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Fans often say they’d like to go to the Winter Meetings. They imagine it as a sort of baseball winter carnival. I’m not sure I’d describe it that way, but let’s take a look at some of the annual events and what could happen for the Orioles.
The Winter Meetings return to Nashville for the first time since 2015. They’re not held in downtown Nashville with its bustling streets full of music fans, but in a large, sprawling hotel about 10 miles from downtown.
Gaudily decorated for the holiday season, the hotel is a tourist attraction with people who have no interest in baseball marveling at the winter wonderland.
Then, there are those who are there for baseball.
Besides Nashville, the Winter Meetings have been held in recent years at Disney World hotels, National Harbor just outside of Washington, Las Vegas, and my personal favorite, San Diego.
San Diego isn’t my favorite just because of the favorable weather, but because it’s in the heart of a city, and you can get decent food off premises. It’s also the only venue I’ve been where the minor league meetings are held in a separate hotel, reducing the number of job seekers who crowd the lobby.
Many eager young people looking for their first job in baseball try to arrange for interviews, and baseball veterans who are out of a job try to buttonhole executives who might be passing through.
You’ll see lots of people you’ll recognize, players meeting with teams, former players who have products they’re peddling, and occasionally even an owner.
Late at night, the lobby is crowded with people exchanging gossip or catching up as they vie for space at overcrowded bars and restaurants.
For Oriole writers, we get invited to the team suite late each day to question executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.
In Elias’ first Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, he thought he could sneak Brandon Hyde, whom he was about to hire as Orioles manager, through the hotel. However, writers who recognized Hyde tweeted that he was nearing a deal to become manager.
Elias had left MLB Network’s feed on without the sound and was embarrassed when the ticker reported that Hyde was going to be named Orioles manager.
He quickly learned there were few secrets at the Winter Meetings.
Hyde and the other 29 major league managers are available for group interviews once during the three-day event, though in 2018, we had extra time because the Orioles technically didn’t have a manager. He was officially named manager just after the Winter Meetings ended.
That wasn’t the most bizarre scene. That came in 2014 when word came on our flight to San Diego that Elias’ predecessor, Dan Duquette, was negotiating with the Toronto Blue Jays to become team president.
Duquette was on that flight but dodged our questions when we deplaned, and eventually the story died down.
The Orioles haven’t made much intentional news during the meetings, though Elias did announce Kyle Gibson’s signing for $10 million at his first availability last year, also in San Diego. That news had been out for two days, but it was nice to get confirmation.
Often, the Orioles will announce when they sign players to minor league contracts or make waiver claims during the meetings.
They haven’t made a trade during the Winter Meetings in years, though there doubtless will be stories linking them to other team’s starting pitchers.
Nor have they made an agreement to sign a major free agent in a long time, and there’ll be plenty of reports that they’re in on various players.
Elias and Hyde will be asked about the status of the starting rotation and bullpen for next season, but since there are players still to be added, their answers will be incomplete.
There’ll be an announcement of the winner of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s annual Career Excellence Award. That person goes to Cooperstown in July for enshrinement as does the winner of the Ford Frick Award for broadcasters.
In 2014, Dick Enberg, who lived in San Diego, came to the meetings after he was named the winner and regaled the writers with stories about his past.
Super agent Scott Boras will hold court later in the meetings, finding a place in the lobby while dozens of writers and cameras crowd around him as he entertains with pithy remarks about how his clients are the best in baseball and worthy of megadeals.
Last year, the first lottery for the amateur draft was conducted, but there’s no need for the Orioles to attend this year since they’re slated to draft 24th next July.
Perhaps commissioner Rob Manfred will take questions during the meetings. He always makes some news.
The meetings will conclude on Wednesday afternoon when the Orioles, who have four open spots on their 40-man roster, could select a player or two in the Rule 5 draft. They’ve participated in every draft since 2006, and the guess here is that streak will continue.
The hope is that it won’t be the biggest news coming out of the Winter Meetings for the Orioles.
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