Elias talks about replacing Iglesias and the rebuilding plan - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Elias talks about replacing Iglesias and the rebuilding plan

Wednesday’s surprising trade of shortstop José Iglesias and the decision not to tender a contract to second baseman Hanser Alberto leaves the Orioles with questions about who will replace Iglesias and Alberto.

Iglesias, who hit .373 with three home runs and 17 RBIs in 39 games with the Orioles in 2020, was traded to the Los Angeles Angels for two young right-handed pitchers, Jean Pinto and Garrett Stallings. Pinto, 19, pitched three games in the Dominican Summer League in 2019, and Stallings, 23, was the Angels’ fifth-round pick in 2019 and hasn’t pitched  professionally.

One of those in line to replace Alberto is Yolmer Sánchez, who the Orioles claimed on waivers from the Chicago White Sox on October 30th. He won the Gold Glove at second base in 2019, and signed a reported $1 million contract for 2021 on Wednesday, the deadline day to tender contracts to those eligible for arbitration.

Sanchez has started 10 games at shortstop in his seven-season major league career. Pat Valaika, who also signed a 2021 contract on Wednesday, played some shortstop when Iglesias was on the injured list because of a left quadriceps injury. Valaika, who still has an option remaining, signed a split contract that will pay him $875,000 in the majors and $300,000 in the minors.

The Orioles also have Richie Martin, a 2018 Rule 5 draft pick who missed the 2020 season because of a broken left wrist, and utilityman Ramón Urias on the 40-man roster.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias made it clear in a Wednesday night video conference call that the Orioles’ regular 2021 shortstop is probably not on the team at present.

“I think we’ve got work left to do there,” Elias said. “Part of the risk with a trade like this when it comes to the stability at the major league level that we desire is, we’re now looking for infield upgrades. There are a lot of good players out on the market, and we’ll have a chance to explore those. We’ll try to be opportunistic and smart again like when we found Iggy.

“It does make our job this offseason a little harder. I do feel like there’s going to be other moves necessitated because of this trade, but … it was more important to get the young pitching prospects back, and when we looked at the market, we figured we’d have some opportunity to reinforce the group that we already have on the roster.”

Iglesias was due to make $3.5 million in 2021, and Alberto was projected to make more than $2 million, and perhaps more if he went to arbitration.

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More than a month into the free-agent market, business is slow in Major League Baseball, and Wednesday’s deadline  flooded the market.

“We will monitor the market and do what we feel is the right fit for putting together a group at the major league level which helps us achieve our goal, which is continuing to take a step forward,” Elias said. “Get some more young talent in this organization, and see our young guys that hopefully will blossom into stars continue to improve and develop at the major league level.”

Elias raved about Stallings, who pitched for the University of Tennessee.

“I don’t know that I would trade our starting pitching in the minor leagues for anyone else’s,” Elias said. “This makes me feel even stronger that that might be the case.”

The acquisition of Pinto was important, too.

“We’re also still making up for the lack of a normal level of international signing activity level with this organization for a long time,” Elias said.

“When we do trades like this, we kind of try to get a young, international player tossed in anytime we can because we know we’re in arrears a bit with that age group and getting those guys that these other teams have been signing for the last three or four years. We haven’t been at that level, and that’s going to continue to sting for a few years.”

The decision not to tender a contract to Alberto, which came after the Orioles attempted to work out a trade, was difficult.

“It was an incredibly difficult decision,” Elias said. “On and off the field, he’s been so good … unfortunately, the arbitration system, the way it’s set up, there are a lot of arcane rules that I’m not sure fans can fully understand, but it puts boundaries around what we can do prior to this date.

“Our job is to study the market for baseball players and do the best we can within the market dynamics that exist. This offseason’s not over, and we’re going to continue to stay in touch with him because we know he’s such a great figure.”

In the last 12 days, the Orioles have designated for assignment, and later released, first baseman/designated hitter Renato Núñez, let go of Alberto and traded Iglesias. A year ago, the Orioles traded infielder Jonathan Villar to Miami for minor league left-hander Easton Lucas and starter Dylan Bundy to the Angels for four minor league right-handers.

“You get attached to the players when you have them,” Elias said. “It makes sense in every case when you’re able to, especially when you’re rebuilding, to try to see some long-term value coming back as these guys near the end of their stints with the team … we don’t feel we’re close to our ultimate goal … when you’re in that situation, this is what you do.”

