The free-agent market has gained a former Orioles starter.
Thomas Eshelman cleared waivers yesterday and was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles announced this morning that he elected free agency rather than remain in their system.
Eshelman, 26, has a previous outright assignment, which gives him veto power. The Orioles designated him for assignment on Sept. 2, 2019 while activating Mark Trumbo from the 60-day injured list.
The willingness of the Orioles to part with Eshelman this week speaks to their confidence in their young pitchers. Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann made their major league debuts over the summer and they placed Michael Baumann, Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells on the 40-man roster to protect them in the Rule 5 draft.
Jorge López will be given another chance in spring training to make the rotation or work out of the bullpen.
It’s also an indicator that they expect to find a veteran upgrade in free agency, whether on a major league or minor league deal. They signed left-handers Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone in February and are expected to make a similar move prior to opening day.
The Orioles could attempt to re-sign Eshelman later if he isn’t able to land a better deal. They designated him on Nov. 25 to create a spot for outfielder/first baseman Chris Shaw, who was claimed on waivers from the Giants.
Eshelman registered a 3.89 ERA and 1.240 WHIP this season in 12 games, including four starts. Manager Brandon Hyde trusted him to handle an assignment on short notice.
His ability to cover innings was appreciated.
In one of 2020’s quirky stats, Eshelman and Travis Lakins Sr. tied for the team lead in wins with three.
The Orioles acquired Eshelman from the Phillies on June 9, 2019 for international bonus slot money. He’s registered a 5.22 ERA and 1.429 WHIP in 70 2/3 innings.