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Projected as MLB's worst team, Orioles enter winter meetings with business of improving from the top

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

This week's winter meetings in Las Vegas mark the beginning of the baseball calendar in earnest, and provide an idea of why the Orioles will be content carrying on their managerial and front-office interviews while letting the whir of 2019 roster-building go on around them.

The latest edition of FanGraphs’ 2019 projections, which take into account the beginning of free agency and last month's non-tenders, have the Orioles projected as the worst team in the major leagues at 63-99, four games worse than the next-worst team, the Miami Marlins.

While that would represent a 16-game improvement from their 115-loss 2018 season, the Orioles' stated plans of building an "elite talent pipeline" under new general manager and executive vice president Mike Elias includes a lot more infrastructure work at this juncture than adding to the major league roster.

A team whose projected lineup's leader in wins above replacement (WAR) is third baseman Renato Núñez — a waiver claim last year — at 1.9 certainly lends itself to that long-term thinking.

The team projections have the Orioles 35 wins shy of the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox (98-64), while the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays are projected to win 93 and 84 games, respectively. Toronto isn't far behind with 79 wins.

It's as significant a gap as there is on the site's projections, and considering the Orioles won't have much in the way of big acquisitions to boost their expectations, it's the clearest illustration possible that however boring it might be, these meetings will be best spent focusing on building the organization that Elias wants in Baltimore.

The list of vacancies is rather significant, most notably with the managerial job that the Orioles began interviewing for last week. Those will continue in Las Vegas, where the entire baseball world is at the Mandalay Bay. They also have significant analytics hires to make under assistant general manager Sig Mejdal, and need directors of scouting and player development to replace Gary Rajsich and Brian Graham, respectively.

It's a tall list of tasks, but considering how much distance there is between the Orioles and the rest of the league, their business this week will continue to build the scaffolding for their rebuild so they can start from the studs.

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