If the Orioles are to add any players from their minor leagues to their 40-man roster in advance of next month's Rule 5 draft, they must do it by Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Pitcher Tim Berry and catcher Michael Ohlman continue to look like the most likely to be added. Pitcher Oliver Drake has also been discussed and could lead the next group of players the club may be considering along with catcher Caleb Joseph and pitchers Jason Gurka and Eddie Gamboa.
As I've written before, pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez and Mike Wright are among a group of players that do not yet need to be protected from the Rule 5, so their time to get added to the 40-man is not here yet.
After a solid season at Single-A Frederick, Berry had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, going 2-0 with an ERA of 1.84. He gave up just one run over his last 14 2/3 AFL innings, including Saturday's championship game when he pitched out of a bases-loaded jam. Some feel his prospect ceiling is mid-rotation starter. He'll likely be in Double-A Bowie's rotation in 2014.
Ohlman's career took a leap forward this season when he won the Carolina League's batting title and set a single-season slugging percentage record for Frederick. He has an average arm behind the plate and shows some decent game-calling skills. He should also play at Bowie in 2014.
You want a real long shot candidate to get protected by the Orioles? How about Mychal Givens. After three seasons as an infielder, he converted to the mound this season. While his stats were modest as he went 2-3 with a 4.22 ERA at Single-A Delmarva, he had a strong second half and showed some good stuff late in the year. He touched 96 mph with heavy sink. Some project him as a future power bullpen arm and groundball machine. Would another team take a long shot chance on him? Probably not, but Givens certainly got noticed for a strong second half.
While he is the subject of some trade rumors, the Orioles' Matt Wieters spent part of his weekend in Massachusetts being inducted into the Cape Cod League Hall of Fame.
Wieters turned down a second stint with Team USA after his sophomore college season at Georgia Tech to play with Orleans in the Cap Cod League during the summer of 2006. He was named the Cape's Top Pro Prospect after hitting .307 with eight homers that year, and he was drafted fifth overall by the Orioles the next June.
"What an honor this is for me," Wieters told the crowd Saturday night. "I've been looking forward to this day for months now. I'm a little nervous because, even though Peter Gammons is not here, he might in some way report back to Buck (Showalter) on my performance."
Wieters also said his most treasured piece of memorabilia from his baseball career to date is a bat signed by the 2006 Orleans Cardinals, which still owns a special place in his house.
You can read more about Wieters' induction in this article in the Cape Cod Times.
In his column yesterday, ESPN's Buster Olney discussed what is turning into a very interesting winter for the Orioles. He discussed the club's payroll situation with many arbitration cases pending, possible long-term deals to be discussed with players like Wieters and Chris Davis along with the hope of adding pitching. He wondered how the club can do all that without cutting payroll somewhere.
Olney said rival front offices are wondering if the Orioles would cut Jim Johnson. This comes even after Dan Duquette said late last year that the club would tender Johnson a 2014 contract.
Olney's column is Insider content, but he did write this on Johnson:
"Some executives look at Johnson as perhaps the most painless cut. The Orioles' closer was extraordinary in 2012, posting 51 saves, and while his performance regressed in 2013, he still had 50 saves and is in line to make about $10.8 million through arbitration in 2014. 'For a team that has payroll issues,' one rival official wrote in an email the other day, 'this is too much money.' "
Cutting Johnson would be popular with one seemingly small, but vocal segment of the O's fan base that blames him for the club's taking a step back last year. But I think you hang onto a player that has one of the best arms on the team, is one of your key clubhouse leaders and has the complete trust and confidence of his manager. I see Johnson's performance in 2014 trending more toward what we saw in 2012.
That move would be a bombshell and I don't see it. But apparently officials with other clubs wonder if it makes some economic sense for the Orioles.
Gsmboa note: Gamboa had another strong outing in winter ball in Mexico on Sunday. He pitched eight shutout innings allowing just three hits on 91 pitches. Gamboa has now put together three straight scoreless outings. Over that time in 19 1/3 innings he has allowed 11 hits with eight walks and 10 strikeouts.
In six starts with Mayos de Navojoa he is 3-1 with an ERA of 1.38 allowing just 28 hits over 39 innings. Gamboa began throwing a knuckleball this year and I've heard he is throwing at least 50 percent knucklers in winter ball.