Notes on LeBlanc opt-out date, minor league compensation and more

The Orioles trimmed their camp roster to 50 players yesterday afternoon and reached an important date involving left-hander Wade LeBlanc.

Well, it seemed to carry a lot more significance prior to the opening of camp and baseball’s complete shutdown.

LeBlanc-Pitch-White-ST-sidebar.jpgLeBlanc’s minor league deal, agreed upon in late January, included a March 19 opt-out clause. He could request his release and the Orioles would have 48 hours to add him to their 40-man roster or allow the veteran to reenter free agency.

There isn’t much of a decision to make for either side. LeBlanc is part of the rotation after workouts resume, the only question being where he’s slotted into it.

Is LeBlanc the No. 3 or 4 starter, which puts him ahead of or directly behind Asher Wojciechowski?

This is going to warrant more attention one day, after baseball-related stories no longer include the word “pandemic.”

LeBlanc can make $800,000 if he’s on the major league roster. There’s no reason to exclude him.

Allowed to pitch in two Grapefruit League games, LeBlanc surrendered one run and two hits in five innings with one walk and six strikeouts. The only run scored in the third inning of a March 4 game against the Marlins in Jupiter after Monte Harrison doubled and later came home on Brian Anderson’s sacrifice fly.

Seems so long ago.

The Orioles will check on starters who are released in order to deepen their pool of rotation candidates. But they don’t know when or where spring training is going to resume. They don’t know how long they’ll have to set the roster prior to opening day. They don’t know if the roster size is going to be adjusted because of the lengthy interruption.

Key dates in spring training have been destroyed. The reset is pending.

The decision to option outfielder Cedric Mullins is the lone surprise for me. David Hess didn’t appear to be a rotation candidate and Ramón UrÍas ranked behind Andrew Velazquez, Pat Valaika and Stevie Wilkerson in the utility competition.

Though Mullins was 4-for-19 and struck out nine times, he’s able to back up at all three spots and provides speed and basestealing skills that are important to the club. And Trey Mancini’s surgery increases the need for an extra outfielder.

As I wrote last night, the move with Mullins appears to put Mason Williams in a favorable position as a non-roster invitee.

* Major League Baseball has announced a plan to support minor leaguers impacted by the shutdown, with players due a lump sum equal to the allowances that would have been paid through April 8.

The exceptions involve players who aren’t on the 40-man-roster but already have been receiving major league allowances, players who are receiving housing, food or other services from their teams and players who weren’t participating in minor league spring training.

The statement included how MLB remains in communication with clubs on the development of an industry-wide plan for minor league player compensation from April 9 through the beginning of the coming season.

“MLB takes the community impact of this crisis seriously. We will continue to monitor ongoing events and undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts to protect fans, players and ballpark workers, and we urge all baseball fans to follow suit. MLB extends its best wishes to all the individuals and communities who have been impacted by the coronavirus.”

During his conference call yesterday with the local media, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias was asked whether the Orioles intended to compensate their minor leaguers beyond April 8.

“I know that’s something that the league is very mindful of and talking about,” he replied. “Priority No. 1 is getting an agreement with major league players and then everything I’ve been told and seen is we will all turn our attention to the minor league topic once that’s taken care of.”

* The shutdown appears to really hurt a team like the Orioles that is making an improved farm system such a high priority in the rebuild and wants to filter more of its prospects onto the major league roster later in the summer.

This is especially true with the young starters. The Orioles want to be able to insert Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer into the rotation and make decisions on others who could be knocking on the door.

“There are a lot of concerns with baseball and a sudden layoff of this time and that’s one of them,” Elias said.

“I think every player in every organization will be impacted the same way, so that will alleviate some of the ill effects of this disruption when it comes to minor leaguers, but it’s tough for young guys, especially guys right out of high school or are still in A ball. Those are really precious at-bats. And there are college players out there right now who aren’t getting at-bats. There’s just no baseball that’s being played.

“So I guess the takeaway is everyone’s impacted the same way and will be in the same boat. So overall whatever effect that has will not affect one player over another, but it is going to be something that we’re continually assessing and talking about during the layoff. It’s just one of these things where we’ll have to deal with it.”

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