Elias: Joseph on Orioles' radar

December 16th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- As the Orioles look to fill out their roster for 2020, is a reunion with former catcher on the horizon?

"He's on the radar screen for us," executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said Saturday. "We're looking at some catching depth options, and we'll see where it lands. But we would love to have him back, for sure. He was great throughout his time here and a very welcome member of the organization."

That was just a sampling of the front-office insight nearly 1,000 fans who braved the rain received during a panel with Elias, manager Brandon Hyde and assistant general manager Sig Mejdal during Saturday's inaugural "Winter Warm-Up" event on Eutaw Street.

Joseph was non-tendered by the D-backs on Dec. 2 after compiling a .211/.250/.263 slash line in 38 big league at-bats during his one year with Arizona. If added back to the organization, Joseph would join Pedro Severino, Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns in competition for the catching spots, though Hyde indicated on Saturday that Severino is in line to get "a lot of innings behind the plate" in 2020.

Here's a rundown of what else fans heard about on Saturday:

More on the 2020 roster

Joseph was not the only instance of inquiries about 2020. Due to the departure of Jonathan Villar, the Orioles have holes to fill in the middle of the infield. In-house, Baltimore is looking at prospects Rylan Bannon and Mason McCoy to move up after starting the year in the Minors. Until then, those vacancies will most likely be filled by free agents.

"We might give [Bannon] some time at shortstop this year and see what that looks like," Elias said. "Those guys will be in Spring Training. … They're coming, but they still need to spend more time in Triple-A and keep developing."

Even Ryan Mountcastle could fill that hole at some point. Elias said recently that the club's No. 4 prospect has seen his fielding program extend to right field, adding on Saturday that second base is also in play for the original corner infielder.

"I don't think any of us have had a personal look at it, but it's something that we might try to mix in here and there," Elias said. "I don't think any of us project him as an everyday second baseman defensively, but it might be something that he's capable of doing."

Asked about scouring the free-agent market for veterans who can instill leadership and stability into the Orioles' youth, Elias said that he appreciates that quality but hesitates to sign a veteran who may stymie the development of a young player, citing John Means' and Anthony Santander's success in 2019 as examples.

"It's a very important component in a rebuild," Elias said. "As we are looking out in the free-agent market this winter, that is something that we are keeping in mind. The balance that we have to strike, especially in this early stage where we are trying to audition a lot of young players, is we don't want to block spots where a Santander or Means get this wonderful opportunity to play for a full year."

Eyes on the 2020 Draft

Elias said that the plan of attack for the 2020 Draft began back at the conclusion of the '19 iteration. So far, the front office sees this upcoming Draft class as college-heavy -- and one more laden with arms to that end.

The Orioles, who have the No. 2 pick in the June Draft, could be looking at right-hander Emerson Hancock from the University of Georgia or first baseman Spencer Torkelson from Arizona State -- the top two 2020 prospects at the moment, according to MLB Pipeline.

No matter what, Elias stressed what the organization has felt all along: adding the best available talent. "We're going to take whoever we feel is the best guy," he said.

Preaching patience

Asked how the Nationals' World Series triumph may turn casual fans in Baltimore toward their neighbors in the south, the Orioles brain trust once again pleaded for patience during this ongoing rebuild.

"The fact that the Nationals won the World Series, it's good for baseball in the region," Elias said. "But, more specifically, I look at it from the perspective of I remember where they were, and they built that organization the way we are building the Orioles right now. … We look forward to getting back on equal footing with them one day."

"We fully get it that it's hard to watch at times. It's frustrating, and it's frustrating in the chairs that we are sitting in also," Hyde said. "… We just want everybody to buy in to what's going on, because I think there's a lot of positive things going forward."