General manager Mike Elias has methodically attacked each project that’s been before him since taking over the Orioles’ top baseball job last November.
His most exciting time came last month when the Orioles selected Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman with the top pick in the draft. Elias followed up with several other choices that drew praise, including the selections of Alabama high school infielder Gunnar Henderson and a pair of college outfielders, Stanford’s Kyle Stowers and LSU’s Zach Watson.
Rutschman will soon join Stowers and Watson at Short-Season Aberdeen. Henderson will begin his professional career at Gulf Coast.
The Orioles got their top draft choices signed quickly, and have signed their first 34 choices and 35 of 41. They have until July 12 to sign the handful of draft choices who haven’t agreed to terms.
This week, Elias followed the amateur draft with the signing of 27 international players when the July 2 signing period got under way. Elias and his international scouting director, Koby Perez, had vowed to be active in the Latin American market.
The Orioles paid a record bonus of over $8 million to Rutschman, but their largest reported bonus for an international signee was $450,000 to Luis Gonzalez, a 16-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic. Left-handed pitcher Luis Ortiz, another 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic, received $400,000.
Gonzalez’s bonus is equivalent to a fourth-round draft choice, and Ortiz’s is close to a high fifth-round draft choice.
None of the players signed by the Orioles will play on the team’s two Dominican Summer League teams this season, and it may take two or three years before they advance to the Gulf Coast League to begin their professional career in the U.S.
It may take at least five years before the Orioles’ international efforts can be measured. Elias and Perez vow that this is just the beginning of the Orioles’ international signings, and that it takes several years for a team to be recognized as a serious player in that market.
Now that the amateurs and international players are signed, Elias can turn his attention to what could be his most challenging assignment, getting value for some of the Orioles’ veterans in the trade market as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
Elias has said he’d listen to offers on all players, but it would seem unlikely that he’d trade Trey Mancini, the team’s best position player, who is under team control through 2022, unless they’re overwhelmed by an offer.
Andrew Cashner, who’s scheduled to start on Saturday in Toronto, is 8-3 with a 4.03 ERA and could draw interest from teams looking for a right-handed starter for the back end of their rotation.
The Orioles hold a $10 million option on Cashner for next season, which they will surely decline. If he throws 340 innings in 2018-19, the $10 million option becomes guaranteed. As of now, Cashner’s thrown 242 1/3 innings over the last two seasons.
Dylan Bundy, who starts Friday night against the Blue Jays, could be attractive because he’s not eligible for free agency until after the 2021. Because he’s 3-10 with a 4.91 ERA, the Orioles might best be served by waiting until the offseason or next July before dealing Bundy.
Infielder Jonathan Villar, who was acquired a year ago in the Jonathan Schoop deal, could be attractive for a team needing an extra infielder. The Orioles hold control over Villar for another season, but he could be due a significant raise over his $4.83 million salary for 2019, and Elias would probably be reluctant to pay that.
If the Orioles aren’t going to offer Villar a contract after this season, trading him is probably the better option.
Mychal Givens (4.76 ERA and five blown saves in 11 opportunities) and Richard Bleier (7.40) probably won’t fetch enough for the Orioles to trade them now. Givens has two more seasons of club control, and Bleier has three more seasons.
“I think it might come up,” manager Brandon Hyde said about trade talks. “That’s part of the game now. Every team goes through that.”
For the previous four seasons, Hyde was a coach for the Chicago Cubs who made the postseason in each of those seasons.
“I’ve been on the other end of it the last few years,” Hyde said. “We were hoping for certain people to come our way. This is going to be a little bit different. You never know what’s going to happen.
“I know Mike is going to do everything he can to try to get really good players in here from now on. Anything could happen with the trade deadline. It’s not something I’m looking at and preparing myself for. It’s something I’m aware of and we’ll see what happens.”