Shortstop Richie Martin remains in the Puerto Rican Winter League with Criollos de Caguas, where he's appeared in 14 games and gone 13-for-51 (.255) with six doubles, two home runs, six walks and a .345 on-base percentage.
More at-bats and reps in the field after a wasted 2020 season.
The Orioles are expected to bring in a shortstop to replace JosÃ© Iglesias, who was traded to the Angels for minor league pitchers Garrett Stallings and Jean Pinto. It won't be Adeiny HechavarrÃa, who signed a one-year, $970,000 contract with the Chiba Lotte Marines of Nippon Professional Baseball. It never was going to be Ha-Seong Kim, who agreed to terms with the Padres on a four-year, $25 million deal after he became available to major league clubs when his Korea Baseball Organization team, the Kiwoom Heroes, posted him for bidding.
MLBTradeRumors.com ranked Kim seventh on its list of top 50 free agents and predicted that the Rangers would sign him for $40 million over five years, along with the $7.625 million posting fee. The site named the Orioles as a "sensible fit," but they aren't offering that type of contract to anyone.
Just doesn't make sense in a rebuild.
The Orioles considered HechavarrÃa last winter before choosing Iglesias. They're still sifting through available infielders who can play shortstop, whether as a primary position or part of a super-utility skill set.
Martin missed the 2020 season after fracturing his right wrist in an intrasquad game at summer training camp. Catcher Austin Wynns tried to pick him off first base, the ball ended up in right field and Martin ended up on the 60-day injured list.
The Orioles aren't excluding Martin from the shortstop competition. They have a few in-house candidates. But they wanted him to play the position on a daily basis at Triple-A Norfolk prior to the cancellation of the minor league season and could revisit that plan next year.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias was asked about Martin in a recent interview on MLB Network Radio.
Is Martin capable right now of being the replacement for Iglesias, or are the Orioles more likely to make a one-year offer to a free agent, perhaps including an option?
Elias seems to prefer traveling the Triple-A route with Martin and recalling him later in the summer. However, he's leaving the door open for the former Rule 5 pick.
"I think we'll be looking out for those opportunities just to add some stability and some options if they exist, if they present themselves," Elias said.
"That was a really tough trade to make because we made that signing last year and it worked out well. He showed up and was a leader and had a tremendous offensive breakout, but because of where we're at and our talent gathering process, where we feel we're at and what our broader goals are, we're looking for opportunities to bring young, controllable players as often as we can, and to get a couple of legitimate pitching prospects back with one year left on JosÃ©'s deal, we decided to pull the trigger. But it's not the summertime, it's the wintertime, so we'll have the ability to go out into the free agent market or perhaps the trade market and see what's out there to bring in that help.
"Richie Martin is a very talented guy and looked really outstanding in summer camp. Looked like he had made some improvements. I mean, this is somebody who got Rule 5'd out of Double-A, so he never played in Triple-A, and we stuck him in the American League East all year. Kept his head above water when really there were no expectations for him offensively and he ended up hitting .200 and playing a good defensive shortstop. And he looked like he made a really nice jump when he came to summer camp and then horrible luck when he broke his (wrist) going back into a bag and missed the whole season. So now he's in the position where he's got two years of service in the major leagues and really one of them was as a Rule 5 pick and the other was out for the year in a 60-game season, so it's tough.
"He hasn't gotten Triple-A development, he hasn't gotten that much major league development, so we're going to be prioritizing his development opportunities, whatever those may be this year, because we believe in him. But I definitely think we're going to see him in Baltimore this year. We're going to need him and he's definitely going to be in that mix. He's playing winter ball and he'll have a chance to crack the opening day roster either as a starting shortstop or as a utility guy."
Putting Martin on the bench in a utility role wouldn't seem to do much for his development, but his ability to play shortstop - and better than a few other candidates - keeps him in the discussion. And the possibility of another expanded roster leaves room for extra reserves.
* I'm mentioning pitcher Garrett Cleavinger for the second time in a week.
It's so 2020.
The Phillies sent Cleavinger to the Dodgers yesterday in a three-team trade that also included the Rays. Cleavinger was a third round pick of the Orioles in 2015 out of the University of Oregon who reached Double-A Bowie before they traded him to the Phillies in July 2017, along with outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, for starter Jeremy Hellickson.
Cleavinger made his major league debut this year in a Sept. 17 game against the Mets and surrendered a two-run homer to Robinson CanÃ³ in the ninth inning.
The Orioles almost included Cleavinger in a package with Ubaldo JimÃ©nez in 2016 that would have netted outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. from the Padres, but the deal fell apart due to financial reasons.
I wonder how the wild card game in Toronto would have ended without JimÃ©nez.