BALTIMORE—The Orioles acquired centerfielder Keon Broxton from the New York Mets on Wednesday, and general manager Mike Elias is confident he’ll help the team.
Broxton was designated for assignment by the Mets after hitting .143 in 34 games and was traded to the Orioles for $500,000 in international bonus money.
Broxton, 29, who had 20 home runs for Milwaukee in 2017 along with a .220 average and 175 strikeouts, is expected to play center field for the Orioles.
“We had our eye on him,” Elias said. “Speed, excellent center field ability. He’s got some raw power.”
Manager Brandon Hyde, who saw a lot of Broxton when he was a coach with the Chicago Cubs, said he expected his new player in “a day or two.”
Stevie Wilkerson has been starting in center field, but Elias said that Broxton will get playing time.
“We’re trying some different things in center field,” Elias said. “We wanted to give him a look and, hopefully, give him maybe a little bit more extended time than he’s had.”
A roster move must be made to add Broxton when he arrives, and Joey Rickard, who has options remaining, could be cut.
The Orioles also acquired minor league right-hander Chandler Shepherd on waivers from the Cubs. To make room for Broxton and Shepherd on the 40-man roster, they transferred Alex Cobb from the 10-day to 60-day injured list and designated right-handed pitcher Yefry Ramirez for assignment.
Near the end of spring training, Elias said that he wanted some of the Orioles’ top prospects to spend more time in Triple-A to put together sustained success before they’re added to the major league roster.
“It’s good to see some of the guys are doing really well down there,” Elias said. “[Chance] Sisco is doing really well down there. DJ Stewart is doing really well right now, and that’s very much on our radar right now.”
Stewart entered Wednesday’s game hitting .285 for Norfolk with eight home runs and 31 RBIs. He also has a .400 on-base percentage.
“In DJ Stewart’s case, we have two corner outfielders up here with [Trey] Mancini and [Dwight] Smith, who are doing great,” Elias said. “It’s just hard to find an easy way to get him here, but we would love to have him join this team. I’m hopeful that we can figure out how to do that on the sooner side.”
Sisco is batting 258 with seven homers and 30 RBIs for the Tides with a .370 OBP. His catching skills have been questioned and he has thrown out just five of 28 (18 percent) base-stealers.
“As I’ve said all along, Sisco is somebody we’re counting on, and we care a lot about,” Elias said. “We want to get him up here at the right time. Maybe that’s soon, too.”
While Sisco and Stewart could come relatively soon, Elias isn’t suggesting early recalls for infielder Ryan Mountcastle or left-handed starter Keegan Akin, both in their first year in Triple-A.
“I categorize Ryan a little different,” Elias said “He hasn’t played in the majors, yet. He’s extremely young (22) for Triple-A.”
Mountcastle is hitting .323 with seven homers and 31 RBIs but has walked just seven times and needs to prove he can hit against pitchers he’s seeing multiple times, Elias said.
“He’s got a lot of work to do defensively still at third or even at first,” Elias said. “We might even start taking a look at him in the outfield when we get opportunities. There’s a lot more development for a guy like him.”
Mountcastle’s path could be impeded if Mark Trumbo returns from the 60-day injured list. Trumbo is rehabbing in Sarasota from September surgery on his right knee and could begin a minor league rehab assignment relatively soon.
“When you’re a corner defender ,whether it’s first base or left or right, you’re competing with more people for playing time,” Elias said. “There are so many people that can go play those positions. Not everyone can catch or play short or play center. Any time your defensive options are limited, it’s harder to break rosters. It’s more competition when you’re on a roster.
“With Ryan, we want to give him some different options and get him as skilled defensively as we can.”
Akin is 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA in eight starts.
“I’m excited about him,” Elias said. “Always have been, looking at what he’s done so far in the minor leagues … one of those guys that we’re extremely hopeful on and counting on to be a future rotation piece here, so we want to make sure he has the proper footing to do that. I don’t think a month-and-a-half in Triple-A is the end of that story. I just hope he keeps doing what he’s doing.”
Feeling a draft: Elias said that he hasn’t decided who the Orioles will select with the top pick in the June 3 draft. He also said that once the international signing period begins on July 2, he expects the Orioles to be more active than they’ve ever been.
“We are pushing out as a full-fledged international scouting operation,” Elias said. “That will take some time. The way the market works down there, some of the behind-the-scenes advance work that goes on has been done for two years now or more.
“We don’t have a full slate of players available to us, but that said, July 2 is coming, the international signing period will open, and it will be the largest international signing period the Orioles have ever had.”
Elias said that on and right after July 2, the Orioles will be announcing multiple signings.
Progress report: Elias is also optimistic about the current state of the Orioles.
“There have been good things so far with the major league team play,” Elias said. “The win-loss record is not one of those good things … We’d like to see it get better. We’d like to play at a little better win clip than this.
“…If we’re able to add a couple of guys and have them stick and be pieces here, that would make this year a huge success. We’ve got a big effort on our hands. This is the beginning of it. We all know what this looks like. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to push harder to get better, but it’s where we’re at right now.”
Elias has Hyde’s back.
“I think he’s done an excellent job,” Elias said. “It’s a difficult circumstance with a young team, a lot of players coming in from all different directions, guys coming and going, a lot of guys not really with us during spring training.
“I know the players have received his message very well. He’s done a great job looking out for the best interests of the players without putting pitchers in uncomfortable positions even though we’re stretched thin at times and our guys have been throwing a lot of pitches, and in some cases getting beat up. He’s done a terrific job. I’m really happy he’s here.”