Orioles leave Winter Meetings without making more moves; Hyde discusses Severino, Sisco - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Winter Meetings Coverage

Orioles leave Winter Meetings without making more moves; Hyde discusses Severino, Sisco

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

SAN DIEGO—The Winter Meetings ended without the Orioles making any more moves. They traded infielder Jonathan Villar and starting pitcher Dylan Bundy last week, but this one was dominated by big free-agent signings.

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg re-signed with the Washington Nationals and then saw his teammate, outstanding third baseman Anthony Rendon, leave the Nationals to join Mike Trout with the Los Angeles Angels. Another exceptional pitcher, Gerrit Cole, left the Astros for the New York Yankees.

The Angels also sent shortstop Zack Cozart and his $12.67 million salary and last June’s first-round draft choice, infielder Will Wilson, to San Francisco for a player to be named later and cash considerations.

That kind of move, taking on a costly veteran for a year while getting a prized prospect, is probably out of the Orioles’ budgetary plans for now.

The Orioles spent their time in San Diego meeting with agents for middle infielders, meeting personally with pitchers and preparing for the Rule 5 draft.

General manager Mike Elias said the Orioles were “talking about the opportunity that we have … people know we’re a young club, a rebuilding club. We do have a large avenue for innings and rotation jobs, and that’s attractive. There are some positives there if you’re a free agent, looking for a one-year deal.”

Elias said that he didn’t expect to complete a trade or sign a free agent during the meetings.

For the second straight year, the Orioles claimed a player on waivers early in the Winter Meetings. In 2018, it was third baseman Rio Ruiz, who had a successful season and will return next season. This year, it was reliever Marcos Díplan, who has yet to pitch above Double-A.

Elias will have to bid on tertiary starters to fill a rotation and reach the eight candidates manager Brandon Hyde thinks he needs for spring training competition.


“The guys that people feel are reliable starters, they’re commanding good price tags,” Elias said. “We’re seeing records set at the top of the market. That tells you some things, too. When you’re looking for opportunities at the back end of that market, it’s difficult. It’s not a market that provides a lot of excess.”

There haven’t been any names attached to the Orioles as they pursue starters and middle infielders they can afford. Some will sign major league contracts and others will settle for minor league deals.

Last offseason, pitcher Nate Karns, who pitched just four games, was the only major league free agent signed. It’s likely there will be more than one major league deal signed.

“It’s definitely on the table for both the infield jobs and the starting rotation candidacy jobs,” Elias said. “If that’s something we need to do to get the guy that we like, we’re prepared to do it. I bet that when we’re done we’ll have a mix of major and minor league contracts as part of signings for candidates for these competitions.”

Orioles search for catching depth: Elias has said he’d like another catcher in addition to Pedro Severino, Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns.

Elias doesn’t think that having overall No. 1 pick Adley Rutschman in the organization will cool free-agent catcher’s interest in coming to the Orioles.

“Not for this year. I think everyone knows he’s not going to advance through all four minor league levels this year,” Elias said “The fourth catcher … we’re a great opportunity because we’re a team where there’s a lot of motion between Triple-A and the big leagues, and we don’t have catchers on big contracts.

“It’s a great opportunity for backup catchers. The problem that we’re having is it’s a thin, competitive catching market, and it’s moving really quickly, and there’s a lot of teams looking for catching, and there aren’t a ton of free-agent catchers this year. That’s tricky.”

Counting on Severino, Sisco: Manager Brandon Hyde said that he expects improvement from Severino and Sisco.

“Sevy is another guy that really improved his defense over the course of the year,” Hyde said. “He was always a catch first, throw, bat second guy, and swung the bat well for us, especially against left-handed pitching.

“I like the raw power. Sevy is really strong. I felt like he was coming into his own offensively. He played more this year than he has in the past, and is still kind of learning the big league game a little bit. Tough to do as a young player behind the plate without a ton of at-bats.

“I thought he improved defensively over the course of the year, and he had a nice year offensively. He’s got some big power. He’s got power to right-center. He’s got bat-to-ball skills. So, yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing Sevy in spring training.”

Sisco spent the last four months of the season with the Orioles.

“When he got to us he was really swinging the bat well, and for me it was more of a confidence issue,” Hyde said. “I think he got in a little bit of a funk and had a hard time getting out of it. I was happy with how he caught.

“I thought he really improved from spring training to the last game of the year defensively, and I think there’s still a lot of room to grow defensively, but I know he’s putting it upon himself this offseason to go to a facility and work on swing thoughts that we had as well as his body and a lot of other things.

“There were a lot of conversations at the end of the year about things he could do this winter to improve and come into spring training, and I know [catching instructor Tim Cossins] is going to go see him and sounds like he’s doing that.”

Checking on character: Elias wouldn’t get specific when asked if the Orioles would pass on free-agent shortstop Addison Russell,

Russell was suspended for 40 games at the end of the 2018 season and at the beginning of 2019 for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy.

“I think we always look at that in any case,” Elias said. “We’re looking at case-by-case aspects of our players’ background and reputations and makeup and we would, generally speaking, weigh that into the evaluation. That said, I do think there are certain degrees of background issues that can and would rule out players for us, in any market.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. NormOs

    December 12, 2019 at 9:03 am

    The O’s spent a bunch of money sending Elias and his analyticalists to San Diego but they couldn’t trade Mancini and Givens for 6 or 7 nothings. But, on the other hand, look what they saved by not doing a damn thing to improve the team. This whole thing stinks!