When Elias came to the Orioles in November 2018, the team had lost a franchise record 115 games. In his first season as GM, the Orioles lost 108. In 2020’s shortened season, they went 25-35, and Elias doesn’t think the team is ready to contend in 2021.

“I think it’s accurate to say that we’re in the phase of accumulating talent,” he said. “Trying to rise to the top of young talent. We want to have the best young talent in baseball. I think we’re going to need that to compete in this division. The baseline that we have, while it’s improving, and improving rapidly, there’s still room to go.

“There will be a time when we flip the switch to maximizing wins biin the next given season, but it’s our judgment that we’re not there yet. This is not fun to subtract from your major league team, but that’s what you do when you’re below .500 and rebuilding, and we still are.”

Notes: Right-handed reliever Shawn Armstrong signed for $825,000. Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander are the only two Orioles who are eligible for arbitration and unsigned.

Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles questions next week. Please send them by e-mail to [email protected] or leave them in the comment box below.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

49 Comments

49 Comments

  1. Orial

    December 3, 2020 at 8:31 am

    After my initial shock and dismay at finding out about Iglesias’ departure(figured finally a supreme DP combo) calmer times have prevailed. Maybe Iglesias really did have a career year never to be repeated,maybe his leg is at the point where he is a DH,maybe being a former brooding player that he always has been is who he really is,maybe Martin is ready. In other words–maybe the Angels got “snookered” NOT the O’s. Like anything else an initial reaction is usually an over-reaction.

    • Baltimore Castaway

      December 3, 2020 at 11:19 am

      Thinking (hoping) that you are right… sounds like the two pitchers that came in the trade here are more than just throw-ins..

      • JohninConn

        December 4, 2020 at 2:20 pm

        There were four rounds of draft choices ahead of the “gem” that ME liked so much. If he liked him so much, why didn’t he draft him in the first place?

        … unfortunately, the arbitration system, the way it’s set up, there are a lot of arcane rules that I’m not sure fans can fully understand, but it puts boundaries around what we can do prior to this date” is pure smoke to me.

        I can see shedding a 3B, 2B, 1B, or an OF for a rebuilding team, but with a young pitching staff a solid veteran SS seems like gold to me. I will shut up if and when these two pitchers put up a combined 10 wins, holds, or saves.

    • Chinmakes5

      December 3, 2020 at 9:44 pm

      Yeah, Elias is really excited about the 21st ranked player on the 27th ranked farm system? From what I read, high side is middle relief.
      Elias is good, he isn’t playing 3D chess while the other teams are playing checkers. Every team uses analytics today. Angels expect Iggy to be their starting SS this year. We got their 21st ranked player in return.

      People saying we got 6 prospects for a starting short stop and a number 2 starter and we got the best in the deal are delusional

    • CalsPals

      December 4, 2020 at 7:09 am

      :)…go O’s…

  2. Bhoffman1

    December 3, 2020 at 8:38 am

    So we don’t have our SS on the team for 2021. I assume Martin starts in Norfolk , Pat is utility guy and whoever is out there won’t be as good as Jose but it’s all about the future except for the fans who are interested in the present. Yet we have to live with CD who has no future or even present and we really have no one to play third base. I predict the first half will be ugly and possibly in the second half Crush will be gone Adley will arrive along with a young pitcher or two plus Diaz and it will be more entertaining

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 3, 2020 at 9:20 am

      BHoff …. I believe you’re forgetting the budding superstar in Ruiz is still around to man 3rd base, while Ramom Urias proved he’s more than capable of playing shortstop at a slightly above middle school level.

    • Bhoffman1

      December 3, 2020 at 11:46 am

      I forgot about the next Fernando Venezuela but at SS Urias and yes Ruiz has the best mullet along with Harvey so it’s looking better.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    December 3, 2020 at 9:12 am

    “We’ll try to be opportunistic and smart again like when we found Iggy.”….

    Tell me Mikey … what was so smart about picking up Iggy that made you want to let him go this year? The logic escapes me.

    BUT ….. here’s to hoping that I have to eat these words 2 years from now when Stallings get’s promoted to Bal’more and becomes a top shelf MLB pitcher. Then again, that 2 years may take 4 considering this teams internal clock.

    All that being said, I like the trade. I’ve never believed in Jose and don’t think it’ll be that big of an immediate loss at the position.

