Normally, Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias would be working with his staff at baseball’s annual Winter Meetings. But instead of being in Dallas, he’s at home, meeting with his staff on Zoom because of the pandemic.
“We groan about some of the repetition of it, but this is making me appreciate the event even more,” Elias said in a video conference call on Tuesday.
He’d prefer to meet with executives with other teams to discuss trades and with agents who are pitching players.
“I think we all miss that, and I hope that this is the last time this is the case,” Elias said. “We’ve tried to simulate a little bit of the meeting in this department, but certainly that hasn’t been the same.”
The offseason has been slow, but Elias said that could change.
“I do think that the level of activity and discussion seems to be picking up this week,” he said. “Whether that’s because this is the traditional Winter Meetings week or whether it’s just because we’re at the point in the offseason where the tender deadline has passed and people are ready to make their moves, I don’t know. I do sense a little greater level of conversation from the team-to-team front in the past two days.”
On December 2nd, the Orioles traded shortstop José Iglesias to the Los Angeles Angels for minor league pitchers Jean Pinto, 19, and Garrett Stallings, 23, and didn’t offer second baseman Hanser Alberto a contract.
“We’ve got a hole to fill after the Iglesias trade,” Elias said. “We’ve got internal competition for that, but I do think we’re going to need some external entrants to that competition at minimum.
“…We’re looking at a broad spectrum of guys on the shortstop market. There are names of many year major league veterans that have been starting shortstops that probably would fit the characteristic of somebody you’d anoint prior to camp.
“There are other young players, either on the trade market or on the free-agent market that have not established themselves yet but would be very interesting entrants to our infield mix and would probably be the odds-on favorite to start the season at shortstop if they were to join our team.”
Elias said the Orioles have players who’ve played multiple positions on his list for replacing Iglesias. One of them is Yolmer Sánchez, who the team acquired on waivers from the Chicago White Sox. Sánchez won the Gold Glove at second base in 2019 with Chicago.
“We’ve got guys on our team like that right now,” he said. “Yolmer Sánchez is going to be really interesting to see when he’s over at shortstop in spring training. I’m not saying we’re counting on that or penciling it in, but there are a lot of players nowadays who have that type of versatility … Until we ultimately make that acquisition, we’re going to look at a lot of different types of guys.”
Elias has another area he’d like to bolster.
“I think any season, any team, top to bottom would be looking for starting pitching depth,” he said. “Whether that’s on a major or minor league deal, we’ll see. We’re certainly in the market for that even though I feel that we have a pretty strong group entering the year in terms of the rotation.
“You’ve got [Alex] Cobb and [John] Means as very established major league starters. We’ve had two very successful debuts in the minor leagues in [Keegan] Akin and [Dean] Kremer, and we have a few more guys that we’ve just added to the 40-man roster who can also compete as with Bruce Zimmermann and others. We’ll be adding to the outside from that group.
“I think we have opportunity to sell in that ours can be a relatively easy team to crack, so we’ll see. That’s definitely on the agenda in terms of additions to the big league mix.”
Elias says he doesn’t expect to sign any free agents to multi-year contracts. He signed Iglesias to a one-year deal with an option for 2021 in January but hasn’t yet signed a free agent to a contract longer than one year.
“It was advantageous signing Iglesias on that type of contract, but if it means getting the guy that we want or the salary level that we want, it’s something that we’ll definitely look at it.”
During the 2020 season, the Orioles traded relievers Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens, and with the Iglesias deal last week, there may not be many veterans left to deal.
“We’re still entertaining trades off the major league roster,” Elias said. “It doesn’t mean anything’s going to happen. In fact, I wouldn’t say anything is particularly likely at this point. We’re more certainly open to it and looking at it.
“I think everyone who follows baseball understands that when someone is approaching the end of their contract, like [Iglesias] with one year left for a rebuilding club, that’s a much different calculus than when we have young players that are two years into their career, three years into their career and have the opportunity to be here when we turn the corner and make it back to the playoffs. We’re going to take that with a lot of caution, and it’s really going to be a high bar for us to clear if we were to entertain trading somebody like that.”