O's boost infield, add Martin in Rule 5 Draft
Baltimore acquires infielder Jackson in trade with Phils, nets righty Grover in Triple-A phase
LAS VEGAS -- The Orioles arrived at the Winter Meetings with the imperative of increasing their depth and addressing their roster's glaring holes in the center of the diamond. They left having taken the initial steps toward doing both, as they acquired two middle infielders in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft.
Baltimore selected shortstop Richie Martin with the No. 1 overall pick, then it acquired infielder Drew Jackson in a trade with Phillies shortly after the draft's completion. Martin, the A's first-round pick in 2015, is a glove-first shortstop who enjoyed a breakout season offensively in '18. He was widely viewed as the top available talent in the annual auction.
Jackson, who was acquired for international singing bonus slot money, was originally plucked from the Dodgers' system earlier in the morning.
"These selections really strike what [general manager] Mike [Elias] has been talking about increasing the overall value in the organization, getting better and getting more depth," O's director of baseball operations Tripp Norton said. "Shortstops are a hole for us right now. … Acquiring Richie and Drew gives us options to look at in Spring Training in regards to our shortstop situation."
Martin and Jackson must remain on the Orioles' active roster all season, or else they will be offered back to their respective clubs for $50,000. Martin's selection came with an initial $100,000 cost for Baltimore.
It's a low-risk gamble for a team not expecting to contend in 2019, and one the Orioles decided was worth taking. Whether it's Martin or incumbent Jonathan Villar who gets the majority of the reps at shortstop is secondary -- the O's are focused squarely on compiling versatile, young players, and they were active during the Winter Meetings in doing so.
The Orioles fly east with three new infielders with the ability to move around, having also added Rio Ruiz on a waiver claim earlier in the week. Martin sprinkled in 21 games at second base last season, and he is seen as athletic enough to play anywhere on the infield.
"With Richie, we saw him as an above-average defender with plus range, with a plus arm at short and someone who can also move over to play second base," Norton said. "He had a resurgence offensively this year at Double-A. We view that as trending up."
The 23-year-old Martin hit .300 with a .368 on-base percentage in his second crack at Double-A Midland, where he also swiped 25 bases and hit 29 doubles and six home runs in 118 games. But that marked the first productive campaign at the plate for Martin, who hit just .235 over his first 915 professional at-bats. Those fairly recent struggles prompted the A's to leave their No. 12 prospect unprotected.
Jackson has played primarily at shortstop and second base during his career, but he has also seen time at third and center field. The Dodgers' No. 19 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Jackson hit 15 home runs with an .804 OPS this year at Double-A Tulsa, where he played mostly second. Norton compared him to former Orioles infielder Ryan Flaherty.
Baltimore also added right-hander Taylor Grover from the Reds in the Triple-A phase of the draft, where they lost four players: right-hander Jeffeson Mednia (selected by the Rangers), second baseman Corban Joseph (A's), first baseman Wilson Garcia (Indians) and outfielder Randolph Gassaway (Pirates). Baltimore's 40-man roster is now full.