Rookie Orioles GM Mike Elias held a long and interesting chat with Dan Connolly of The Athletic (subscription link), touching upon a host of topics of interest to the broader player market. The full interview transcript is essential reading for fans of the Baltimore organization, in particular, but we’ll cover a few key bits of hot stove relevance here.
Though the Orioles roster isn’t exactly brimming with trade chips, it does have a few of note. Elias says that trade chatter volume is “already very high.” Deadline work is “really the main thing that the front office staff and I are spending our time on now in the month of July.”
While he wasn’t willing and/or able to predict how many moves the O’s will end up swinging this summer, Elias left no doubt that he’s ready for action. He did drop a few clues on some key player assets as well. Elias suggested the Orioles put a high value on reliever Mychal Givens, saying that “he’s striking out more people than ever and is throwing really hard.” While the results haven’t been there for Givens, he figures to be a target of contenders in search of pen upgrades — as we discussed in ranking him the top O’s trade candidate.
The most valuable potential summer trade piece on the roster is surely outfielder Trey Mancini, a player examined not long back by MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk. Elias largely reiterated his previously stated stance on Mancini, calling him “a very big part of the future of this team” while reiterating that the team is “in a position in our competitive cycle where we need to be open to anything that comes our way.”
On paper, the single likeliest player to be moved is starter Andrew Cashner. Prior reporting indicates the organization is unsurprisingly quite willing to do so. The veteran righty threw his trade status into some uncertainty with some ambiguous recent comments (also in a chat with Connolly) in which he suggested he’d need to decide whether to accept a trade despite lacking no-trade protection. Elias wisely skirted the topic, saying: “I don’t read too much into it. It’s not anything that we’ve discussed.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a matter of no moment whatsoever. MLBTR’s Steve Adams has argued that Cashner ought to be shifted into a relief role; some clubs would surely consider him as such, particularly entering the postseason. They’ll want assurances that the hurler will report if they strike a deal, making some added work for Elias to avoid complications. The GM heaped praise upon Cashner, saying that he has enjoyed “a big bounceback” and “looks terrific.” No doubt the O’s will hope they can massage the situation and come away with a decent return.
If interest never develops on Cashner, it could still make sense to hang onto him. After all, the club has an interest in filling innings even in a hopeless season. Elias discussed the difficulty of keeping palatable arms on the roster. To his credit, he didn’t sugarcoat the situation or pull punches, acknowledging that the organization has had to rely on players that may not quite have been prepared for the challenge. “They’re working hard,” he said of the many members of the staff, “but it’s difficult to come up and compete in the major leagues [and] in this division against major-league hitters if you don’t have major-league command or major-league stuff or some combination of the two of those things.” The O’s hope to build out greater depth to further “stabilize” the pitching situation. “I think we’ve made some minor additions recently in the past couple weeks and we’ll continue to do that,” said Elias.
That doesn’t mean the long-term focus will change, of course. Elias cited “three broad goals” and identified progress in each area. “[E]levating the talent level across the organization” was an obvious key. The top Baltimore baseball decisionmaker says he was pleased with recent amateur efforts. He calls 1-1 draft pick Adley Rutschman “a player that, across draft years, is somebody that stands out.” Elias also praised the organization’s international efforts: “it was just important for us to get it going and I think that we even exceeded our own expectations.”
Of equal importance for long-term sustainability, Elias gave a glimpse of some of the less visible work being done:
“We also want to elevate the capabilities of our baseball operations department and we have certainly done that on the international side. But [Vice President & Assistant General Manager, Analytics] Sig Mejdal and staff are doing so much behind the scenes to equip our decision-makers and our player development people and our scouting people with tools that they need to do their jobs well and compete around the league and provide us with an edge, one day, in terms of our decision-making and our capabilities. And we’ve got a lot going on there. And we’ve also got all kinds of projects going on behind the scenes in terms of planning with infrastructure, with facilities and all that’s happening. And happening with the support and involvement of ownership. So, I really think we’re moving things in the right direction this year, in a big way. We’re doing it fast and we’re gonna keep going.”
In one other area of particular contractual interest, Elias again addressed the subject of highly paid former slugging star Chris Davis. The 33-year-old has had some moments this year, but there’s no denying that his problems are far from resolved. Elias reiterated the team’s commitment to Davis:
“He’s a big part of this team and this team’s history and we’ve got him here. So it makes sense for everyone to try to make the most of the situation and get him back to where he needs to be. We think it’s possible. And we’ve seen flashes of it and it’s a big priority for us.”
While one wonders whether the O’s will eventually have a breaking point with Davis, who’s owed $23MM annually through 2022 (a chunk of it deferred), the club obviously isn’t there yet.