SAN DIEGO—Orioles Executive Vice President/General Manager Mike Elias has a lengthy shopping list for the Winter Meetings that run through Thursday.
After the Orioles traded infielder Jonathan Villar and starting pitcher Dylan Bundy for five pitching prospects last week, Elias said that the Orioles will look for pitching, middle infielders, a catcher and outfield help.
Without Villar, and with last year’s Rule 5 selection Richie Martin possibly heading to Triple-A Norfolk to start the season, the Orioles need infielders.
They’ve claimed Pat Valaika on waivers from Colorado and signed Dilson Herrera to a minor league contract. With three openings on the 40-man roster, perhaps the Orioles will make multiple selections for the fourth consecutive season.
After the December 2 deadline for offering contracts to arbitration-eligible players, the Orioles have additional candidates to sift through. Several are familiar names.
Last July, the Orioles traded Andrew Cashner, who had an effective first half of the season, to the Boston Red Sox for two 17-year-old Dominican Summer League players, Elio Prado and Noelberth Romero.
Cashner, who was 9-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 17 starts for the Orioles, had a 6.20 ERA in 25 appearances for Boston. After six starts, the Red Sox sent him to the bullpen.
Elias inherited Cashner’s contract, which paid him $9.5 million in 2019. Obviously, he can’t expect to receive anything close to that in 2020, but with Bundy gone, the Orioles have at least two holes in the rotation.
John Means, Alex Cobb and Asher Wojciechowski are the nominal top three starters. Cashner could eat innings and, if he pitches well, could be a trade chip again.
Some fans have mentioned former Oriole starter Kevin Gausman, who wasn’t offered a contract by the Cincinnati Reds last week, as a possibility.
Gausman, 28, is five years younger than Cashner, 33. The Orioles traded him and Darren O’Day to the Atlanta Braves on July 31, 2018 for pitchers Evan Phillips and Bruce Zimmermann, catcher Brett Cumberland, infielder JC Encarnacion and $2.5 million in international bonus money.
Gausman was 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 10 starts for the Braves and was paid $9.35 million in 2019 in his second season of arbitration eligibility.
Last season, he was 3-7 with a 6.19 ERA in 16 starts for the Braves, who waived him. The Reds claimed him on August 5, and he had a 4.03 ERA in 15 games for them.
Although Gausman often tantalized with his talent, it seems unlikely that the Orioles would bring him back. He’s likely to attract better offers and more attractive situations.
If the Orioles sign a veteran pitcher, they’re hoping that not only does he eat innings and serve as a placeholder until some of their prospects are ready but create a market for themselves.
An effective Gausman could be a trade chip, but he’s probably out of the Orioles ‘price range.
Another player who was wasn’t offered a contract and probably would be in the Orioles’ price range is catcher Caleb Joseph.
The Orioles didn’t offer Joseph a contract, negotiated with him and after they failed to come to an agreement, he signed with Arizona, who didn’t offer him a contract for 2020.
Joseph, a fan favorite during his five seasons with the Orioles, played in only 20 games for the Diamondbacks in 2019, hitting .211 with three RBIs.
Elias said that the Orioles were looking for an additional catcher to augment Pedro Severino, Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns.
Joseph, who has indicated interest in returning, would be ideal for helping younger pitchers and catchers.
With manager Brandon Hyde not afraid to use position players to pitch, Joseph could come in handy there as well. Last season, Arizona manager Torey Lovullo used him twice and he retired all four batters he faced.
DJ Stewart, who was expected to compete for an outfield spot, will get a late start to his season after ankle surgery, and the Orioles could go for an outfielder on a minor league deal to compete against Cedric Mullins and Mason Williams, who was re-signed to a minor league contract.
Joey Rickard wasn’t offered a contract by the San Francisco Giants. He batted .280 in 16 games with the Giants, but he might not be willing to accept a minor league contract, and the Orioles haven’t indicated they have any interest in him.