New CBA and old rotation concerns inhabit O’s offseason

The Orioles can make plans and create lists and envision how to properly operate their offseason, but the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement sits on their shoulders. Never removed or forgotten. It’s potential influence, a constant presence.

A new CBA must be negotiated after Dec. 1. The first face-to-face session between Major League Baseball and union officials was held in August and included a proposal for a revised service time arrangement for arbitration-eligible players, who reportedly would divvy up a $1 billion pool. And players could attain free agent status at age 29 1/2 years.

The talks didn’t move the sides any closer to an agreement.

They can agree on one point: The industry’s 26-year streak of labor peace is at risk.

The pandemic never allowed teams to get too comfortable looking ahead, and now there’s CBA drama folded into the mix. No one knows whether a work stoppage is coming, which certainly could influence which players go on the 40-man roster and which could remain active in the minors.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said last week that the CBA negotiations are “adding a wrinkle” to his planning and preparation.

Angry-bird-bag-sidebar.jpg“We don’t really know what’s going to happen, I don’t know how fast things are going to happen, we don’t know what the rules are going to be next year,” Elias said.

“I can’t image that it’s not going to affect the way teams and players do business in November, but we’ll just have to see.”

The December business is supposed to include the annual Winter Meetings, held this year in Nashville. They’re also in jeopardy.

The Orioles need to find pitching under any circumstances. That’s the No. 1 priority again.

John Means is locked into the rotation, and likely at the top of it again, since the Orioles aren’t spending for No. 1 starters and he’s earned the designation of staff ace. But no one else on the team is assured of joining him.

Matt Harvey led the Orioles with 28 starts and he’s a free agent. Jorge López was third with 25 and he’s probably a reliever if the Orioles tender him a contract, as expected.

Keegan Akin was next with 17, perhaps a surprise considering how he didn’t break camp with the team, had his debut pushed back to May 12 due to a cut finger, missed games while on the COVID-19 injured list and was shut down after Sept. 22 with an adductor strain. Dean Kremer made 13 starts, only one after June 24, and it came as the 29th man in a Sept. 11 doubleheader. He finished with a 7.55 ERA and 1.640 WHIP.

Bruce Zimmermann also made 13 starts and probably has a better chance of slotting into rotation projections that crop up through the winter. But a guaranteed spot? You can’t go that far. Just one of the favorites.

Spenser Watkins made 10 starts and he’s trying to hold onto his spot on the 40-man roster. Alexander Wells made eight, and Chris Ellis, Thomas Eshelman and Zac Lowther made six.

Four pitchers made one start and most fans would struggle to name them in a lightening round.

The answer: Conner Greene, Travis Lakins Sr., Wade LeBlanc and Adam Plutko.

Lakins is on the 60-day injured list, but he’s expected to be ready for spring training if he stays in the organization. Plutko became a minor league free agent this week.

Greene ended the season back on the active roster and in the bullpen. LeBlanc posted a 3.61 ERA in 12 games (eight starts) with the Cardinals, his fourth organization of 2021, before an August elbow injury ended his season.

So the Orioles can pencil in Means as their No. 1 starter, followed by a probably and some maybes.

They definitely need to sign a couple of veterans.

* The Orioles re-signed three players to minor league deals: outfielder Cristopher Céspedes and pitchers Ofelky Peralta and Nick Vespi.

Céspedes, 23, batted .241/.306/.432 in 99 games between Single-A Delmarva and Aberdeen, with 24 doubles, a triple, 15 home runs and 67 RBIs.

Peralta, 24, was a combined 9-4 with a 4.73 ERA and 1.457 WHIP in 23 games (17 starts) between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. He walked 50 batters and struck out 98 in 93 1/3 innings.

Vespi, 25, had a 1.42 ERA and 0.947 WHIP in 14 relief appearances with Bowie, with 26 strikeouts in 19 innings. He made 16 appearances with Norfolk and allowed 15 earned runs (17 total) and 22 hits in 19 2/3 innings, with eight walks and 25 strikeouts.

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