By stating his intent to find a fourth catcher for the spring training roster, a minor league deal the most obvious avenue, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias revealed that Austin Wynns remains firmly in the Orioles’ plans for 2020.
It wasn’t an assumption. The Orioles might have to clear more space on their 40-man roster over the winter and they’re carrying three catchers.
Elias keeps saying that he wants a veteran catcher to go with Wynns, Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco. The trio is expected to be seated in the same row inside the home clubhouse at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.
Wynns is playing again in the Dominican Winter League, and trying to stay healthy after injuring his ankle there in 2017. He appeared in 28 games with the Orioles this season and slashed .214/.247/.271 with a double and home run. He threw out three of 14 runners attempting to steal.
There also was a scolding from pitcher Andrew Cashner that didn’t show up in the box score. Wynns wasn’t alone, though. Cashner was, shall we say, a vocal leader.
Most of Wynns’ action came with Triple-A Norfolk, where he registered a .351 on-base percentage in 230 plate appearances. He threw out 17 of 49 runners attempting to steal.
The upcoming season is an important one for Wynns, who turns 29 later this month, as he tries to stay in the organization and become more established. Adley Rutschman is the future and the Orioles will want a veteran backup who can assist in the transition from top prospect to major leaguer.
The current odds favor Severino and Sisco breaking camp with the team next spring, with Wynns heading back to Norfolk, but it appears that he’ll be given a chance to win a job.
Severino is out of minor league options, but Sisco can be sent down, and he struggled again this year by slashing .210/.333/.395 in 198 plate appearances and throwing out only five of 30 runners trying to steal - though the pitchers aren’t always blameless.
Sisco batted .267/.389/.644 with five doubles, four home runs and 14 RBIs in 15 games in June, but he slashed .168/.299/.243 with two homers in 40 games after the break. He was 3-for-21 with 10 strikeouts in September.
There’s been speculation in the past that the Orioles could move Sisco to another position if he didn’t improve behind the plate, but it also included the assumption that he’d keep hitting, as he did so well in the minors and spring training.
The upcoming season also is an important one for Sisco, though he’s only 24.
* The Dylan Bundy trade not only improved Asher Wojciechowski’s chances of staying in the rotation next spring, it probably enabled him to move up.
That’s the state of the rotation.
Wojciechowski made 16 starts with the Orioles after they purchased his contract from the Indians on July 1 and he could receive a lot more in 2020.
“I think as we subtract starting pitchers, the guys who are still with the club, it just makes their odds of crashing the rotation even better,” Elias said last night on the “Orioles Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan.
“Asher was really kind of a godsend for us in the middle of the year when we were scraping for pitching and we spotted him in the Triple-A rotation of the Cleveland Indians, reached out to them, made a real minor cash trade for him. We all remember that gem he had against the Red Sox (July 21), actually one of the statistically best performances in Orioles history when it was 100 degrees. Just put up a good fight for us every start.
“He’s got a really good breaking ball that he relies on. He’s a gutty competitive guy, he knows how to pitch, he’s a veteran, he’s been around the block. So I like the fact that he’s on our roster, and right now if the season started today I think he’d absolutely project for a rotation spot if he shows up in good health at spring training.”
Elias acquired four minor league right-handers from the Angels in exchange for Bundy, but other offers varied as he narrowed the list of finalists.
“It was vastly different for a while, and then we kind of boiled it down to the two or three teams at the end that were the most serious and really treating him with the type of evaluation that we feel he deserved,” Elias said.
“There were similar offers from a couple other clubs. We just liked these guys better, the Angels’ names better.”
Angels general manager Billy Eppler shed more light on the negotiations in Wednesday night’s conference call.
“We have internal evaluations on all our players, whether they’re in the minors or majors,” he said. “We try to match the value that we feel is coming back with the players we’re going to use to procure that player. Baltimore had a number of names in mind. Those are the players they had targeted. As we kind of worked through the deal, that’s how it evolved.
“If their approach was quantity, we were open to that. If their approach would have been one player and aiming somewhere different, we would have entertained that, too. We kind of worked through the deal and this was ultimately where it went. We didn’t have a target list of guys we wanted to utilize in this trade. Those guys are talented. Quite frankly, you give up players you just recently drafted, that can go in a number of directions. Every deal hurts. This one is no different.”
* Former Orioles pitcher Gabriel Ynoa, a minor league free agent, reportedly has signed with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
Ynoa declined his outright assignment on Nov. 4 and elected free agency. He was 1-10 this season with a 5.61 ERA and 1.373 WHIP in 36 games, including 13 starts.