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Orioles reset: Reviewing the offseason moves, and what they mean for 2021

After a quiet holiday break for most of baseball (sans the aggressive San Diego Padres), the league and the Orioles are back at it with spring training suddenly a month and a half away and a list of questions to address before the season begins.

At a league-wide level, the relatively slow offseason seems to have plenty to do with the unique nature of last season and the possibility that the coming season could be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic as well. But, according to a report from The Athletic, spring training is set to begin on time in mid-February, so there’s a moving deadline of sorts to get most of the offseason business done by the time camp starts.

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With that in mind, here’s a review of what the Orioles have done so far this offseason and the fallout those moves left on the rest of their offseason:

Rebuild staples Hanser Alberto and Renato Núñez are free agents

Since this new regime under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde took over in the 2018 offseason, no one has played more games than Renato Núñez’s 203. Next was Hanser Alberto with 189. Baseball’s December deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players, essentially locking them into a raise, meant both players were released and won’t be back in 2021.

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Núñez was a quiet presence in the clubhouse but had stretches in which he carried the offense on his own — in between longer stretches without any production at all. Alberto was more of an energetic presence who drove many of the team’s on-field successes with his spirit. But they came into the team as inexpensive waiver claims meant to fill a role during the rebuild, and are now likely to be replaced by less expensive players in 2021.

So that means: Not much for the rest of the offseason, at least. Alberto’s replacement seems to be waiver claim Yolmer Sánchez, who has a Gold Glove on his resume at second base and will be making $1 million this year. Núñez’s first base/designated hitter at-bat will presumably be split between Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle, so the Orioles are covered there as well.

José Iglesias was traded to the Angels

Around this time last year, the Orioles signed veteran shortstop José Iglesias to a one-year contract with a second-year option. Immediately, Iglesias spoke of wanting to contribute on the field with his improving offense and off the field with his presence on a young team. In each circumstance, he exceeded expectations, so it was natural that the Orioles picked up his 2021 option to keep him around.

The decision at the beginning of December to trade him to the Los Angeles Angels for two pitching prospects was less natural, but Elias said the return was too good to pass up for a team in the Orioles’ position.

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So that means: Essentially, they’re trying to find another Iglesias — a reliable, short-term shortstop who can stabilize their infield and maybe be a lineup spark as well. That it’s the offseason and the market is still flush with free agents helps their cause, though the top of the market featuring Didi Gregorius and Andrelton Simmons will likely be out of their price range. Someone like Daniel Robertson might not be.

The offseason additions haven’t been big ones

Outside of Sánchez, the award-winning infielder, there hasn’t been a lot of name recognition among the Orioles’ offseason acquisitions. Corner bat Chris Shaw was claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants, pitchers Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells were selected in the Rule 5 draft, and their most notable minor league free agent was left-hander Fernando Abad.

So that means: The precedent doesn’t exist for the Orioles to make big offseason splashes when it comes to adding players, and this is no exception. It’s likely there will be some experienced starting pitching depth on minor league deals, and a shortstop to compete with Richie Martin and Pat Valaika in camp. But his Orioles offseason is quiet for a reason.

There are some new coaches on the major league staff

With pitching coach Doug Brocail and third base coach José Flores not returning in 2021, the Orioles elevated director of pitching Chris Holt to the major league staff as pitching coach and announced Tuesday that Tony Mansolino, most recently the Cleveland Indians’ infield coordinator, would be the third base coach.

Otherwise, they have a stable staff that features just two holdovers — major league field coordinator Tim Cossins and assistant hitting coach José Hernandez — remaining from Hyde’s first staff.

So that means: Mansolino comes with the player development background that seems to be a prerequisite with the Orioles these days, and his coaching will be vital with what could be a young and makeshift infield. As for Holt, he faces plenty of responsibility with his work in the big leagues and the minors but seems to have a good infrastructure in place on the farm to allow that to continue running the way it has been as he works with the young pitchers at the big league level.

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