The Orioles began the process of clearing room on their 40-man roster yesterday by outrighting pitcher Steve Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk. Johnson will become a free agent after the World Series and must decide whether to sign a minor league deal or change organizations.
Don’t jump to the conclusion that the Orioles are about to make a bold move to fill the spot. This is routine roster maintenance in the offseason.
The Orioles need to protect some minor leaguers in the Rule 5 draft, including Triple-A Norfolk pitcher Mike Wright and Single-A Frederick pitcher Parker Bridwell. First baseman Christian Walker would have been on the list, but the Orioles selected his contract last month.
Also, you can be certain that the Orioles will choose a player in the Rule 5 draft. It’s the best bet of the winter. Alfredo Simon, Randor Bierd, Lou Palmisano, Ben Snyder, Adrian Rosario, Ryan Flaherty, T.J. McFarland, Michael Almanzar. The Orioles are on quite a Rule 5 roll.
Catcher Matt Wieters, third baseman Manny Machado and left-hander Johan Santana are on the 60-day disabled list and first baseman Chris Davis is on the restricted list. Wieters and Machado will go back on the 40-man roster, but Davis must wait until the second game of the 2015 season.
In other words, Johnson was just the first of many moves.
Players who become free agents following the World Series, including outfielders Nelson Cruz and Delmon Young, left-hander Andrew Miller and infielder Kelly Johnson, will come off the 40-man. Nick Markakis will be a free agent after the Orioles decline his $17.5 million option.
The Orioles aren’t expected to announce their decisions on options, including the ones for pitchers Wei-Yin Chen and Darren O’Day that they’re going to pick up, until they get closer to the deadline after the World Series.
Here’s the current 40-man roster:
Alejandro De Aza
Saunders also will become a free agent. The Orioles are expected to decline the $5 million option on Hundley’s contract, making him a free agent.
Does Berry remain on the 40-man? The Orioles want to keep him in the organization. What about Casilla? He wasn’t added until the final weekend of the regular season.
Lombardozzi didn’t have an at-bat with the Orioles after May 24.
Steve Johnson was just the start. Stay tuned.