40-man roster could require restructuring

Pitchers and catchers are required to report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex in less than a week. The offseason is about to move into the spring training workout phase, followed by exhibition games - adjusted from the original schedule to eliminate longer-distance travel - played while everyone holds their breath.

Not a bad idea during a pandemic. Reduce the risk of a positive test for COVID-19.

The Orioles aren’t a finished product and roster moves are coming while they’re in camp. More players could be signed.

The 40-man roster is full and requires subtractions in order to create room for invites who make the club.

Rule 5 pitchers Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells occupy two spots and it seems unlikely that the Orioles will take both of them to Fenway Park for opening day, especially with the rotation competition now including veterans Wade LeBlanc and Félix Hernández.

Bullpen space also is limited, though Major League Baseball won’t place a cap on the number of pitchers on a 26-man roster.

Stevie-Wilkerson-Hits-Foul-Lefty-White-Sidebar.jpgKeeping LeBlanc and Hernández would necessitate two vacancies on the 40-man. The utility competition includes non-roster invites Stevie Wilkerson, Seth Mejias-Brean and Malquin Canelo. Left-hander Fernando Abad has a shot at a bullpen role after signing a minor league deal. Thomas Eshelman could be a swingman. Austin Wynns and Nick Ciuffo are non-roster catchers trying to avoid Triple-A.

The position players on the 40-man don’t seem particularly vulnerable.

Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco are the only catchers. No fat to trim barring a trade.

There are 10 infielders: Rylan Bannon, Chris Davis, Freddy Galvis, Jahmai Jones, Richie Martin, Tyler Nevin, Rio Ruiz, Yolmer Sánchez, Ramón Urías and Pat Valaika. The Orioles claimed Urías off waivers from the Cardinals a year ago today.

(They signed outfielder Eric Young Jr. to a minor league deal two years ago today, but I digress ...)

There are eight outfielders: Yusniel Diaz, Austin Hays, Trey Mancini, Ryan McKenna, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander and DJ Stewart.

I’m working under the assumption that Davis stays on the club and Martin’s hamate bone surgery doesn’t require a stay on the 60-man injured list.

Santander isn’t untouchable in a trade and the Marlins expressed their interest. His salary is set at $2.1 million after the Orioles won their case in arbitration.

Does that make him more appealing to a club that’s shedding payroll like a collie loses hair? Or does it make him more appealing to a team engaged in trade talks?

Yes and yes.

The Orioles would gladly put Santander in right field, given what he offers a lineup, his improvement defensively and his popularity with fans. They’d also trade him if the return was right and aided the rebuild, and insert Diaz in right later in the summer after a suitable number of at-bats in Triple-A.

The latter would open up another 40-man spot, which was the original point here.

Valaika was placed on the 40-man last spring after winning a utility job. LeBlanc and Tommy Milone joined it and were plugged into the rotation.

Note: The Orioles couldn’t implement their intended starting times at Camden Yards last summer due to the pandemic, so they’re trying again in 2021.

Weeknight home games in April, May and September are set for 6:35 p.m., with 7:05 p.m. weeknight starts over the summer months.

Fans can expect 7:05 p.m. starts on Friday and Saturday nights and the usual 1:05 p.m. starts on Sunday.

There will be a handful of exceptions, including the Thursday, April 8 home opener against the Red Sox that begins at 3:05 p.m. and the 1:05 p.m. first pitch on Thursday, April 15 against the Mariners because it’s a travel day for Seattle. The April 29 game against the Yankees, also on Thursday, starts at 1:05 p.m. The May 20 game against the Rays, on a Thursday travel day, is set for 12:35 p.m.

Major League Baseball is allowing fans back in to ballparks this summer, though likely in reduced numbers. Teams must work with city and state officials to implement protocols.

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