    • willmiranda

      December 4, 2020 at 10:43 am

      Finding Iglesias last year would have been opportunistic and smart if the original parameters had been fulfilled, that is, two years of outstanding fielding and competent hitting at the dollars given. However, the first year was a truncated schedule and injury-marred participation. Within those constraints, Iglesias performed very well, beyond some of our expectations; but he performed a lot as a DH, a position of glut with the O’s. However, if it had been followed by a full second year of outstanding defense and his average (.278) offense, it would have merit. But the second year is simply not to be. And the acquisitions he was traded for will contribute zero to the O’s in 2021 while draining the organization’s wallet by being developmental expenses. So I would say that while Iglesias himself is a winner, the organization’s use of him, while reflecting opportunism, was not really smart.

  4. In The Triangle

    December 3, 2020 at 9:25 am

    I like the Iglesias trade. He’s going to be 31 next season. He played a little more than one month of a normal season. His OPS was more than 200 higher than any other season. Even with his production last year his WAR was 1.2. So with Martin out there we’re not losing much.

  5. Bancells Moustache

    December 3, 2020 at 9:26 am

    My intuition tells me they didn’t make this move to clear the way for a Francisco Lindor trade. I’m a little salty about the move, mainly because of the return. We all know Iglesias wasn’t long for this town but jeesh, the best they could get was 2 guys with a total of 3 Dominican Summer League games between them? And I’m pinning all my hopes on Stallings, since there has never in the history of the planet been something good named Pinto.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 3, 2020 at 10:13 am

      Steve, when you owned your Pinto, was it always Stallings?

      • Bancells Moustache

        December 3, 2020 at 2:32 pm

        Rebuilding year humor, I’m impressed.

    • CalsPals

      December 3, 2020 at 12:41 pm

      Rich, you need to stick with the baseball writing, comedy doesn’t become you…lol…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      December 3, 2020 at 2:57 pm

      It just drove like a TANK…lol…go O’s…

  6. CalsPals

    December 3, 2020 at 9:27 am

    Can you elaborate on the rules Elias feels us fans just wouldn’t understand regarding the arbitration process…thanks & go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 3, 2020 at 5:26 pm

      Uhhhhh .. what means “arcane”?

      (are we now free to bash Elias without direct retaliation?)

    • CalsPals

      December 3, 2020 at 6:12 pm

      Just depends who we “engage” with, Vic is pretty much having his way with Mikey…lol…we have to do it in an arcane way…then no one would know…lmao…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        December 3, 2020 at 9:06 pm

        Vic is my hero.

  7. Tony Paparella

    December 3, 2020 at 10:14 am

    Yea the immediate reaction was of disappointment after the nice year Iglesias had ( though injuries limited his impact).You have to surmise Elias picked those guys for a reason, especially Stallings.Not crazy about Valiaka filling in that position as he can play all over but not overly efficient in any of the positions from what so have seen. But like Elias says the shortstop for this year must likely isn’t on the team this year. Sanchez at second means a weak bat, which is ok if it is offset by other offensively productive individuals do we will have to see.Like a few have said on here the Orioles may get off to a slow start this year until everyone settles in and they get some stabilization in the infield especially. If they don’t resign Alberto it will be a good clubhouse guy missed but you have to look at the long term aspects of some of these decisions. It looks to me that Elias not only looking at the immediate future,but also the long term future for this team going forward. That is especially important in these days of one contract and then gone players.

  8. VegasOriole

    December 3, 2020 at 10:29 am

    Orioles regular 2021 shortstop is probably not on the team at present. So Rich, reading your articles lately seems like Hanser is coming back. Was looking at all the non tendered infielders, and no one looks as good. Only saw Jace Peterson and a scrub from the Royals.
    Since we have given up already on 2021, that also rules out Lindor, lol. Unless we pull a rabbit out of the hat and pluck a rule 5 or 19 year old Guatemalan middle infielder, Hanser will be back. He’s not much of a defensive middle infielder, and doesnt walk much but I do enjoy his at bats. Gotta admit he can hit lefties better than most, and this could be parlayed into yet another trade chip as Elias “stocks talent”. 2027 should be an exciting season!

  9. Phil770

    December 3, 2020 at 11:30 am

    Arbitration has been the bane of MLB for some time, so I get the non -tenders for Nunez, Hanser, even Villar last year. One dimensional players with limited market value. This trade, and Elias’ comments, just do not pass the “smell” test. If there was an MLB capable SS better than Iglesias, then why didn’t the Angels just sign him? Pitching, especially young pitching, at Camden Yards must have MLB excellent fielding. Not on the roster at a crucial defensive position. Resigning Hanser won’t fix that either. BB was never as popular in Houston or had the loyal fans as Balto. So Elias is going to need to step up his game if he continues to sell MLB hope with MiLB talent BS.

