Orioles' Elias explains why Núñez was designated for assignment in roster moves - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ Elias explains why Núñez was designated for assignment in roster moves

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Before Friday’s deadline to add prospects to the club’s 40-man roster that would protect them from next month’s Rule 5 draft, the Orioles had five openings. Surprisingly, they added six players — outfielder Yusniel Diaz, left-handed pitchers Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells, right-handers Michael Baumann and Isaac Mattson and infielder Rylan Bannon.

That meant someone had to go, and executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias decided that infielder/designated hitter Renato Núñez, who was eligible for arbitration, was the most expendable.

Núñez was designated for assignment. The Orioles will attempt to work out a deal for the 26-year-old, who hit 31 home runs and drove in 90 runs in 2019 and and had 12 homers and 31 RBIs in the 60-game 2020 season.

“It was a very difficult decision because he’s been such a productive member of our lineup since being claimed in 2018,” Elias said. “He’s been an important part of the club the last two years. It was a decision we didn’t make lightly, but upon coming to the conclusion that we weren’t going to arbitration with him, we felt it best to make the move today as we needed to shrink back to 40.”

The Orioles will try to trade Núñez, who could have made at least $2 million in arbitration. With a surplus of young outfielders and the return of Trey Mancini, first base and designated hitter, Núñez’s primary spots, appear to be taken.

“He’s a productive hitter, and we’ve all seen that,” Elias said. “He’s a quality player, a good hitter and a big power threat. Ours is not the ideal roster for him in terms of a fit. We have several players that play the defensive spots that he does and sort of fill that profile for us.”

Only 14 of the 40 players on the roster when Elias arrived two years ago remain.

“We’re very pleased to be graduating, so to speak, six players from our farm system onto our 40-man roster,” Elias said. “These are names that you’ve been reading about in the minor leagues the last few years.

“It’s just an important step closer to these guys contributing to the major league team. While these decisions are always difficult, one of the things that made it easier is we feel that each of these six guys will be able to contribute in 2021, if called upon by the major league team.”

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Last year, Elias added four players to the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft — left-hander Keegan Akin, right-hander Dean Kremer, first baseman/outfielder Ryan Mountcastle and outfielder Ryan McKenna. Ten players have been added to the roster in the past two seasons.

“These are guys that have already played in Triple-A or would have played in Triple-A had we had it this year,” Elias said, referring to the canceled minor league season because of Covid-19. “While they’re not finished products, they’re developed enough to be functional members of the roster this year. I think that make these decisions easier.”

Infielder Mason McCoy and right-hander Zach Pop, who had Tommy John surgery in May 2019, were not protected. Elias said there were more players he would have liked to have added.

“Definitely one or two more that we went back and forth on as a group,” Elias said. “It’s always a tough process, and we get opinions and input from every part of the baseball ops department, coaching staff, everybody. It’s a long debate, and I think we’ve landed on the outcome that we feel gives us the best chance to retain talent in the organization.”

The least well-known player on the list is Mattson, a 25-year-old right-hander who was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in trade for Dylan Bundy in December 2019.

“Very, very high strikeout rates, and he zoomed up three [minor league] levels in 2019,” Elias said. “He’s got attractive numbers and that’s made him attractive to other teams and attracted us to him. He was at our alternate site this summer. He’s got a 94-, 96-mph fastball with a lot of hop, and he’s got a slider and changeup that he can use on lefties.

“I think he’s the type of relief pitcher that can go more than three outs if needed, and now we’ve got a close to major league-ready, optionable relief pitcher on the 40-man roster. We may well see him get action in Camden Yards this year.”

Wells, 23, has been in the Orioles’ system since 2016, and the Australian has impressed with his control. He has walked just over one batter per nine innings in his minor league career. He wasn’t added to the 60-man player pool and has stayed in Australia during the pandemic.

“He would have been a candidate for inclusion in the alternate site,” Elias said. “We talked to him. He had a really good setup in Australia, and we decided to stick with that. He’s likely to pitch winter ball over there as well.

“This is a guy that flies a little bit under the radar in our system, but his minor league success has been crazy so far. He’s dominated. He has elite command, and he’s got a premium curveball and a nice cutter/slider that he’s been working on.

“The reason we were determined to protect him this time around is that we view him as a potential starting pitcher. That’s a valuable asset. This is a guy that’s knocking on the door right now. If called upon this year, he could potentially come up and help the team. We didn’t want to risk losing him.”

Bannon was acquired in the same trade that brought Diaz, Kremer and Pop from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Manny Machado in July 2018. He plays second and third.

