SAN DIEGO - The Orioles can’t share their concrete plans for the 26-man roster until they’re done finding players for it. One move might impact how they handle a separate position. The work won’t be done this month or in January, given the organization’s track record for late signings, trades and waiver claims.
Reaching an agreement last week with infielder Dilson Herrera on a minor league contract enables the Orioles to lay out three possible scenarios for him.
They could reassign him to minor league camp and place him on Triple-A Norfolk’s roster, where he’d be equipped to move around the infield for manager Gary Kendall.
The Orioles want Herrera to compete with Rio Ruiz at third base, though a platoon situation could evolve with the two players batting from opposite sides of the plate. Otherwise, Herrera will be considered for a utility role on the major league club.
He could turn into more than just a depth move.
Ruiz’s splits might ruin the platoon idea. He’s a career .275/.310/.438 hitter versus left-handed pitching and a .209/.296/.338 hitter against right-handers. However, 11 of his career-high 12 home runs this year came against right-handers.
Herrera has made 52 starts at second base in the majors, seven in left field and two at third base. Most of his minor league starts also have come at second, but he’s made 101 at third.
The Orioles seem more inclined to keep Hanser Alberto at second base, though they need to reach agreement on a contract for next season. Herrera has made 25 starts at shortstop in the minors, but the Orioles are searching for a veteran to handle the position.
The Ruiz/Alberto platoon could resurface at third base. So many possibilities.
Herrera is out of minor league options and can’t provide roster flexibility if he breaks camp with the team or has his contract selected over the summer.
The bat hasn’t impressed in the majors, with Herrera slashing .203/.293/.394 with 11 home runs in 266 plate appearances. However, he’s a career .289/.354/.465 hitter with 100 home runs in 819 minor league games spread over nine seasons.
Renato Núñez is more likely to gets his at-bats as the designated hitter than at an infield corner, which puts Chris Davis at first base when he isn’t on the bench and Trey Mancini in right field if he isn’t traded.
Anthony Santander would be the primary left fielder and Austin Hays would play center, leaving the competition for spare outfielders to a group that currently includes Dwight Smith Jr., Cedric Mullins and Mason Williams.
DJ Stewart won’t be ready for opening day after undergoing ankle surgery.
Stevie Wilkerson provides an outfield option if he makes the club. And the Orioles could sign a center fielder to a minor league deal, as they did with Williams, to provide more options.