    • ClayDal

      December 3, 2020 at 12:27 pm

      The Angels lost their starting SS, Simmons, to free agency. Trading for Iglesias is similar to the Orioles trading for Trumbo when Davis was a FA. He’s insurance in case they can’t “just sign someone “. So in the end it works out for both teams-Angels get a SS, Orioles get more young pitchers

  10. Baltimore Castaway

    December 3, 2020 at 11:31 am

    I continue to be impressed with the job that Elias and his Front Office are doing to rebuild this Franchise from the Ground Floor up. He is a shard-minded evaluator himself and when you have a mastermind like Sig Mejdal working alongside you, they will succeed in this rebuild.

    Surprised he was as outspoken and candid as he was about the Orioles barren/bereft/nonexistent International Program was for the last generation under Old Man Potter…I mean Mr Angelos..

    If his goal is to have a stronger Farm System than the Rays and Yankees usually do, that is a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)….and I believe that they are well on their way to achieving this..

    Now–if we can get everyone vaccinated/immunized and get the Minor League situation straightened-out and finally let these kids play things will begin to manifest themselves to us long-suffering fans.

    • VICTORTEE

      December 3, 2020 at 3:52 pm

      Don’t write in praising yourself, Mike. It is really low class.

      Baltimore Castaway = Mike Elias.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        December 3, 2020 at 5:32 pm

        Be nice VT … but I have to admit …. that hair does look familiar……

        JUST JOKIN’ BC … keep up your awesome posting!

        • Baltimore Castaway

          December 3, 2020 at 10:51 pm

          Well gentlemen, I am mortified that you have blown my cover here….

          Time for me to take on another alias…

    • CalsPals

      December 4, 2020 at 7:12 am

      Thanks for playing along BC…go O’s…

  11. jimcarter

    December 3, 2020 at 12:30 pm

    The rebuild is about the future, the DISTANT future. This isn’t going to resemble what the White Sox did. Elias is more about one step forward and two steps back. By the time there’s a highly competitive product, average attendance will likely be in four figures.

    • VICTORTEE

      December 3, 2020 at 3:56 pm

      I am 68 YO. By the time the O’s are competitive I will be DEAD. But at least I got to see the great O’s teams of the late 60’s and 70’s. And lots
      of winning teams and Hall of Famers.

  12. Shamus

    December 3, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    Since we are not contenders yet, I say let Elias work his magic and make the moves to improve the team for the future. My money is on Elias and not all you GM wannabes .

    • VICTORTEE

      December 3, 2020 at 3:57 pm

      Maybe we can cheat like the Astro’s also.

    • CalsPals

      December 4, 2020 at 3:19 pm

      Bang your drum (garbage can)…go O’s…

  13. Chewy

    December 3, 2020 at 2:50 pm

    Elias is doing a great job. The farm system looks fantastic and money is being saved for when it is needed for a championship run. The Orioles are going to sign a few players after the Winter Meetings to fill the current holes. I believe this is the last year in Phase I of the rebuild where we are in pure sellers/tanking mode. 2022 will be the start of a 1-2 year Phase II where the Orioles will have lots of young talent in the majors and will start the winning mode but not sacrificing building more pieces for the future.

    • Birdman

      December 3, 2020 at 3:16 pm

      I agree with the first part that Elias is generally doing a very good job under difficult circumstances. Not sure about your confidence that the ownership will open the purse strings when it is needed for a championship run. Certainly hope you’re correct, but with the franchise confronting reduced attendance and reduced MASN revenue, I’m skeptical.

    • VICTORTEE

      December 3, 2020 at 4:00 pm

      All the young successful players brought up in 2020 were DAN’S guys !!! Please provide evidence Elias is doing a “great job”.

      • Phil770

        December 4, 2020 at 11:32 am

        Yeah, Dan did such a great job that development in the O’s system was non-existent. He did manage to put together a roster that lost more games than any team in O’s history. His early success was with a roster of McPhail guys. Elias has had 2 years as GM but only one full baseball season. I can’t say that Elias is the answer, but the last two years of his tenure, Dan’s rosters of highly paid players were unwatchable.

        • VICTORTEE

          December 7, 2020 at 8:37 am

          The fact remains that every successful young player on the O’s roster in 2020 was brought into the organization by Dan. FACT!!!
          Let’s see how many of the Boy Genius’s draft picks and trade acquisitions are successful in the bigs before we say what a great job he is doing.

