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Inbox: What positives lie ahead for Orioles?

Beat reporter Joe Trezza answers Orioles fans' questions
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

It's not lost on us here at MLB.com how many questions we received this week pertaining to Yolbert Sanchez, the young Cuban shortstop the Orioles are considered favorites to sign when he's deemed eligible by Major League Baseball. Fear not, Orioles fans, we'll have a comprehensive piece about that situation hitting this site soon.

But for now, let's use this Inbox to tackle some of your non-Sanchez inquiries, while also looking ahead to the rapidly-approaching start of Spring Training.

It's not lost on us here at MLB.com how many questions we received this week pertaining to Yolbert Sanchez, the young Cuban shortstop the Orioles are considered favorites to sign when he's deemed eligible by Major League Baseball. Fear not, Orioles fans, we'll have a comprehensive piece about that situation hitting this site soon.

But for now, let's use this Inbox to tackle some of your non-Sanchez inquiries, while also looking ahead to the rapidly-approaching start of Spring Training.

"For a team just starting a rebuild what should we look for this season that shows the process is moving in a positive direction?"
-- Mark Baxter (@BaxToTheFuture) via Twitter

Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias was asked precisely this during his public question-and-answer session at FanFest last weekend, and this feels like a good place to share his response.

:: Submit a question to the Orioles Inbox ::

"I have a very clear goal for this season, I want to see the overall level of talent, up and down this organization, go up," Elias said. "I want to see it move in the right direction, and on top of that, I have a lot of goals behind the scenes with what we're doing in terms of improving the functionality and overall infrastructure of every department of baseball operations.

"But in terms of the results on the field, we want to see the level of talent go up," Elias continued. "A big part of that is the players that we have in our Minor League system already, and here in Baltimore already, getting better. ... That's my standard for this season. If it also comes with an improvement in our record, obviously that would be spectacular. But I don't want to put undue emphasis on areas that are not strategically relevant to where we need to take this organization and where it's going in the future. We just want to see the organization get more talented and get better."

Rough translation: You're search for progress will have to extend past the Orioles' win-loss record. And give Elias credit -- he's not sugar-coating anything here. He's being transparent, ambitious and vowing to be thorough.

So you can look at this a few ways. The Orioles are starting so bare in some key areas that improvement should be rather easy to see, namely in their international scouting and analytics operations. Moving forward in those realms will be a priority, and noticeable when it happens.

For tangible on-field results, keep an eye on how quickly young players develop and at what pace Elias infuses the farm system with more. Short-term success will be defined by how often and effectively he does so, whether it's through the Draft, the international market or converting veterans into prospects via trade. Other indicators will be how the use of analytics helps bolster the talent that is already in the system and the new regime's eventual success rate with regards to inherited players it decides to retain.

Video: Orioles prospects on expectations for 2019 season

"Any rumblings on short term free-agent signings the Orioles could look to flip at the Trade Deadline for more prospects or assets?"
-- Craig Mitchell (@bREwCRUITER) via Twitter

Any forays the Orioles take into the free-agent market are almost certain to fit this mold. Elias said last weekend that Baltimore's priority is pitching, and that likely means a starter to fill one of the open spots in the back end of its rotation. Given the early state of their rebuild and the cavalry of arms set to battle for bullpen roles this spring, the O's have little reason to spend significant money on a reliever.

They also aren't going to play at the top of the starting pitcher market, despite Elias' long ties to Dallas Keuchel in Houston. They're much more likely to take a flier on an established veteran or two, either on a one-year or Minor League deal, with the hopes of flipping that veteran later this summer for prospects.

So who is available and fits that mold? Gio Gonzalez, Wade Miley and Jeremy Hellickson would seem to, along with three pitchers Doug Brocail coached last summer in Texas: Doug Fister, Bartolo Colon and Yovani Gallardo. Edwin Jackson, still just 35 years old, is coming off a nice bounceback season with the A's. None, though, figure to move the needle much in terms of trade value.

"Do you think the performances of shortstops Adam Hall and Cadyn Grenier in the first few months of the season will have an effect on who the Orioles select first overall in June's MLB Draft?"
-- Shane Chills (@ShaneChills) via Twitter

Not even remotely. Teams draft what they discern to be the best talent available, regardless of position and regardless of who is already in the system. Especially when it comes to a No.1 overall pick.

Video: Grenier talks about his 1st professional season

"If Chris Davis has a stellar start and stays solid, do the O's trade him in July?"
-- Dave Fletcher (@thefrankletcher) via Twitter

It would have to be some start. While the Orioles and Davis are both hopeful for a rebound, the reality is, it'll be extremely difficult for Davis to rebuild his trade value. Never mind in a few short months.

Even if he bounces back, the money would be a major issue: Davis is still owed $92 million through 2022. Any team that trades for him would be on the hook for all of it, and Davis' best skill, when at his best -- hitting for power -- has become easier to find than ever before.

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.

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