Elias keeps adding infielders to Orioles - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Elias keeps adding infielders to Orioles

After word surfaced on Friday that the Orioles had reached agreement with their three players eligible for arbitration and just before the team sent out its letter from general manager Mike Elias to season ticket holders, Elias acquired his fourth infielder, Hanser Alberto, in the past month.

If Elias’ predecessor, Dan Duquette, had added an infielder with a lifetime OPS of .440, fans would have been outraged, claiming that Duquette was bringing in players on the cheap. Duquette often claimed players for depth purposes, both for the Orioles and for Triple-A Norfolk and Double-A Bowie.

Because the Orioles haven’t developed any major league-ready infielders in the recent past, they overspent for minor leaguers. A year ago, they re-signed major league veteran Ruben Tejada, who had been a solid major league regular before breaking his right leg in October 2015 when Chase Utley crashed into him.

As the Orioles cycled through a team-record 56 players last year, Tejada wasn’t one of them. He batted just .230 at Norfolk, and Elias wants to have better options.

Of the five major league players he has added to the roster since taking over nearly two months ago, four are infielders — Alberto, Rio Ruiz, Richie Martin and Drew Jackson.

In 2018, the Orioles used 14 infielders. Only four — Villar, Chris Davis, Renato Nunez and Steve Wilkerson — remain on the 40-man roster. Another, Jace Peterson, was outrighted and re-signed to a minor league contract. He’ll get a chance to make the club in spring training.

Elias recognized the severe lack of depth he inherited from Duquette, particularly in the infield, and he has focused on that.

To make room for Alberto, the Orioles designated catcher Andrew Susac for assignment. That transaction was noteworthy because it took longer than expected.

Susac batted just .115 in nine games, and left Triple-A Norfolk after he broke his left wrist in late July. He wasn’t given permission to leave the Tides, and the Orioles placed him on the restricted list for a time.


It was expected that he would be the first player, or among the first, to be removed from the 40-man roster after the season. Instead, he survived more than three months.

The move leaves the Orioles with two incumbent catchers, Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns. Carlos Perez, a catcher with an excellent defensive reputation, was signed to a minor league contract and has a strong chance to make the team. Another veteran catcher or two will likely be added.

Martin Cervenka, another strong defensive catcher, was nearly put on the 40-man roster in November and also will be coming to spring training.

It’s important to have at least five or six catchers during the early weeks of spring training to catch the number of pitchers who will be there.

In the month before pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13, the Orioles will complete a coaching staff and add more players — possibly candidates for the starting rotation and veteran outfielders.

The Orioles don’t have an obvious right fielder, and while a starting rotation could be pieced together, a few potential starters would help.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB




  1. SpinMaster

    January 14, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Rich: Nice article. What do you hear about Hyde’s coaching staff? It would seem that he needs to have, at least a pitching coach named and on staff to start planning for pitchers and catchers reporting in a month. I would also think that the new batting coach would want to get together with Chris Davis and try to figure out what will bring him back to his former form.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 14, 2019 at 12:20 pm

      I’m surprised the coaching staff has yet to be named, perhaps this week. Looking forward to finding out who the pitching coach will be, Spin.

  2. cedar

    January 14, 2019 at 8:51 am

    A lot of new infielders, a lot of outfielders (acknowledging that there still isn’t an everyday right fielder) it looks like the priority is in reshaping the minors first. Looking forward to Dean’s reports this coming season as there should be plenty of material!

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 14, 2019 at 12:21 pm

      Cedar, Dean should be having something for us in the next couple of weeks.

  3. SailinO

    January 14, 2019 at 9:39 am

    It’s going to be fun watching the pitching staff take shape. Adding “back of the rotation” pitchers is the traditional way to go. With the lack of quality starters out there I wonder if the birds will embrace change and adopt an opener strategy? We shall see!

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 14, 2019 at 12:23 pm

      I’m not a fan of the opener strategy, SailinO, but I don’t know if Brandon Hyde embraces it or not.

  4. PA Bird Lover

    January 14, 2019 at 11:29 am

    Perhaps it’s just me, Rich, but your column was timed perfect for me. It’s very informative and I needed the info you scripted so well. I guess my baseball battery is low on voltage. Anyway, thanks.
    ME claims he is for winning rather than rebuilding, but if there are any wins for the O’s he should perhaps sign a couple of veterans. Without one or two, the youngsters won’t know when to brush their teeth.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 14, 2019 at 12:25 pm

      PA, I was thinking about you when I wrote it.

      I think if veterans are signed, they’ll be able to be flipped quickly if they perform well.

  5. willmiranda

    January 14, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    With a plethora of players of virtually equal talent, it will be interesting to see who is cut and who is kept. Also to divine what criteria the new regime is using.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 14, 2019 at 3:45 pm

      I will try sand figure that one out, will.

  6. ClyOs

    January 14, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    I understand the intent is to add depth to the organization’s infield, but I need to ask your thoughts on where Ryan Mountcastle falls with all these infield signings? From what I’ve heard he can hit, but is a defensive liability due to a well below average arm, so is limited to middle infield.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 14, 2019 at 8:36 pm

      They don’t have a position for Mountcastle, ClyOs. I think his future will be clearer after some time at Norfolk.

  7. BirdsCaps

    January 14, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    Hey Rich,
    First things first, congratulations on writing the first Baltimore Basebal article in about a week to not use any Billy Joel song puns. Moving on, how do the birds find a way to acquire quality talent in the infield? There is very little infield talent on the farm (a few players looked good, though not great i.e. Yahn). Maybe there will be a few decent international FAs we can sign to help in the future. Also, the projected no. `1 pick is Witt jr., a shortstop. The problem is that any of these options are many years away. Even though the orioles are generally awful at every position, the infield looks worse than even the rotation.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 14, 2019 at 8:38 pm

      BirdsCap, I like you just the way you are.

      The dearth of infielders is why Elias has been so aggressive in acquiring them.

      The draft, international signings and perhaps some trades could yield infielders.

      • BirdsCaps

        January 14, 2019 at 8:55 pm

        Darn it Rich, you couldn’t help yourself, you had to get the pun in didn’t you!!!

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 14, 2019 at 9:09 pm

      It’s a punderful life.

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