    • CalsPals

      December 7, 2020 at 10:35 am

      Agree w/Vic…go O’s…

  14. dlgruber1

    December 3, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    Richie Martin upon hearing that Iglesias was traded-“Alright, they’re really showing confidence in me. I can’t wait til spring training to prove to them that they made the right decision.”
    Richie Martin after reading this:
    Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias made it clear in a Wednesday night video conference call that the Orioles’ regular 2021 shortstop is probably not on the team at present.
    “Wait, what did he just say?”

  15. WorldlyView

    December 3, 2020 at 7:41 pm

    The bottom line is that a 2021 season of any length is going to feature an O’s team depleted of strong MLB caliber players. I doubt that our collection of other teams’ castoffs, like the latest waiver acquisition Chris Shaw and his .153 career BA in the Bigs, will suddenly blossom, prepare for an embarrassing season potentially of 125-plus losses. And it will be interesting to see how all of these unproven young prospects we have amassed will get adequate playing time next year with the apparent loss of at least one farm team. Victor Tee is right: even if Boy Genius’s Master Rebuilding Program eventually succeeds in building a championship contender, some of us by that time will be, at best, too senile to appreciate it.

    • CalsPals

      December 3, 2020 at 8:17 pm

      2nd & 3rd that…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 3, 2020 at 9:10 pm

      WV!!! Who says Shaw won’t suddenly blossom?
      Gotta remember that The Boy Genius has installed a revolutionary ‘player development’ system. (I think that’s what we dinosaurs used to call a minor league coaching staff.) That after all , is why Mountcastle is so good. All Hail Mikey.

      • WorldlyView

        December 4, 2020 at 2:38 am

        Your comment about minor league coaching staffs triggered a long, long forgotten memory. When I was a very, very young boy, I saw several O’s games when they were in the International League. It seems to me that there were no coaches. I vaguely remember the manager as third base coach and a bench player coaching at first. Back then, some teams had 12-13 farm clubs, so maybe they could just let the cream rise to the top without benefit of daily instruction. For fans of historical baseball trivia, it might be interesting to learn when minor league coaching became a system-wide thing. Rich?

  16. johninbethany

    December 3, 2020 at 10:31 pm

    I’m keeping a spreadsheet of every trade that Elias has made. I’m sure some will turn out OK. This one? IDK, Stallings was drafted in 2019 and hasn’t even thrown a pitch as a professional ball player.

    2021 will just be another year like 2020, 2019,… be are to wake me up when the O’s are completive.

    • Phil770

      December 4, 2020 at 11:49 am

      I put together a spreadsheet of Dan’s trades and drafts (400+ picks). Not a pretty picture. I don’t like the trade and think Elias has done a disservice to the fans and the MLB roster. As for Stallings, the Angels do not put their drafted players onto short-season MiLB, so Angels did not permit him to pitch in 2019. There was no MiLB in 2020, so again not his fault – he continued to work out at Tenn. Elias admitted that he wanted to draft Stallings, but the Angels got him first. It is a reach in my opinion, and no doubt why so many on this site find Elias cocky and full of himself.

  17. willmiranda

    December 4, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Question for Rich. Last year the O’s avoided the cellar because Boston had a generational meltdown. Do you see them staying out of the basement in 2021? And do you agree with Elias that some year they’re just going to throw a switch and start winning at the major league level?

  18. WorldlyView

    December 4, 2020 at 6:16 pm

    I’m not Rich, but let me offer my humble views on your questions. The O’s should be overwhelming favorites to finish in the AL East cellar next year. Why? Because their roster will be overwhelmingly composed of players earning the MLB minimum wage, a salary that is commensurate with their relatively limited talent. As to when winning seasons return, it’s not a matter of throwing an imaginary switch. Three variables will determine the fate of the great rebuilding effort. First, we will not become contenders until if and when the gestation process transforms an “adequate” number of what are still relatively inexperienced prospects into high-caliber MLB players. The optimists assume that this is a given and will happen soon. The realists/pessimists don’t see this happening for several years at best. The second variable of when the great turnaround blossoms is how much better (or worse) other AL teams will get relative to the Baltimores. Finally, there is the question of whether the owners will actually spend the necessary money to complete and sustain an eventual turnaround. Will they be willing to shell out the money necessary to retain the stars of the future when they become free agent eligible, or will we be forced to trade them for yet another batch of Dominican teenagers? The current dependence on the waiver wire for infusions of warm bodies saves money, but it is a formula for failure, winning-wise.

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