Five more days.
Orioles pitchers and catchers must report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex by Wednesday, a deadline that doesn’t create a frantic race to the finish line. The complex already has activity. Early arrivals are the norm.
But that’s when it must happen, followed the next morning by the first workout and farmer's tan.
Perhaps the Orioles will quiet the roster churn. They’ve stayed busy, with No. 1 starter Corbin Burnes the major move but the utility competition increasing with Wednesday night’s trade for Nick Maton and Thursday afternoon’s waiver claim of Liván Soto.
Every announcement can lead to a question. Let’s begin with Maton.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias voiced his interest in finding a left-handed hitter who plays second base, basically a replacement for Adam Frazier. Maton checks that box. He also plays every other infield position, every outfield position and has pitched in three games.
Maton is a lifetime .208/.306/.361 hitter in 179 games spread over parts of three seasons, but it’s more about his defensive versatility.
The left-handed bat? Sure, it contrasts Jordan Westburg, Ramón Urías and Jorge Mateo, and its importance increases if Jackson Holliday doesn’t break camp with the team. But we shouldn’t fixate on matchups and possible platoons. Westburg should be a constant presence in the lineup at second or third base. Trust his talent.
Maton is out of minor league options, so he makes the club or he’s got to pass through waivers and be outrighted. The latter scenario improves Triple-A Norfolk’s infield depth, which took a hit with Joey Ortiz traded to the Brewers. Holliday’s promotion would create another hole, and Connor Norby and Coby Mayo are lurking.
Soto’s name can be inserted in much of this conversation. He bats from the left side and he’s versatile. He brings a solid defensive reputation. He also is depth. But he has a couple of minor league options remaining, making it easier to plug him into Norfolk’s roster.
Soto is 24-for-64 (.375) in 22 games with the Angels, including four last year. He’s slashed .245 with a .670 OPS in 494 minor league games. Not much power, either, but again, it’s about the glove and moving around the field.
The 40-man roster is full but easily can be adjusted as the Orioles move through spring training.
OK, what else did I miss?
The Orioles are inviting 20 non-roster players to camp:
RHP Justin Armbruester
RHP Wandisson Charles
LHP Tucker Davidson
LHP Luis González
LHP Ronald Guzmán
RHP Chayce McDermott
LHP Cade Povich
RHP Garrett Stallings
RHP Albert Suárez
LHP Andrew Suárez
RHP Nathan Webb
The absence of infielder/outfielder Terrin Vavra is surprising. He made the club last spring but was outrighted off the 40-man in November following an injury-plagued season. A right shoulder strain kept him off the field after June 14 except for two games on a rehab assignment.
Vavra also bats from the left side and he’s also versatile. Same as Maton and Soto. Where is he?
Elias can address the invite decision during his first media availability.
He also will be asked about outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr., last year’s first-round draft pick. I thought we could see him on the major league side, beyond the travel roster or list of extras at home exhibition games.
Setting up a match race with Mateo is less convenient but still doable.
Completing the trifecta in wrong assumptions is the club’s decision to omit infielder Errol Robinson. He was signed last month to a minor league deal, and I expected to see him at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.
The minor league staffs were announced, with major changes at Double-A Bowie. Manager Kyle Moore is gone. Pitching coach Forrest Herrmann is now the minor league lower-level pitching coordinator. Hitting coach Sherman Johnson has become upper-level hitting coordinator.
Former Norfolk hitting coach Brink Ambler is the lower-level coordinator.
Moore updated his LinkedIn page to say, “free agent manager/coach/teacher/evaluator in professional baseball.” I wonder what drove the Orioles to move on from him.
Outfielder Austin Hays and reliever Jacob Webb won their arbitration hearings. Where have you gone, Russell Smouse?
It ain't my money, so whatever. Good for them. it won't force the club to raise ticket prices.
Elias still isn’t going to talk about possible contract extensions for young star players and prospects. He was asked again during a recent video call. Everyone needs to get it out of their system because the response is going to be the same. Does the team no good to go public with it or for agents to think he’s going to negotiate through the media.