Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said that it was an easy choice to pick up the $3.5 million option for 2021 on shortstop José Iglesias.
“It was not a difficult decision,” Elias said in a video conference call on Monday. “José was tremendous for us in a very limited period of time. He’s got a track record dating back beyond that. I think he’s a perfect fit for what we need right now.”
Iglesias could pair with second baseman Yolmer Sánchez in the middle infield. Sánchez, who was the Gold Glove winner at second in 2019, was claimed on waivers from the Chicago White Sox on Friday.
“Yolmer Sánchez is a very good player,” Elias said. “I can see him helping us in a number of ways. He can move around all three infield spots. He’s a plus defender, certainly at second and third, probably at shortstop; we have a little less info to go on there. From what we’ve seen, we think he can help at that position as well.
“I could also see him battling for a primary job so there’s a lot of ways he fits and helps the team. That said, this is the time of year where a lot of interesting players come on waivers and teams claim them, and there’s a lot of offseason left. We’ll just have to see where all this lands. When he did appear on waivers, we were very interested and excited to claim him.”
Sánchez, who made $4.625 million in 2019 with the White Sox and signed a minor league contract with San Francisco last season, is in his second year of arbitration eligibility.
“From a business standpoint with any of these guys on the arbitration track, we’ll just have to see where this goes,” Elias said. “This business throws new information at you every day, and things can change. We’ll just navigate the offseason as we normally would, but I can see him being a great fit for this club.”
When Iglesias was signed last January, Elias said the team wanted a strong middle infield to help the team’s young pitchers. Sánchez would be a defensive upgrade at second base on Hanser Alberto, who is also in his second year of arbitration eligibility.
“That’s just kind of where Yolmer’s value has come from mostly the last couple of years and thus far in his career,” Elias said of his defensive skills.
“Since I’ve gotten here, the middle infield has been an area we’ve made continual additions through every conceivable market. It’s been a point of emphasis. Contributing there with his bat and glove will help the team. We’ve got some young pitchers coming up and, hopefully, Iglesias will be a big hope there as well.”
The 40-man roster: The Orioles have 35 players on the 40-man roster. Elias wouldn’t say how many additions he had in mind.
“We have the 40-man space, and our planning indicates that, hopefully, we’ll be able to be pretty aggressive in adding these guys and be protective of our prospects with what we’re trying to do in terms of a rebuild,” Elias said. “We’re fortunate with the group that we have to add is a pretty big league-ready group.
“These aren’t guys in A ball or even High-A. These are Double-A, Triple-A players that are fairly polished, so when they do get added to the 40-man roster, they’ll be functional members of that roster, if not right away, then very soon. That always makes the decision easier. It’s tough when you have to add somebody from a very low level of the minor leagues and kind of carry them on the roster for a couple of years and whittle away at their minor league options.”
It’s assumed that right-handed pitcher Michael Baumann, left-hander Zac Lowther and outfielder Yusniel Diaz will be placed on the 40-man roster. Right-handed pitcher Isaac Mattson also appears to have a good chance.
Among those who also could be considered are infielders Rylan Bannon and Mason McCoy, right-handed pitcher Zach Pop and left-hander Alexander Wells.
Free-agent market: Elias is watching the market, and he’s not sure what to make of it.
“It seems like this is the most uncertain free-agent market,” Elias said. “I don’t think anyone knows how it’s going to go. I was watching very carefully the option decisions that were taking place, qualifying offers just to get some type of indicator. I think there were some interesting things there.
“Our revenue picture as an industry is so uncertain next year and that’s a big factor, and also teams want to win, and there are good players out there. Eventually, this [Covid-19] crisis is going to pass, hopefully sooner than later, and teams are going to compete for players.”
Notes: Elias said that the announcement of the two players to be named later in the trade with Atlanta for left-hander Tommy Milone, and another with Houston for right-handed pitcher Hector Velázquez will come soon .… Elias didn’t provide information on the team’s No. 1 pick in the June draft, outfielder Heston Kjerstad, who missed last month’s Instructional League session in Sarasota, Florida because of an undisclosed non-baseball illness. … Orioles leftfielder/first baseman Ryan Mountcastle is not one of the three finalists for American League Rookie of the Year. Because he didn’t have 130 at-bats, he’s eligible for the 2021 award.