Elias: Iglesias helps 'further our rebuilding'

O's open to continue adding via free-agent and trade markets

January 7th, 2020

Despite acknowledging that the Orioles are unlikely to compete for a postseason berth in 2020, Baltimore executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said Tuesday that the signing of underscores another truth: that rebuilding can be a two-pronged approach.

While trades like the deals of Jonathan Villar and Dylan Bundy infused five young pitchers into the Orioles’ system, their departures also created short-term vacancies at the Major League level that Elias said the club remains open to filling through free agency.

“We needed a starting shortstop this year,” Elias said. “We’re still mindful of development and the core we’re building internally for the future, but we are cognizant of wanting a stable product on the field. We want a good defense behind our pitching staff. We want good players out there. José is that and he makes us better. Even though we are eyeing the future and that’s where our focus is, we’re keeping our eye on the Major League talent market as well.”

Additionally, Elias said that the presence of the 30-year-old Iglesias would help “further our rebuilding objectives” from a leadership perspective, adding that “not everything is going to come from within. There are certain jobs that need to be done really well.”

Elias cited shortstop, center field and catcher as particular examples, and that the Orioles remain in the market for depth in all those areas. But with shortstop filled, the higher priority appears to be on the pitching side, where Baltimore currently has roughly eight rotation candidates but few locks outside John Means and Alex Cobb.

None of the prospects that the Bundy and Villar deals netted them -- Kyle Bradish, Zach Peek, Kyle Brnovich, Isaac Mattson and Easton Lucas -- are immediate rotation candidates. As of now, recently signed righty Kohl Stewart and Asher Wojciechowski figure to battle prospects Keegan Akin, Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker for backend roles.

Elias did not close the door on potentially adding to that calculus, nor on seeking deals for holdovers veterans such as Trey Mancini or Mychal Givens. On the free-agent front, there could be a fit for a veteran starter at the right price. Accounting for projected raises for their four remaining arbitration-eligible players, the Orioles’ payroll current stands at around $59 million, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts, down roughly $21 million from its 2019 Opening Day total.

“The moves we made earlier in the winter, we got five young pitchers back that we like that are part of our future now that are contributing to our strategic objectives,” Elias said. “But that does not rule us out looking to bring in veteran talent that makes sense for us, that helps the team, that fills the team, that will radiate out to the rest of the club.

“We are going to talk on a daily basis with other teams. We’ll hear what’s going on. We’ll hear what’s out there, and if something comes along that we feel makes us more talented in the long haul, we’re going to entertain it. As the clock of the offseason winds down, the odds naturally lean toward status quo. But we’re still out there working. We’re still having trade discussions and talking to free agents and potentially signing more players. We are monitoring everything as we always do. As the season is getting closer, that’s still the case.”