from Houston.
Ferrell was taken in the third round by Elias in 2015 when he ran the Astros’ drafts.
Some of the notable Orioles who were left unprotected are catcher Martin Cervenka and left-handed pitcher Luis Gonzalez.
Elias will use analytics in assessing Rule 5 prospects, though the new Orioles system isn’t fully set up.
“We’re bringing that mindset to the players we’re looking at,” Elias said. “We’re having to do it a little more in our heads.”
Because of roster constraints, Elias said he’ll be mindful of the implications of taking certain players.
“The Rule 5 draft is tricky because they have to stay on the major league roster all year,” Elias said. “Even when your approach is to go for the best talent available, which is our approach this year, you still have to be cognizant of: ‘Boy, can we keep this guy on the roster all year?’
“Then, you have to start thinking about things like positions. I don’t know how else to answer that, except that it’s a balancing act. It is a secondary consideration in our case this year. We’re going to be thinking about the talent first, and saying, ‘OK, can we successfully keep this player on the 24-man roster all year?’”