Trying to set the roster in December

Knowing that the Orioles have more work to do on their roster is on par with being able to recite your zip code. You won’t gain the respect of your peers or earn bragging rights among friends.

The rotation and middle infield are in a construction zone. The bullpen and bench aren’t set. A new rule allowing teams to carry 26 players also increases the guesswork.

I reached my yearly deadline for submitting a mock lineup, rotation, bullpen and bench for consideration by a national publication. Adjustments are permitted for a few more weeks, but the Orioles tend to be busiest closer to and during spring training.

They signed pitcher Andrew Cashner in February 2018 and rotation mate Alex Cobb a month later. Catcher Pedro Severino and outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. arrived in March 2019 after infielder Hanser Alberto returned earlier in the month.

Outfielder Mark Trumbo signed in January 2017 and the following month’s transactions included pitchers Richard Bleier, Gabriel Ynoa and Vidal Nuño and outfielder Craig Gentry.

Chris Davis signed his franchise-record deal in January 2016. Pitcher Yovani Gallardo arrived the following month, his contract restructured due to concerns over his shoulder that cropped up during his physical. Infielder Pedro Álvarez signed in the second week of March.

Jump down to February 2014 and you’ll land on pitcher Ubaldo Jiménez and outfielder Nelson Cruz.

I also could reference the Sammy Sosa trade with the Cubs in February 2005, but there’s no reason to beat you over the head with my point.

The accuracy of the 2020 lineup projection is compromised by the search for a veteran middle infielder. Minus a free agent signing or trade, Richie Martin must be tabbed as the starting shortstop rather than assigning him to Triple-A Norfolk. Alberto replaces Jonathan Villar at second base.

Ruiz-AB-White-Front-sidebar.jpgThe Orioles will be facing Yankees $324 million right-hander Gerrit Cole on opening day, which for now puts Rio Ruiz at third. And who would replace him if Alberto is the second baseman?

Davis is across the diamond unless you have some inside information on his status.

The outfield is a much easier projection with Anthony Santander in left, Austin Hays in center and Trey Mancini in right. Severino goes behind the plate and Renato Núñez is the designated hitter.

But in what order?

Here’s one idea, again keeping in mind that it probably won’t look this way on opening day:

Austin Hays CF
Hanser Alberto 2B
Trey Mancini RF
Renato Núñez DH
Anthony Santander LF
Rio Ruiz 3B
Pedro Severino C
Chris Davis 1B
Richie Martin SS

A little heavy in right-handed bats.

The bench has to include a backup catcher and Chance Sisco is the leading candidate for the role. Stevie Wilkerson can retain his super-utility status, and Smith and Cedric Mullins can be extra outfielders, though the former doesn’t offer as much versatility.

Other reserve candidates on this date include outfielder Mason Williams and infielders Pat Valaika and José Rondón. Williams and Rondón signed minor league deals last month.

The top three starting pitchers are an easy call with Cobb, John Means and Asher Wojciechowski, but what happens below them also is a mystery. I suggested David Hess because he’s made 33 starts in the past two seasons and the Orioles haven’t acquired a veteran to nudge him from the spot. And the last opening pretty much comes down to Rule 5 pick Brandon Bailey and left-hander Keegan Akin.

Michael Rucker, the second Rule 5 pick, also is in the mix. Dean Kremer won’t break camp with the team.

The Orioles could carry eight relievers on a 26-man roster. Most of the spots appear to be set, though Mychal Givens could be traded if the right offer comes along. I’ve got him joining Hunter Harvey, Shawn Armstrong, Miguel Castro, Dillon Tate and left-handers Bleier, Paul Fry and Tanner Scott.

Left-hander Hunter Cervenka, re-signed to a minor league deal, figures to get a look in spring training.

Anyone else want to take a crack at this assignment?

It’s an unnecessary reminder that there’s more work to be done in the offseason.

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