With the Orioles completing another cash transaction with the Mets yesterday, acquiring young right-hander Gabriel Ynoa, is it safe to assume that executive vice president Dan Duquette is focused only on finding another outfielder?
Don’t get too comfortable with that notion.
Duquette could add a veteran starter - the preference is still on a minor league deal, though it’s not the only avenue - and strengthen the rotation’s insurance in case of an injury.
To project Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation, you need to determine how manager Buck Showalter will fill the openings in his bullpen. Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright and Joe Gunkel would join Ynoa if they don’t head north. Jayson Aquino is a candidate if he stays on the 40-man roster. He’s one of those bubble guys.
Left-hander Chris Lee could start at Norfolk, but he may be assigned to Double-A Bowie after appearing in only eight games last summer due to a lat injury. Logan Verrett has a good shot at replacing Vance Worley as a long reliever. Otherwise, he’s in Norfolk’s rotation.
I don’t see any downside to the trade. Ynoa is only 23, he can be optioned, the club’s scouts like him and he didn’t cost the Orioles a player. There’s no gamble. Ynoa what I mean?
(Don’t become alarmed. I’m not going to spend all spring coming up with puns. Just getting it out of my system.)
Francisco Pena’s removal from the 40-man roster came as a surprise, considering how he was supposed to compete with Caleb Joseph for the backup job and Welington Castillo is leaving camp to play in the World Baseball Classic. But if the Orioles want to get him through waivers, they may find it easier in the coming days as teams report to spring training.
The Orioles have 10 days to trade Pena or go through the waiver process. If they lose him, they still have top prospect Chance Sisco and Audry Perez to handle the catching duties at Norfolk. Was three a crowd?
Meanwhile, first baseman Trey Mancini arrived in Sarasota on Thursday and began working out yesterday. The first full-squad workout won’t be held until Feb. 17, but no sense waiting.
Mancini is vying for a spot on the bench and could work into a platoon role at designated hitter.
“It definitely excites me,” he said Thursday night on the “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan. “Whoever you are in this game, it comes with the pressure. Even the guys making the most money in Major League Baseball, he’s going to feel pressure. It is a little bit of pressure, but it also adds to the excitement, and it’s kind of like using that pressure and good energy to push you and drive you to work harder and make the team on opening day. It’s definitely a great opportunity.”
The addition of another outfielder could further crowd the bench and possibly impact Mancini’s chances of sticking with the team, depending on how the Orioles decide to construct their roster. Keep in mind that they may have an extra position player or two on opening day if they go with a reduced pitching staff.
It’s understandable if Mancini tracks the transactions and wonders how he’s affected.
“Every move will impact you in some way,” he said. “I don’t keep too close of an eye on it. Whatever happened, happened. I didn’t have control over it. But there’s always going to be a spot or two at least open and there’s always a chance of making it.
“It’s not really focusing as much on what other people are doing or what moves are made. It’s just kind of preparing yourself and getting yourself better to make the team.”
Mancini is a career .306/.357/.472 hitter in four minor league seasons. He’s totaled 21 and 20 home runs the past two years. He won’t come out and say that he’s got nothing left to prove on the farm, but there are people in the organization who believe it.
“Every year in the minors I’ve gone through a couple of bad streaks,” Mancini said, “but at the same time, I do feel like I’ve done a great job overall in my minor league career and I do think I’m ready to be a regular major league player. But I wouldn’t say that I don’t think I have anything left to prove. But I do think that my career maybe down in the minors speaks for itself a little. I feel confident with how I’ve done down there.”
The Orioles still haven’t given any indication that Mancini will be tried in the outfield in spring training, but he’s been preparing in the event that they decide to experiment.
“I’ve been working on it this offseason,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot of agility work and trying to get a little faster, better jumps. I think the big part for me would more or less just be getting good jumps and reads off the bat. It’s totally different in the outfield. But I’ve been working at it and keeping my arm in shape, so if it’s asked of me, I’m ready to give it a shot out there.”
Good luck getting comfortable in the outfield during Grapefruit League games. Gold Glove Award winners have been known to misjudge fly balls due to the “high sky” and the wind.
“All of that goes into account,” Mancini said. “It’s different being at first base than the outfield. The wind and the sun are going to affect you more in the outfield, even though it does at first base sometimes on popups. You have a much better general idea where the ball is going to land on an infield popup than you would, say, on an outfield fly ball. But again, it’s something that I’m capable of learning and I’m ready to learn and that I’ve been working at, too. I don’t think I’d exactly be starting from scratch, either.”
Mancini watched another first baseman, Norfolk teammate Christian Walker, make the transition to left field last summer. Of course, they discussed it and Mancini filed away information in case he needed it later.
“Throughout the year at Norfolk, I’d ask him about playing in the outfield, how much different it was, and it’s definitely different,” Mancini said. “As the year went on, you could see how much better and more comfortable Christian was out there. He did a great job.
“I think (manager) Ron Johnson said at some point during the year you definitely didn’t notice that Christian was out in left because he was just as good as any other outfielder that would be out in left in our league there, so he did a really good job and he’s somebody I talked to about it.”
Note: The Orioles are expected to announce their minor league staffs, plus the hiring of Howie Clark as assistant hitting coach, by the beginning of next week. They’re working on “getting a couple of those things organized,” according to an official.