SAN DIEGO–On the first day of the Winter Meetings, Orioles general manager Mike Elias spoke with other teams about possible trades and worked on possible free-agent signings.
After last week’s trades of starting pitcher Dylan Bundy and infielder Jonathan Villar, Elias knows the Orioles need infield help and starting pitching.
John Means, Alex Cobb and Asher Wojciechowski are penciled to start in 2020. After that, it’s anybody’s guess.
When Elias was asked how many candidates he’d like for spring training, he said: “As many as possible.”
Means was 12-11 in his rookie season. Cobb was 5-15 in 2018 and started just three times in 2019 before hip and knee surgery ended his season. Wojciechowski was 4-8.
“Even somebody like Wojciechowski that wouldn’t necessarily be going into spring training as a front-runner for a rotation spot; he’s kind of earned a right-of-first refusal with how he pitched for us,” Elias said.
Some other internal candidates are three pitchers who were sent outright to Triple-A Norfolk — left-hander Ty Blach and right-handers Tom Eshelman and Chandler Shepherd
“In addition to that group, we’re still going to be looking and hoping for three or four more external additions, either minor league free agents who are not on the roster in spring training or possibly guys that we commit major league contracts to.”
The Orioles have three prospects who pitched for Norfolk last season — Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann.
“I think Akin, in particular, given that he’s had a full season in Triple-A, he will have a chance to compete for that spot,” Elias said.
The 24-year-old Akin was 6-7 with a 4.73 ERA for the Tides in 2019, which Elias said wasn’t bad considering the strong offensive numbers in the high minors.
“He’s one of the better young pitchers in the International League,” Elias said. “Loved the strikeouts, the fact that he pitched deep into games for most of the year … The downside is that he still walks a few too many hitters, so I think that’s something that we’ll be keeping an eye on in spring training.”
Manager Brandon Hyde hasn’t seen Akin pitch.
“I think that will be good,” Elias said. “He’s going to be looking to turn some heads in spring training. I’m excited to see him.
“Kremer and Zimmermann haven’t spent nearly as much time in Triple-A. They’re knocking on the door, and I hope they have really good Triple-A seasons, especially from the get-go and, yeah, starting to get excited seeing some of these names creeping up and pitch well. Kremer had a good [Arizona] Fall League.”
Elias said he wants a number of young pitchers in the organization to pitch in either Norfolk or Double-A Bowie.
“[Michael] Baumann is somebody that we’re going to have to make a decision on, whether to send him back to Bowie since he only spent half a year there or whether to just put him in Norfolk, but he’s getting close. DL Hall has recovered from that lat injury he had and, assuming he has a normal spring training, he’s going to go to Double-A this year, so that will be exciting.”
Elias said that Kyle Bradish, one of the four pitchers acquired in the Bundy deal, also will go to the Baysox.
“It’s going to be a pretty strong group,” Elias said. “I think that’s something that as the Baltimore Orioles, we’re going to need a lot of internal pitching options because as we all know, this division, it’s a tough place to pitch. The more we can bring in internally, the better we’re going to be the next few years.”
Spring training plan for Rutschman: Adley Rutschman, the overall No. 1 pick in last June’s draft who played for Gulf Coast, Aberdeen and Delmarva in his initial year in the Orioles’ organization, is likely to get some time with the Orioles in spring training.
“We would love to get him over to the major league side,” Elias said. “He’s a catcher, which is always useful, and I think it’s great exposure for him to start seeing the major league side of spring training and really learn the whole organization.”
Elias said that the Orioles haven’t decided if Rutschman will be officially invited or get a few calls to help out.
“I think I’ll hold back on that until we make those decisions,” Elias said. “But I’m pretty confident saying fans that come to spring training, especially the early part of spring training, will get a good look at him.”
Elias on Diplan: Earlier on Monday, the Orioles acquired right-handed pitcher Marcos Diplan on waivers from the Detroit Tigers.
The 24-year-old Diplan is 31-29 with six saves and a 3.88 ERA in six minor league seasons. He’s pitched in the Texas, Milwaukee and Minnesota organizations. Diplan was claimed on waivers by Detroit on September 16.
“We have roster space,” Elias said. “He’s a very interesting arm. He’s a former top prospect who’s still very young. He’s got an elite fastball, a pretty good slider, especially to right-handed hitters and his changeup is intriguing.
“He has walked a few too many guys in his career and he still hasn’t gotten out of Double-A, but given the upside and the age and the prospect pedigree, just a little more interesting than your usual guy on waivers. Especially for a team in our situation. I think that’s why you saw Detroit grab him. They were probably thinking the same thing.
“I can easily see him being somebody that comes into camp and you hope it’s clicked and we may have really found something. He does have an option remaining, too, so that’s enticing for us. If he needs to spend time in Triple-A and keep developing, or if he just needs to be one of these guys that can be optioned during the season, we’ve got that going for us, as well.”