With post-World Series housekeeping complete, Orioles roster offers plenty of room for change
When the Orioles fired four players from their 40-man roster on Sunday, they turned a metaphorical crater into a gaping hole.
The reinstatement of left-hander Keegan Akin, right-hander Jorge López, infielder Jorge Mateo and outfielder DJ Stewart from the 60-day injured list increased Baltimore’s roster of 40 players to 31. Since the end of the season regularly, the Orioles put 14 players on waivers. , while veteran pitchers Matt Harvey and Fernando Abad reached free agency.
In total, the 16 players who dropped off the 40-player roster in the first month of the offseason include 12 pitchers who have accounted for more than a quarter of Baltimore’s innings this season, as well as three catchers who were behind the marble for all but 159 ⅔ executives this season. The exodus left the Orioles without a backstop on their 40-man roster.
But there’s plenty of time for Executive Vice President and General Manager Mike Elias to address this and other areas. Although Elias has already openly admitted that the Orioles won’t be racing to the top of the free agent market, they are considering adding a veteran infielder on a short deal as they have the last two offseasons, with some signings. minor to bolster the expected pitching staff as well. At least one receiver, preferably a veteran ready to serve as a backup once top prospect Adley Rutschman arrives, would also be a logical addition.
Still, these nine openings aren’t just for free agents. The Orioles need to add a handful of prospects to the 40-man roster to keep them from becoming available to other teams in the Rule 5 draft, with pitchers DL Hall, Kyle Bradish and Kevin Smith and infielder Terrin Vavra most notable among those eligible and most likely to receive this treatment. It stands to reason that the Orioles will leave 40 spots open to make their own selections in the Rule 5 draft; Baltimore has taken two players in the major league stage each of the past three years under Elias.
It should be noted that Baltimore isn’t spending the offseason operating in a vacuum. Even though the Orioles aren’t particularly active this winter, other teams will make moves that will cause them to remove players from their 40-man rosters, and due to finishing with the league’s worst record in 2021, Baltimore will have actually the first dibs on the waiver wire throughout the offseason. To add players who fall from another team’s roster, the Orioles must have or make a spot for them on their own, though they’ve usually managed to find a way to do so with relative ease. Nearly one-fifth of the Orioles’ current 40-man roster is made up of players who have been taken off waivers.
With that said and with Baltimore’s post-World Series housecleaning complete, here’s a quick rundown of the situation for each position group on their 40-player roster:
The Orioles have squarely beaten Austin Wynns, Pedro Severino and Nick Ciuffo in quick succession over the past two weeks. Only Ciuffo did not enter free agency as a result, although he is now a pending minor league free agent. If he stays with the organization, he believes he has the chance to break camp with the club in the spring depending on other additions made. Ideally, the Orioles would just choose Rutschman to serve as opening day wide receiver, but under the current CBA — which expires Dec. 1 — there’s no long-term incentive for them to do so. .
Infielders (9): Rylan Bannon, Kelvin Gutiérrez, Jahmai Jones, Trey Mancini, Richie Martin, Jorge Mateo, Ryan Mountcastle, Tyler Nevin, Ramón Urías
The biggest question mark here is whether the Orioles choose to hang on to Mancini, who will be a free agent after 2022 and is set to get a big raise as he enters his final year of salary arbitration. . He largely served as a designated hitter on the stretch as he began to feel the physical wear and tear of returning from colon cancer, with Mountcastle managing the charge at first base. While Urías, Mateo and Gutiérrez made solid impressions with Baltimore, neither Martin nor Jones capitalized on their auditions. Bannon never had one, struggling in Triple-A outside of a two-week homer spree, while Nevin got a taste of the majors, hitting his first career homer on the final day of the season.
Outfielders (6): Yusniel Diaz, Austin Hays, Ryan McKenna, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, DJ Stewart
If healthy, Hays, Mullins and Santander are locks to serve as Baltimore’s starting outfielders in 2022, with the only stipulation being that Santander, as an arbitration-eligible player, not be moved or not submitted. . The Orioles could have put Stewart on a waiver rather than reinstating him from the 60-day IL, which is how they handled fellow former first-round pick Hunter Harvey, but they instead retained a player who has no only the best eye from one of their hitters, but also provides another left-handed option for manager Brandon Hyde. All of the above infielders, for example, are right-handed.
Starting pitchers (7): Keegan Akin, Michael Baumann, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, John Means, Alexander Wells, Bruce Zimmermann
Chris Ellis made six effective starts for the Orioles after coming on as a waiver request from the Tampa Bay Rays, but that effort wasn’t enough to avoid falling back on the waiver wire; no other team claimed Ellis, and he became a free agent. The move leaves Orioles rotation candidates as All-Star John Means and a slew of young pitchers, none of whom posted an ERA below 5.00 as rookies in 2021. Elias has shown a leaning for signing older pitchers to minor league deals to help out in that area.
Relief pitchers (9): Paul Fry, Joey Krehbiel, Brooks Kriske, Jorge López, Isaac Mattson, Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser, Dillon Tate, Tyler Wells
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Orioles eliminating their pitching staff isn’t who they let go, but who they hang on to. As the end-of-season waiver claims, Krehbiel and Kriske thought they were among the potential cuts as Baltimore sought to open up roster spots, but each survived — at least for now. Fry, López and Scott are all eligible for arbitration for the first time, each suffering severe ups and downs in 2021. If all three return, most of the Orioles relievers in 2022 should already be in place, with this trio joining Sulser, Tate and Wells.