The Orioles may not be able to resist making a selection or two in next week’s Rule 5 draft. The temptation can be overwhelming. Beads of sweat form on the forehead as the pulse quickens.
You can vow to lose weight, but another Baskin Robbins opens down the street, and there’s 31 flavors and sprinkles and waffle cones and ...
Diet starts next year.
Having outfielder Anthony Santander on the 25-man roster for the first 44 days of the season, as required under Major League Baseball rules, isn’t necessarily a detriment for the Orioles as more players become available to them on the last day of the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The Orioles took Santander and outfielder Aneury Tavárez last year before eventually putting the latter on waivers and offering him back to the Red Sox. Tavárez batted .377/.473/.475 in 18 games at Double-A Portland and .244/.292/.400 in 33 games at Triple-A Pawtucket. His speed would be a nice asset in the system, but they weren’t going to keep both players and Tavárez never gained their trust defensively.
Santander spent most of the season on the disabled list with a strained right forearm, with the Orioles activating him on Aug. 16. He went 21-for-55 (.382) with five doubles, five home runs and 14 RBIs in 16 injury rehab games and 8-for-30 (.267) with three doubles and two RBIs in 13 games with the Orioles. They’ve gone this far with him and are expected to hold onto him unless something unforeseen happens in camp.
They’re going to spend the usual amount of time at the Winter Meetings perusing the names of potential picks inside Duquette’s suite, with the bullpen a possible storage place. The Orioles carried T.J. McFarland and Jason García in the recent past. They returned Adrian Rosario to the Brewers after taking him in 2010, but Randor Bierd made 29 relief appearances in 2008 before they traded him to the Red Sox the following winter.
“We took a couple of guys in the Rule 5 last year and I think we’ll probably take a look at the draft and see who’s there and see who might be able to help us,” Duquette said Thursday night on 105.7 The Fan. “It’s always tempting to see if there’s a pitcher out there who can help your ballclub. I think that’s something that we’ll probably look at very closely between now and the draft.
“Our guys like to dig in and see what they can find in that Rule 5 draft. A lot of clubs take a look at that Rule 5 draft. We usually take a long look at it because we think it’s a good way to add players to our organization and we’ll do the same thing this year. Though I’ve got to say, I think we signed a couple of decent pitchers last week that were minor league free agents who are coming into our major league club and we’ll take a good look at those guys. I think our scouts and front office people, they do a good job of getting these kids signed.”
Included among the crop of pitchers is Jhan Mariñez, who’s 1-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 95 games with the Marlins, White Sox, Rays, Brewers, Pirates and Rangers - the last three teams employing him in 2017.
“Mariñez, I think he can help us,” Duquette said. “He’s got some excellent pitches. He’s one of the top guys we’re looking at. And we also looked to add to our left-handed pitching through that market and we’ll be able to take a look at a couple guys in spring.”
There’s also a positive buzz surrounding lefty Joely Rodriguez, who was 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 38 games with the Phillies. He can induce ground balls with a power sinker, a nice fit for Camden Yards, but he registered a 6.33 ERA and 1.926 WHIP in 27 innings this summer and had an identical ERA in the same number of innings with Triple-A Round Rock.
The proverbial bounceback candidate that the Orioles search for in the offseason.
Rodriguez has allowed one run in 7 2/3 innings with Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League.
The Orioles went 3-for-3 in retaining minor league middle infielders who, besides improving their depth, give them three candidates to replace utility player Ryan Flaherty.
Sardiñas is the most intriguing of the bunch. He batted .319/.348/.419 in 83 games at Triple-A Norfolk after the Orioles claimed him off waivers from the Padres and he’s only 24.
The Orioles are his fifth organization.
“We’ve got some middle infield depth. Those guys will be helpful,” Duquette said.
“I like some of the depth of our minor leagues. Our minor leagues is back in vogue with a lot of the publications.”
It’s been a slow climb that Duquette has traced step by step.
“We put Hunter Harvey on the (40-man) roster. He’s well-regarded,” Duquette said. “DJ Stewart had a great year last year, so he’s back on people’s radar screens, and those are two top picks that people had a lot of hope for. I know our people had a lot of hope for them when we drafted them. They’re back in the mix.
“Cedric Mullins, he and Stewart, those are two guys that we didn’t have to put on the roster, but they’re young outfielders who could have an impact on our team and they’ll be knocking on the door to help us next year. So along with Santander, who we’ll take a look at in the big leagues (and) Austin Hays, I kind of like the left-handed hitting Stewart, who was a No. 1 pick who’s got all the tools, and Mullins is probably the best outfielder of the group. He’s the fastest guy we have in the organization. So we can take a look at him to help next year.
“But the fact we didn’t have to put those guys on the roster gives us a little bit more flexibility this time of the year. And it’s a good reflection on those players’ skills that they got to Double-A and established themselves at Double-A. Especially Stewart, who had a great second half of the season. A lot of folks are asking about him when they ask about players in the Orioles farm system. And we’ve got a couple pitchers who are coming on.”
One of them throws really, really hard. The other keeps throwing strikes.
“Tanner Scott has a great arm and he was one of the best pitchers in the Arizona Fall League,” Duquette said. “We’ve got to get him to throw strikes more consistently. And Alex Wells, our minor league Pitcher of the Year and another left-hander, he can throw more strikes than anybody we have.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see those guys make a contribution to our club next year. They’re young, they have the talent, they have unique skills and they’re hungry to get to Baltimore and join the club.”
Wells would be quite the story considering that he turns 21 in February and spent the entire 2017 season in the South Atlantic League. But he earned his award by registering a 2.38 ERA and 0.91 WHIP and walking only 10 batters in 140 innings.
The Orioles probably will assign Wells to Single-A Frederick next spring and see whether his stuff also plays in the Carolina League.