Almost two full months have passed since the Orioles set their 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft and chose to designate Renato Núñez for assignment. One of their arbitration-eligible players was redirected into free agency. Another team would have to be comfortable paying Núñez in the neighborhood of $2 million.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said Núñez no longer fit on a reconstructed roster. There wasn’t a clear position for him on the field. And the Orioles weren’t interested in the pay increase.
Núñez remains on the market, along with former teammate Hanser Alberto, who was non-tendered. And how the Orioles are going to replace Núñez remains unclear.
We know that they want to bring in at least one starting pitcher. We know that they want to bring in a couple of infielders, perhaps one on a major league deal and one on a minor league deal. But hey, we can’t know everything.
The outfield combinations can be turned like a Rubik’s Cube. Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander are a popular combination, with Trey Mancini at first base, but Cedric Mullins and DJ Stewart also are in the discussion.
I’m working under the assumption that Santander stays with the club. I’ve heard that he’s drawing interest. A scout from another organization said, “He’s out there for trade.” Keep an eye on the Marlins, who are looking for a right fielder. And keep in mind that these talks happen every offseason and often lead to nothing.
There isn’t a one-dimensional, bat-only player for the Orioles who easily slots in the DH role and can definitely provide 30-plus home runs. Past managers have expressed a preference for having the flexibility to rotate guys, and the Orioles could do it in 2021.
Mancini could be the DH in order to ease him back into competition, depending how his body responds to the chemotherapy treatments that ended in September. Chris Davis is on the team and, if not on the bench, could play first and push someone to DH.
The Orioles could use Stewart in the role if he’s on the club and hope for more power bursts and another .355 on-base percentage - though it came in only 112 plate appearances.
They could send out a lineup on certain nights with Mountcastle as the DH. They could occasionally put Mullins in center and make Hays the DH, or vice-versa. They could occasionally “rest” Santander by using him as the DH. They could DH Rio Ruiz if he isn’t starting at third base.
Manager Brandon Hyde hasn’t been reluctant to put both catchers in the lineup and can do it more easily if carrying a third on an expanded roster.
The Orioles don’t need Núñez to back up at first base with Mancini returning, Mountcastle now in the majors and Davis still on the team. He wasn’t going to play third except in an emergency.
The door was left open for a possible return by Alberto. The Orioles didn’t do the same for Núñez, however, with Elias saying in November, “We certainly appreciate his contributions here, and wherever he ends up we’ll continue to root for Renato.”
“He’s a productive hitter and we’ve all seen that,” Elias said. “He’s a quality player and a good hitter and a big power threat, and ours is not the ideal roster for him in terms of a fit. We have several players that play the defensive spots that he does and sort of fill that profile for us. This is part of the business of cycling guys in and cycling them out. That’s just kind of what we do.”
The market for Núñez will expand if the DH is used again in the National League. Major League Baseball can’t seem to provide much clarity on any issue.
MLB could use its own feet to drag the infield between innings.
Anyway, what do you think about the rotating DH, as opposed to having one player in the role?