“He’s going to be in the mix,” Elias said. “He’s on the roster, and he’s going to be coming to major league spring training, and I imagine that we’re going to have competition for any number of jobs in the infield. He’s a guy that can move around.

“If you ask what his position is, you might get some different opinions, whether that’s second base or third base, which I think is a good thing. It’s interesting, but also it’s about the bat with him. He’s had a really terrific minor league career. He’s got power. Our hitting coaches that worked with him at the Bowie camp really liked him. The same in Instructional League.

“I think he was a good get in the trade in 2018. While he wasn’t the headliner in that trade, we value him highly and I have very little doubt that had he been exposed in this draft, he would have been taken. He was always somebody that we were counting on getting into our infield mix for 2021 and if he ends up spending the lion’s share of time in Triple-A, that will be good for him, too.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. VICTORTEE

    November 21, 2020 at 8:13 am

    But they have space on the roster for Chris Davis. When is the Boy Genius going to take a pay cut to help the O’s with their $ problems?

    • Georgia Oriole

      November 21, 2020 at 8:34 am

      Elias isn’t stupid. They’re waiting to see if there’s a shortened season that would relieve them from having to pay his whole salary for this year. Would be a shame to cut him and pay his whole salary and then find out the season is going to be shortened and you could have paid him a pro-rated salary for this year.

  2. Orial

    November 21, 2020 at 8:22 am

    Smart,gutsy move( fans will give negative feedback—they fall too in love with players). Numbers game. Mountcastle/Mancini at 1B/DH and Nunez is a “klutz” at 3B. Davis will be in NONE of these equations. Davis is that designated player for the 60 game IL that we’re gonna have to ignore and for players to step over in the dugout. If only Renato could play defense. Nice guy but good move.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    November 21, 2020 at 9:13 am

    No problem letting Nunez go unprotected. I think this was a no-brainer. With the addtion of Mountcastle and the return of Trey Mancini, there should be no problem replacing his production. And considering the current need to carry an ungodly number of pitchers on a team, I think we’ve seen the last days of the Edgar Martinez mold of player. (save one Nelson Cruz … he may hit forever) Besides … what a bonus it must be for the Angelos family to save a whopping $2 million, ‘eh? I’m sure they’ll pass those savings along to the fans in the form of discounted parking or such.

    And I agree with VictorTee … despite the $$ .. it’s a joke that CD is still on the 40.

  4. Orioles20

    November 21, 2020 at 9:22 am

    I don’t think this anything to do with money. Why pay him two million to be a one dimensional hitter when you have much more athletic options that can move around like mountcastle. Eventually with the rise of Diaz mountcastle swings back to first with Mancini. How do we know that Elias hasn’t taken a pay cut that’s hasn’t been reported.

    • CalsPals

      November 21, 2020 at 10:30 am

      Seriously…go O’s…

  5. willmiranda

    November 21, 2020 at 10:20 am

    Elias made sensible moves given the personnel. Not leaving a vacancy in the roster may indicate he prefers our prospects to those of other teams, a hopeful thought. Wells is definitely intriguing; but, with renewed crackdown policies owing to the China virus, will he ever get out of Australia again? If Elias does find a trade partner for Nunez, it might change the roster, although he’ll probably go for prospects or teeny boppers.

  6. sportscoper

    November 21, 2020 at 11:44 am

    Designating Nunez does not “save” $2 million…his replacement will get at least the minimum, possibly more. And it should be noted that arbitration is not a guaranteed contract, meaning the team would have until mid-March to make a decision or opt out for a month’s pay.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      November 21, 2020 at 3:29 pm

      Are you saying the new guys on the 40 man will be making at or more than $2 million? They will not. Most likely he/they will be making minimum.

      OK … so they will be saving the $2 mil minus the minimum, which I believe is $560k….roughly 1.4 million. Semantics my friend. It’s still a payroll cut.

  7. Baltimore Castaway

    November 21, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    Interesting posting today Rich.

    Some quick takes on the current State of this Organization;

    – the 40 Man Roster is stronger than it’s been in quite a long time

    – it will get even that much stronger when the most-talented players in the System begin to matriculate up the ladder, guys like Grayson, DL Hall, Adley, Kirksted, Henderson, and a good number of other excellent future MLB standouts…

    – project a Starting Rotation of Means, Cobb, Lopez, Kremer and Akin when/if they play in 2021. Guys like Zimmerman, Baumann, and Wells are getting closer… Too bad that weak-minded hillbilly (with a very bad haircut to-boot) Hunter Harvey banged-down on his Starting Pitching responsibility and ran to the Bull Pen….

