NASHVILLE — As the first day of MLB winter meetings comes to a close, the Orioles have stayed quiet. And there’s a good chance it will stay that way all week.
Orioles general manager and Executive Vice President Mike Elias said the team is in search of a starting pitching upgrade and a reliever, ideally with closer experience, but he feels no pressure to check off anything on his offseason wish list this week.
“Definitely no sense of urgency,” Elias said. “I’ve never been one to view these meetings as some type of compressed time frame where you have to do something. It’s just not the way we approach these meetings. ... We’re not worried about making any deals while we are here.”
The trade market, he noted, has been slow, as not many teams are openly rebuilding. Only one team has signed a player so far — the Brewers bringing back left-handed pitcher Wade Miley.
Until the Orioles have their offseason agenda complete, the roles of DL Hall and Tyler Wells will be up in the air. Both have starter experience and have expressed the desire to return to a starting role, but ended last season playing pivotal roles in the bullpen.
“That’s going to be determined by how well they are throwing, but also who their teammates are and what their teammates look like,” Elias said.
Hall, who was one of the organization’s top pitching prospects, was primarily a starter in the minor leagues. But, after seeing a decrease in velocity and output, he spent part of his season in Sarasota rebuilding his strength. He was brought back to the majors in August and pitched to a 2.76 ERA out of the bullpen.
Wells was the Orioles’ top starter in the first half and an All-Star candidate, but was optioned in July after fatigue set in as he neared a career-high in innings. He returned at the end of September after decreasing his workload and pitched 3 1/3 scoreless playoff innings.
“We know both guys have had success in the bullpen,” Elias said. “Long term, both of these guys have the pitch mixes and deliveries to start. I think we may see one in the rotation and one in the bullpen. We may see both in the bullpen.”
Both of them in the rotation, however, is unlikely. The Orioles have four starters set to return next year — Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish, John Means and Grayson Rodriguez — and only need to fill one spot unless an injury occurs.
As for the external options, the Orioles are open to finding a starter that can fill any role in their rotation, whether it be a front-line arm or a No. 5 pitcher to round out the group.
“I don’t like to talk about starting pitching depth when the baseball gods are in eavesdrops,” Elias said. “I’m hopeful that this pitching staff will look stronger at the end of the offseason than it did a month ago, but the way, shape or form or person that that’s coming in, I just don’t have a crystal ball right now.”
The Orioles are hoping to add a reliever, too, to fill the void left by Félix Bautista, who had Tommy John surgery in October. Wells and Hall could also both be late-innings options. Dillon Tate, a mid-to-late inning reliever who missed all of last season with a flexor tendon strain, is expected to be healthy next year and will add some depth.
Also on their list, albeit a much lower-priority, is a right-handed outfielder. That role was played by Aaron Hicks last year, but he is now a free agent.