Selecting the contracts of four players yesterday is only the latest work done by the Orioles on their 40-man roster.
It was a big step, of course, because they had to decide which ones to protect prior to the Dec. 12 Rule 5 draft in San Diego that concludes the Winter Meetings and enables sportswriters to set land speed records with their filed stories before grabbing flights home.
(I’m not missing my 1:35 p.m. flight, even if I have to brush airline pretzel crumbs off the keyboard.)
The Orioles have made their decisions regarding the players within the organization. They added infielder/outfielder Ryan Mountcastle, pitchers Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer and outfielder Ryan McKenna. They took a risk by excluding others.
The foursome came as no surprise. It became evident recently that the club would protect them and didn’t intend to add a fifth.
Up next is finding ways to clear more space on a 40-man roster that is only one short of the maximum amount.
They’ll need to make more room if wanting to select multiple players in the Rule 5 draft.
They’ll need to make more room if wanting to sign multiple free agents to major league deals.
There’s more work to be done.
The bubble has more than a few fannies on it. The Orioles can use the waiver wire and outright the unclaimed. Maybe there’s another team in Korea that wants to do business, which is how pitcher Aaron Brooks ended up with the Kia Tigers.
The 40-man includes three catchers, which is heavy compared to some previous years. However, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias seemed comfortable with the arrangement when he told me, “I think that while we like our catching group right now - we like (Chance) Sisco and (Pedro) Severino and (Austin) Wynns - we’re probably going to look for a fourth catcher for that mix. You can’t have enough there. And four is the number that you want to go into spring training with. That’s something we’re working on.”
Judging by that comment, the Orioles won’t do any whittling at catcher.
They have eight infielders on the 40-man with Mountcastle’s inclusion - that’s how he’s listed on the team website - and Jonathan Villar remains a possible subtraction, whether by non-tender or trade.
The Orioles claimed Pat Valaika off waivers last month and likely will want him in camp as a possible utility player. However, they remain in the market for a veteran middle infielder.
There are eight outfielders on the roster if you include Stevie Wilkerson, as the team website does. That’s what happens when you make the most starts in center field.
Is he safe?
Twenty pitchers are on the 40-man, making them the first place to look when cuts are needed. Here’s the list:
Givens is a trade chip as he approaches another raise due to his arbitration eligibility, but it isn’t likely to happen before the Winter Meetings.
Meanwhile, the Yankees released outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and will eat more than $26 million left on his contract. Because they can.
They also designated left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr., the former Orioles Rule 5 pick who didn’t make it through April 2018.
The Marlins designated former Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who fell way short of living up to the five-year, $80 million contract he received in free agency. He’s owed $22 million next season.
Chen was breaking down physically and relegated to the bullpen this summer. Former Orioles executive Dan Duquette got him at the perfect time and the club was smart to let him walk.
The Orioles wanted him back, but they knew he’d get at least four years as a free agent and weren’t interested. The Marlins shocked the industry by offering five.