    – The state of the world today is NOT working in favor of our beloved Orioles. Will they play in 2021?, if so will it be a full season? (highly doubtful), will it be a 120 games or something akin to what we saw this year? What on earth is going on with MILB? The Owners have done a pretty good job of carpet-bombing the entire landscape of Minor League Baseball….these kids HAVE TO PLAY, we’ve already lost this year in their development….what a shame. Rob Manfred is a despotic and despicable Commissioner on so many layers…

    – the Orioles are picking 5th in this year’s July Amateur Draft–a good thing (SHAME on you Rat Fink Red Sox for tanking and stealing the 4th position from us)

    – the Orioles International program seems like it is coming along nicely….keep sending Money John and Louis…. Elias and Koby Perez know what they are doing down there…

    – Lastly, I believe that Elias has established a way-above-average template of an excellent Organizational Structure. Great Coaching, Great Analytics, Great Player Development and a growing footprint in the International Markets….

    Wishing all of Dubroff Nation a Blessed and Safe Thanksgiving Holiday.

  8. Bob Horner

    November 21, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    Dubroff nation?? This is more like a tiny island and Dubroff is Gilligan.

    • Baltimore Castaway

      November 21, 2020 at 4:21 pm

      It is indeed a small Nation, but it is a good nation. Freedom of expression is allowed, conformity is frowned-upon, and the Dickens Characters are tolerated. I for one appreciate this environment.

      • Bob Horner

        November 21, 2020 at 4:47 pm

        Freedom of expression is allowed until Dubroff deletes another critical comment. He’s done it at least a dozen times and I stopped reading this site because of it. (Well, that and there’s fresher news and better writing elsewhere. These quotes ran in multiple sites last night). Wait until my last comment disappears. Probably this one, too. But glad you found a home. And thanks to this exchange, the comment total reached double digits. For now. Happy Thanksgiving

        • Baltimore Castaway

          November 21, 2020 at 5:40 pm

          Bob.

          I can’t speak to any history here that you may have. But I believe that Rich does his best.

          The Orioles are a VERY difficult Franchise to cover there is no doubt.

          Between the air of secrecy about anything within the organization and a culture of strong Top Down Command and Control it is a difficult job.

          Rich covers the facts and team developments as honestly as possible in my experience and opinion. This is again a hard task. To those who have followed this team during this ownership regime you will fully realize this.

          I think some benefit-of-the-doubt is in order for Rich and I hope that you can find a way in your mind to consider this.

    • Raymo

      November 21, 2020 at 6:21 pm

      Jeez Bob, that was uncalled for. You say you stopped reading this site but apparently not. Our small island is a place that I look forward to visiting to escape the vitriol of the outside world. If you don’t have something kind to say, why say it at all? Just walk away. No one forces you to come here.

  9. Bob Horner

    November 21, 2020 at 6:30 pm

    And no one forced you to respond to me. Get lost

    • CalsPals

      November 21, 2020 at 8:15 pm

      Take your own advice, have never had anything I’ve put on this site deleted, I’ve not always agreed w/Rich, but overall he does a great job, go/stay at the other sites you prefer, overall we play nicely here, all but Onesy…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        November 21, 2020 at 10:26 pm

        Bob … Onesy …could it be?

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          November 21, 2020 at 10:32 pm

          Nawwww…in retrospect, Bob is too well written…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      November 21, 2020 at 10:25 pm

      I’ve put some pretty stupid, childish and offensive stuff on this site for many years now. I’ve never heard of anyone else, or been censored myself by the site even though I probably deserved to be. You don’t know what you’re talking about, and nobody needs you here Bob. Go to where the writing is better if that’s your opinion. I’m sure the Sox have a place for you.

    • CalsPals

      November 22, 2020 at 7:13 am

      Maybe…:)…go O’s…

    • johninbethany

      November 25, 2020 at 1:09 pm

      Jeez Bob, sorry you have such anger issues. A totally uncalled for response. Be angry at the Orioles if you like for being so bad, but there is no need to rant on fellow readers.

      Hopefully you take your own advice.

      Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  10. Pip

    November 22, 2020 at 1:01 am

    Nunez is no loss, though Elias was very tactful. However, Ruiz will be gone, too. That’s why Bannon was added. He’s going to be replacing Ruiz, who can’t hit and is a terrible defender.

    • Bhoffman1

      November 22, 2020 at 7:27 am

      Ruiz is here until they find someone better . It would be great if Bannon is the guy. Maybe Tyler Nevin and with the surpluses of outfielders too bad Mountcastle can’t play there as that would make for a much stronger team

      • Orial

        November 22, 2020 at 10:55 am

        With or without freedom of speech Mr. Horner has just been designated for assignment. Wow.

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