As Monday’s deadline approaches to protect players in the Rule 5 draft, the Orioles continue to deliberate on the number of additions to their 40-man roster.
They have 10 openings with the removal of their free agents, so space isn’t a concern. They won’t protect that many players, but it’s nice to have the flexibility.
“We have a number of players under consideration,” said executive vice president Dan Duquette. “The roster deadline is Monday, so we’re going to work on that through the weekend. Ideally, we’d like to save some room to sign some players.”
Pitcher Hunter Harvey is the slam-dunk of the group. I’m expecting infielder Steve Wilkerson to be placed on the 40-man roster based on his season at Double-A Bowie, his impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .317/.396/.512 with three doubles, five triples, one home run and 10 RBIs in 23 games with the Salt River Rafters, and the Orioles’ need for a utility infielder. Wilkerson will compete for the job if he stays.
Baysox catcher Austin Wynns has plenty of supporters in the organization, including Duquette, manager Buck Showalter and director of player development Brian Graham. And the Orioles’ catching depth would take a hit without him, considering how Francisco Peña and Audry Perez are minor league free agents. He’s definitely in the discussion.
The Orioles will leave room on the 40-man for players signed as free agents or acquired in trades. Of course, they can always subtract if they’re full.
They routinely keep at least one opening for the Rule 5 draft. They added outfielders Anthony Santander and Aneury Tavárez at last year’s Winter Meetings and pitchers Jason Garcia and Logan Verrett in 2014, so one isn’t always enough. But it isn’t a certainly that they’ll make a selection next month since Santander must be kept on the active roster for the first 44 days of the season.
Assumed, yes, but not a guarantee.
“The club has been active in the Rule 5 draft,” Duquette said, “although this year we have a carryover in the Rule 5 in Anthony Santander.”
Makes you wonder whether they’ll try to carry two of them on opening day.
“We’ll add a couple of players, a couple of obvious players,” Duquette said. “And then we’re going to have to sift through and look at what the opportunity is for some of the other guys in the minors.”
Having so many tough choices is a good reflection on a farm system that’s on the rise.
“The outside reviews on our player development operation are pretty good this year,” Duquette said. “A lot of outside sources have upgraded the Orioles’ player development operation and they’re primarily doing that because we had a number of players that came back and had some good years.
“We had some players who were high draft picks, like Hunter Harvey, who looks like he’s healthy, and DJ Stewart, who had a really good year in Double-A, particularly in the second half when he showed the power and speed and the promise that he showed in college and the club made him the top pick. Those guys are in the mix, and beyond that we have a little bit more depth.
“(Trey) Mancini had a good year. He wasn’t on a lot of people’s radars going into the season, but he had a good year and was recognized in the voting for Rookie of the Year. And some of these other guys came along and had pretty good years.”
As reported a few weeks ago, all of the coaches have been invited back for the 2018 season and the Orioles are in the process of gathering signatures on new contracts. Most of the deals expired on Oct. 31. The ones belonging to third base coach Bobby Dickerson, bullpen coach Alan Mills and assistant hitting coach Howie Clark expire on Dec. 31.
“We’ve been working on that situation, but it’s not completely resolved,” Duquette said. “We’re still working on that and we’ll try to get that resolved this week. We made offers to the coaches and there’s another group of coaches whose contracts are up at the end of December, so we want to try to get everybody signed up before we make an announcement.”
Scouting director Gary Rajsich isn’t signed beyond this year.
“We’ve been working on the other personnel and the other employee contracts and we’re going to try to get those resolved as soon as we can,” Duquette said. “We had some staff contracts that were up on the 31st of October and there are some others between now and the end of the year, so we’re working on the baseball operations and the rest of the organization.”
Shameless plug alert: I’m appearing on “Wall to Wall Baseball” from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on MASN. Please note the change in time.