O's new brass shifts focus to Winter Meetings

No. 1 pick in Rule 5 Draft could bring hidden gem to Baltimore

December 6th, 2018

When the baseball world descends on Las Vegas for this year's Winter Meetings, it'll mark a week of firsts for the new executives atop the Orioles' front office. The annual industry gathering will provide Mike Elias a chance to rub shoulders with other team leaders for the first time as the O's executive vice president and general manager, while allowing for initial in-person meetings with representatives of players Baltimore could target to shore up its roster heading into 2019.
For a few days in the desert, the focus will shift to those on-field decisions for a regime that has spent the Hot Stove season thus far filling out front-office positions and zeroing in on a manager. What follows is a breakdown of what the Orioles' needs are, where they stand on trades and how they might behave at the Winter Meetings and beyond.
Club needs
The short answer is that the Orioles need more than any other team in baseball. Baltimore is the only club without a manager or coaching staff, and the club will spend much of the winter filling the slew of unoccupied executive, analyst and programming positions in its revamped front office.
As for the roster, the O's need starters at either middle-infield position, third base, two outfield spots and possibly catcher. Outside of the top three rotation spots and closer, nearly every pitching role remains fluid and can be upgraded.

Whom might they trade?
The Orioles appear to be largely done dealing after trading most of their assets by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. As was the case then, Chris Davis remains virtually unmovable. The same goes for , who is recovering from right knee surgery. There is also likely little market at this point for Alex Cobb, and the rest of last year's veteran holdovers, many of whom slumped to career-worst production in 2018.
Prospects to watch
The Orioles are focused on adding to their farm system, so don't expect , Yusniel Diaz, , or any other blue-chippers to be dealt in the weeks to come. For Elias and his staff, 2019 will be about assessing the pieces already in place and identifying which can provide value both in the long and short term. For the likes of Hays, Diaz, Tate and several others, this likely means opportunities at the big league level.

Rule 5 Draft
Here is where the Orioles figure to be active, and perhaps opportunistic. Baltimore owns the No. 1 pick in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, and it possesses as much roster flexibility as any team in the game. That's true even though the O's 40-man roster has only two open spots -- Elias will not be shy about reconfiguring the 40-man roster to clear space for high-value additions. With the Orioles not expecting to contend in 2019, there is little risk in the year-long commitment Rule 5 Draft selections require.
As for targets, Elias has history with Houston right-hander Riley Ferrell and connections to the St. Louis organization that developed righty Junior Fernandez, then left him unprotected. The player Baltimore is in most in danger of losing is probably No. 29 prospect Luis Gonzalez, a 26-year-old left-handed reliever.
Payroll summary
After last summer's trades, the Orioles have around $77 million on the books for 2019. Davis accounts for more than a quarter of that number, which is nearly half of last year's Opening Day payroll of $148 million, per Cots Contracts. They'll have to spend more this offseason to fill out the roster, but at the start of a full rebuild, there is little reason to expect the O's expenditures will approach their $120 million to $160 million budgets of the recent past.