I’ve warned in the past that it’s much too early to project how the Orioles will fill out their 25-man roster. It’s only October and no one has been hired in the front office and as the new manager. There are so many steps ahead that it would fry a Fitbit.
Players will be added via trades and/or free agency, fitting into whatever budget has been laid out by ownership. The Rule 5 draft again could be utilized, though perhaps not to the extent of the previous offseason, when three selections were made in a low-cost feeding frenzy.
The guess here is that the person put in charge will pump the brakes and be less reliant on acquiring players on the final day of the Winter Meetings.
The Orioles broke camp last year with Rule 5 pitchers Nestor Cortes Jr. and Pedro Araujo in their bullpen and former pick Anthony Santander as a spare outfielder. They gave up on Jose Mesa Jr., who returned to the Yankees organization after being one of the spring’s biggest disappointments with a steep decline in velocity and poor command.
Santander fulfilled his Rule 5 obligation after 44 days and was optioned, staying in the minors for the rest of the summer.
Joey Rickard, a selection at the 2015 Winter Meetings, is a spare outfielder. Pitchers Logan Verrett and Jason Garcia (2014) aren’t in the organization, the former claimed off waivers in spring training and the latter lasting one season in the majors.
Infielder Michael Almanzar (2013) never played for the Orioles and hasn’t reached the majors. Left-hander T.J. McFarland (2012) was a useful piece out of the bullpen as an innings eater, but his ERA climbed from 2.76 in 37 appearances in 2014 to 4.91 in 30 games the following year and 6.93 in 16 games in 2016.
(McFarland posted a career-low 2.00 ERA and 1.194 WHIP this year in a career-high 47 games with the Diamondbacks.)
Ryan Flaherty was selected from the Cubs organization in 2011 and turned into a valuable utility player, trusted by former manager Buck Showalter to handle any position and making starts in the 2012 and 2014 postseason. But he sunk deeper on the bench, unable to crack a set lineup, and spent part of spring training this year in Phillies camp and appeared in 81 regular season games with the Braves.
There are no major success stories here. A few useful contributors. And that’s fine when rounding out a roster. Just don’t become too reliant on it.
The Orioles might have two-thirds of their outfield set with Trey Mancini and Cedric Mullins. Chris Davis is the first baseman barring an unexpected cutting of ties. And that’s it for position players.
There isn’t an incumbent in right field with Adam Jones expected to leave via free agency. Renato Núñez made 56 starts at third base this season, but he’s only a candidate for 2019. Is Jonathan Villar a second baseman or shortstop? Is Caleb Joseph going to make most of the starts behind the plate, slip into more of a backup role or be non-tendered? Will Mark Trumbo be ready for opening day, serving as designated hitter, after undergoing knee surgery?
If the season started today, David Hess and Yefry Ramírez would be the favorites for the last two spots. They’d have to rate ahead of Jimmy Yacabonis, Josh Rogers and Luis Ortiz. But the Orioles probably will acquire multiple starters over the winter to improve their depth and provide more options.
Mychal Givens is the only sure thing among relievers with left-hander Richard Bleier recovering from lat surgery - again assuming he isn’t traded - though Miguel Castro and left-handers Tanner Scott and Paul Fry likely would make any mock bullpen.
Castro finally got his ERA back under 4.00 with two scoreless innings in his final appearance on Sept. 22, a sore knee preventing Showalter from using him again. His WHIP rose from 1.221 in 2017 to 1.448 and he averaged 5.2 walks per nine innings. A job won’t be handed to him.
Mike Wright Jr. is out of options, which has kept him in the majors through the ups and downs. Araujo must spend 17 more days on the active roster before losing his Rule 5 status.
AFL update: Center fielder Ryan McKenna went 0-for-3 with a walk and three strikeouts yesterday while leading off for the Glendale Desert Dogs. Wilkerson, batting behind McKenna, started at third base and went 1-for-3 with his third double and a walk.