A big week is reaching its weekend.
No, I don’t mean the McRib’s farewell tour.
The GM Meetings have concluded in Las Vegas. The Orioles didn’t make any trades, but they’re now cleared to begin negotiating with free agents outside the organization. The exclusive window has shut.
A much nicer sound than the slamming of the playoff contention window after 2017. Or was it ’16?
The year is open to debate. The repercussions can’t be argued.
The 40-man roster underwent some changes this week, with starter Jordan Lyles joining Rougned Odor, Robinson Chirinos and Jesús Aguilar in major league free agency. Catchers Anthony Bemboom and Cam Gallagher were outrighted, with the former accepting his assignment and staying in the organization.
Outfielder Daz Cameron was claimed off waivers from the Tigers, reuniting him with executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, who drafted him with the Astros in 2015. John Means was activated from the 60-day injured list, putting him back on a 40-man roster that’s holding 34 players.
The total didn’t budge yesterday because the Orioles passed outfielder Yusniel Diaz through outright waivers and assigned him to Triple-A Norfolk.
The list of arbitration-eligible Orioles is down to six players with Gallagher choosing free agency and outfielder Jake Cave signing a split contract for 2023. The Oriole still need contracts for outfielders Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays, shortstop Jorge Mateo and pitchers Dillon Tate and Austin Voth.
The major league coaching staff was announced, but the composition of it already had been reported. Everyone returning and Cody Asche promoted to offensive strategy coach.
Brandon Hyde is a finalist for Manager of the Year in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, and catcher Adley Rutschman is a finalist for Rookie of the Year.
Santander and catcher Adley Rutschman were denied Silver Slugger Awards last night.
Lyles and Diaz are the most interesting stories of the week.
A decision on Lyles had to be made by yesterday, and it was one of the most important pieces of early offseason business. Whether to spend $11 million on the option or $1 million on the buyout, with the possibility of doubling back to his camp later in the offseason, depending on other moves made with the rotation.
A frontline starter is on the shopping list, no matter Lyles’ situation. But more than one veteran is desired. The Orioles must be protected against any regression from some of the younger guys, injuries, and of course, the delay in Means’ 2023 debut.
Too much pitching? No such thing.
Put a blue check mark next to it, and it’s still fake.
The Orioles could wind up signing a pitcher similar to Lyles, maybe for similar money. They just weren’t ready to commit this early in the offseason, unsure how much they’ll need to spend on bigger moves in free agency or through trades.
The gamble is that Lyles finds a new team and the Orioles don’t find a pitcher who eats the same innings, keeps his team in the same number of games and provides the same leadership. They’ll need his type. But it may not be him.
I see the logic. Roll the dice while becoming more educated on the free-agent and trade markets. Which teams and players are potential matches. How much the payroll is going to increase.
In sort of a related story, the following free agents received qualifying offers yesterday, as first reported by ESPN: Aaron Judge, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Jacob deGrom, Dansby Swanson, Carlos Rodón, Brandon Nimmo, Willson Contreras, Chris Bassitt, Anthony Rizzo, Tyler Anderson, Martín Perez, Joc Pederson, Nathan Eovaldi.
A team signing one of these players must forfeit a draft pick. For the Orioles, it begins with their third-highest selection.
As for Diaz, he moved from top prospect to bubble guy on the 40-man roster. With his unfortunate injury history, it’s a relief that the popping yesterday didn’t open a wound.
The body breakdowns just became too much, and the surge of outfield prospects left him in the dust. This was a predictable outcome. He wasn’t producing when on the field and couldn’t stay on it.
Every team passed on him during the waiver period, which was telling. His stock crashed to the floor.
Also telling is how the Orioles prefer having Jake Cave and Daz Cameron on their 40-man. I have no idea if they’ll stay, but they’re here and Diaz is gone.
I mean, really gone.
Diaz elected free agency last night, according to the minor league transactions page. He joined former first-round pick DJ Stewart, pitchers Alexander Wells, Rico Garcia, Louis Head, Matt Harvey and Brenan Hanifee, catchers Brett Cumberland, Jacob Nottingham and Andres Angulo, and infielder Chris Givin.
There was nothing wrong with having Diaz at Triple-A for depth purposes, and to hope that maybe he began living up to the hype that accompanied him from Cuba. Have the hitting coaches and conditioning staff keep working with him. But it made no sense to use a 40-man spot on him.
A claim wouldn’t have hurt the Orioles. Neither would bringing him to camp next spring as a non-roster invite. But he's a free agent and seeking interest that didn't exist while he was on waivers.