    • Orial

      December 12, 2019 at 10:53 am

      Well they did trade Bundy/Villar for 5 pitching prospects,just not at the meetings.

  2. Greazy Tony

    December 12, 2019 at 9:41 am

    It’s pretty simple: If the O’s sign Russell they will lose fans like me. Some things are more important that getting a good deal on a “distressed asset” the way Elias’ old boss did in Houston. Luckily for me this team is still bad enough that one piece won’t matter, but if in a few years a cheap spousal abuser comes along that Elias thinks can provide enough WAR at a good value he’s sign the guy for sure.

    • deqalt

      December 12, 2019 at 10:03 am

      Please tell me this site will not go down the cancel culture route!!!!

      • Greazy Tony

        December 12, 2019 at 12:41 pm

        Deqalt. So you’re one of those guys who doesn’t have a problem rooting for a guy who beats his wife huh?

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 12, 2019 at 10:29 am

      Since I don’t know what the “cancel culture route” is, you can rest assured that it won’t, deqalt.

  3. Orial

    December 12, 2019 at 10:58 am

    The Winter Meetings is a formality for teams like the O’s. Elias work goes all winter. Not disappointed or surprised by the lack of activity. That being said I do expect a new SS,another starter,2 Rule 5’s added before Spring Training.

  4. WorldlyView

    December 12, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    Rich, you wrote “That kind of move…is probably out of the Orioles’ budgetary plans for now.” What are their ‘budgetary plans’? It seems to me that the strategy is to have the lowest player payroll by far in MLB and to set the record for most losses in a season. I for one am getting so angry with the brain trust that I am getting angry with Rich for his upbeat articles. I would urge Elias to trade Cobb, Mancini, Givens, and Alberto for some class A ‘prospects’ and sign and keep five Rule 5 prospects. Maybe that would trigger more skepticism about “the plan.”

    Signed, ‘Mad as Hell.’

    • Camden Brooks

      December 12, 2019 at 2:51 pm

      Not sure why you’re surprised/angry at what Elias is doing. He is doing exactly what he said he would do. A rebuild of the ENTIRE organization doesn’t happen overnight; it involves selling off major league talent to acquire prospects/trim payroll, and will obviously cause some last place finishes for the big club. Be patient, and let the talent work its way up the baseball ladder.

      • WorldlyView

        December 12, 2019 at 3:45 pm

        I need some assurance that, from a whole bunch of prospects, a sufficient number of solid major league players will emerge–enough to make the Orioles a winning team again. It’s a total crapshoot given the long odds that a minor leaguer will shine in the majors. I am too old and crotchety to be “patient” until maybe 2026. Successfully rebuilding an organization and a scorched earth policy are not necessarily compatible.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 12, 2019 at 3:08 pm

      Professor Cohen, I don’t think my articles are upbeat. I’m simply trying to analyze.

    • CalsPals

      December 12, 2019 at 6:05 pm

      I think what he is doing goes quite a ways past trimming the payroll…go O’s…

    • Camden Brooks

      December 12, 2019 at 8:24 pm

      Yes Cals, it also includes acquiring prospects in order to restock a minor league system that was a laughing stock of baseball. I should’ve mentioned that in my earlier post…oh, wait.

      • WorldlyView

        December 13, 2019 at 1:17 am

        You optimists seem to be certain that the gaggle of prospects being amassed is going to produce the core of a winning team.
        This might happen or there might be a 95% failure rate. We have one AAA farm team and one AA farm team, so it’s not like there will be a cohort of hundreds of prospects to nurture into stardom. I don’t take issue with Camden’s categorization of the O’s minor league system as a “laughing stock of baseball.” Unfortunately, the Oriole MLB team of 2020, and beyond, could well be the “laughing stock of baseball.” I hope I am wrong. But it is also just a hope that draft picks, Rule 5’s, players that other teams are willing to trade or have waived, and the transferable glow of the Astros’ turnaround will produce a winning team in the AL East. Their turnaround was not solely due to Elias, and it was based on more than just restocking their farm system. The Astros last to first move was built on gradualism and acquisition of some very good major leaguers. It was not the scorched earth cum waiver wire strategy being conducted here.

    • Camden Brooks

      December 13, 2019 at 2:25 am

      WV I agree with a lot of what you said, but the Astros’ rebuild did begin like the one Elias is conducting now. Once they have a decent foundation of homegrown talent at the big league level, they absolutely will need to spend cash on quality free agents to fill in gaps in the lineup. Hopefully, ownership will be willing to spend the necessary money at that point.

  5. BirdsCaps

    December 12, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    I concur with WorldlyView ‘s comment. Hearing that Elias will likely not be involved with a salary dump for a top prospect type of a trade ticks me off (wanted to use more colorful language but did not want to get suspended or banned from commenting). Even during the “good years” the payroll wasn’t close to the big boys (nyy bos LAD LAA etc). If we are all in on losing out, why not take some of the money (MASN money) and “buy” a few prospects. It sounds like we have Elias who is all in on the rebuild and the ownership that’s all in on saving a buck (as usual).

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