It’s time for our monthly mailbag. I’ll be answering more questions later in the week. Questions may be edited for clarity, length and grammar.
Question: Where does Ramón Urías fit in on the 2023 Orioles? From: Bruce Hoffman via email
Answer: Bruce, Urías’ future has gotten much more interest from fans since he was named the Gold Glove third baseman. I think Gunnar Henderson will play third most of the time and Jorge Mateo starts at shortstop in 2023.
If the Orioles acquire a second baseman via trade or free agency or they decide to try Jordan Westburg there, it creates a hole for a super utility player, and I think Urías fits in there. He can play second, short and third, and his bat is good enough to be the designated hitter on occasion.
Question: What is the bigger “problem” for the Orioles — too many outfielders or too many infielders? From which group are they more likely to trade? From: Martin Bakner via Facebook
Answer: Martin, these are good problems to have. They have more established outfielders than established infielders, but more infield prospects than outfield prospects.
It’s probably more likely that they’ll trade one of their established outfielders. If they want to create more playing time for Kyle Stowers and perhaps later in 2023 for Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad, who was named the Arizona Fall League’s Most Valuable Player, they may have to trade multiple outfielders. Dylan Beavers is also a highly thought of outfield prospect, but finding room for him may be more of a 2024 issue.
As I mentioned above, they don’t have an immediate solution to second base, but they do have Westburg, Joey Ortiz, Darell Hernaiz, Connor Norby and Coby Mayo as prospects who are in the higher levels of the minor leagues. One or more of them could be moved to find starting pitching.
Question: It’s getting close to five years with Mike Elias and Brandon Hyde. How much longer will the Orioles stick with them? From: Stephen Johnson via Facebook
Answer: Stephen, I think Elias and Hyde, whose contracts are unknown, are likely to be with the Orioles for the foreseeable future. With the team’s 31-game improvement in 2022 and the number of prospects, I think both are secure in their jobs.
Question: If the Orioles sign a shortstop, who is a better fit — Carlos Correa or Trea Turner? From: David A. Lawson via Facebook
Answer: David, I would be surprised if the Orioles bid for either Correa or Turner. MLBTradeRumors.com believes Correa’s next contract will be for nine years and $288 million, and Turner’s will be eight years and $268 million. I can’t see the Orioles paying that much for any free agent now, but I’m willing to be surprised.
Question: With the Astros in the market for a general manager, what are the odds of Mike Elias returning there as the GM? From: Vince Celano via Facebook
Answer: Vince, that’s a popular question. Ray Kowatch also wonders about it. I rate an Elias return to Houston as unlikely. I don’t know his contract situation, but as long as he’s under contract, the Orioles could refuse the Astros permission if they ask to talk to him.
Elias has great freedom with the Orioles, and while it might be intriguing to work for a club with greater resources, I’ll bet he stays here. I wouldn’t be surprised if Houston asks for permission to speak with Sig Mejdal, a former Astros employee, who’s the assistant general manager in charge of analytics.
Question: Which position player is likely to be the first one to debut in 2023? From: @WalterMaselli1
Answer: Walter, my guess is Jordan Westburg. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the Opening Day second baseman.
Question: Why didn’t the Orioles re-sign Jordan Lyles? From: Mark Cooper via email
Answer: Mark, you’re one of a number of readers unhappy about the decision not to re-sign the starting pitcher. Glenn Fuller is another. I had hoped the Orioles would have picked up Lyles’ $11 million option for next season. Instead, he got a $1 million buyout.
They didn’t want to commit this much money to Lyles before they knew how the free-agent market would unfold, and they’re willing to engage with him during the winter. I think they wanted that extra $10 million to offer to other free agents who are starters and see if they can possibly sign Lyles if he remains unsigned later in the winter.
Question: Now that the Orioles declined to extend an offer to Lyles, do you think that decision will affect the level of interest that other potential free agents may have in playing here? Or would they view it as now the club has even more cash to spend? From: Marty Adams via email
Answer: Marty, I don’t think their refusal to pick up Lyles’ option would deter other free agents from playing in Baltimore. As I mentioned above, I don’t think they wanted to commit that much money to Lyles, but they might commit that money and more to other free-agent starters.
Question: What does it mean that outfielder Yusniel Diaz is no longer on the 40-man roster and is outrighted to Norfolk? From: Jack Wagonner in Salisbury
Answer: Jack was one of a few readers who asked about Diaz last week. He posed the question before Diaz elected free agency.
The Orioles needed space on the 40-man roster for prospects they need to protect from next month’s Rule 5 draft, and Diaz was removed to help create space.
He passed through waivers. No other major league team felt they had room on their 40-man roster for him, and had he not elected free agency, he wasn’t guaranteed an invitation to spring training but that probably would have happened.
Diaz was one of a number of former Orioles who filed for free agency last week. Outfielder DJ Stewart, pitchers Matt Harvey, Louis Head, Rico Garcia and Alexander Wells are the others. The minor leaguers who filed are pitcher Brenan Hanifee, catchers Andres Angulo, Brett Cumberland and Jacob Nottingham and infielder Chris Givin.
Question: Are you surprised the Orioles gave up on Alex Wells? From: Damon Stout via email
Answer: Damon, the Orioles’ roster is much talented than it was in 2021 when Wells made his debut, and they didn’t have room for him. His performance wasn’t great in 2021, and he missed most of 2022 because of an elbow injury.
Even without Jordan Lyles, the Orioles have Dean Kremer, Tyler Wells, Kyle Bradish, Austin Voth, Mike Baumann, DL Hall, Spenser Watkins and Bruce Zimmermann as starter candidates already on the 40-man roster. They’ll need to add Grayson Rodriguez and most likely Drew Rom to the 40-man by Tuesday.
They anticipate signing or trading for veteran starters, and I don’t see where Wells would fit in.
Question: I’m curious to know about professional baseball players who were/are huge fans of their hometown team. Do they have a hard time competing against them and/or do they make it clear they will only sign with certain teams? From: Ed Heiger via email
Answer: Ed, players don’t have a choice where they play when they’re drafted. They could decide they don’t want to play for the team that drafts them. Many players drafted after high school decide to go to college instead. College players are unlikely to pass on the team that drafts them because they’ll lose out on a valuable learning year.
Chas McCormick, the Houston Astros outfielder who played against the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, was a huge Phillies fan growing up but loved competing against them in the Series.
In free agency, a player can decide where they play but most will take the best offer and not worry about playing for the White Sox if they were a Cubs fans growing up.