Thoughts on acquiring Baker and latest version of 40-man roster

With yesterday’s waiver claim of reliever Bryan Baker, the Orioles are carrying 17 pitchers on a 40-man roster that is unrecognizable since the final game on Oct. 3.

Baker’s arrival leaves the Orioles with 32 players on it, still plenty of space to protect minor league prospects in the Rule 5 draft and perhaps to claim two - again, if the Winter Meetings aren’t nixed after the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement.

I did my share of speculating on the bubble pitchers and ones who would at least compete for jobs in spring training. I handed Hunter Harvey a job for the late innings as long as he stayed healthy. I assumed that Chris Ellis was in the mix for a job in the rotation or perhaps long relief or as an opener after he registered a 2.49 ERA in six starts over 25 1/3 innings.

Coming from the Rays organization also seemed to broaden his appeal.

The Giants claimed Harvey on waivers after every other team passed on him. Ellis was outrighted and became a free agent, with the possibility that the Orioles try to retain him on a minor league deal.

Here is the latest version of the 40-man:

Pitchers
Keegan Akin
Bryan Baker
Mike Baumann
Paul Fry
Joey Krehbiel
Dean Kremer
Brooks Kriske
Jorge López
Zac Lowther
Isaac Mattson
John Means
Tanner Scott
Cole Sulser
Dillon Tate
Tyler Wells
Alexander Wells
Bruce Zimmermann

Infielders
Rylan Bannon
Kelvin Gutiérrez
Jahmai Jones
Trey Mancini
Richie Martin
Ryan Mountcastle
Ramón Urías

Outfielders
Yusniel Diaz
Austin Hays
Jorge Mateo
Ryan McKenna
Cedric Mullins
Tyler Nevin
Anthony Santander
DJ Stewart

Some Blue Jays fans might wonder why the club put Baker on waivers after he went 6-1 with a 1.31 ERA, 0.847 WHIP and 11 saves this summer in 39 relief appearances with Triple-A Buffalo. He struck out 48 batters and surrendered only one home run in 41 1/3 innings.

Baker averages 10.3 strikeouts and 0.9 home runs per nine innings in the minors, but also 4.2 walks. He turns 27 in December. He has a couple of options remaining. But 40-man space is precious everywhere.

The Orioles must have gotten some good looks at him while he pitched against Norfolk.

Predictions on opening day rosters can’t be made too early for this reason. No one had Baker in the bullpen and he might not make it through camp. We’ve seen lots of guys come and go in the offseason, but those stats with Buffalo certainly do intrigue.

I assumed that Harvey and Ellis would join or outlast Krehbiel and Kriske, but the relative newbies are still standing.

Krehbiel turns 29 next month, made five appearances after the Orioles selected him off waivers from the Rays - that team again - and allowed four runs and five hits with four walks in 7 1/3 innings. But he was scoreless in his first three games over 4 1/3 innings.

Kriske turns 28 in February, made four appearances after the Orioles selected him off waivers from the Yankees and allowed five runs and five hits, including two home runs, in 3 2/3 innings.

They’re probably sitting on the 40-man bubble, but at least they’re in the field of 32.

Krehbiel has two options remaining and Kriske one.

Diaz finally was shut down in the Arizona Fall League after only seven games due to a strained left shoulder. I’ve heard some fans screaming for his removal from the 40-man, or more quietly wondering why he stays if he’s constantly hurt and falling well short of the hype that accompanied his arrival from the Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade.

The Orioles hoped to get Harvey through waivers and I’m assuming the other teams passed based on his injury history. Otherwise, what’s the knock against him? A former first-round pick with upper 90s heat who turns 27 next month and isn’t even eligible for arbitration.

Diaz-Running-White-sidebar.jpgDiaz just turned 25 and it doesn’t appear that the Orioles are ready to risk losing him. They were able to do significant chopping of the 40-man among their pitchers and catchers. And Triple-A Norfolk hitting coach Tim Gibbons offers a strong endorsement of Diaz, joining the chorus that the native of Cuba just needs to squash the injury bug.

The tools are hard to walk away from, but 2022 is going to be a huge year for Diaz. He can’t afford to spend most of it on the injured list.

In case you missed it yesterday, pitcher Spenser Watkins and catcher Nick Ciuffo elected free agency after clearing outright waivers.

The 40-man roster no longer includes any catchers, but Ciuffo figured to fight for a job in spring training as a non-roster invite. The Orioles could re-sign him to a minor league deal, but he’s free to join another team.

Again, this doesn’t provide any hints about the Orioles’ plans for top prospect Adley Rutschman. They already were in the market for probably two catchers and are willing to acquire one on a major league deal if the price is right.

Watkins was the only player selected in the 30th round of the 2014 draft to make his major league debut. He earned his first win in his first start on July 6 versus the Blue Jays, allowing one run in five innings,

According to STATS, Watkins snapped a 24-game streak in which an Orioles starting pitcher didn’t record a victory, the longest in club history.

Watkins was charged with one run in each of his first three starts, joining Kremer as the only pitchers in club history to do so, but lost his next seven and registered a 10.57 ERA - becoming the first Orioles pitcher to lose seven consecutive starts since Brian Matusz in 2011. He returned to the club in September and made five relief appearances, allowing 10 runs in 7 2/3 innings. But seven of those runs scored in one-third of an inning against Toronto in a 22-7 loss.

The former Tigers farmhand tossed two and 2 1/3 scoreless innings in separate appearances in Boston and Toronto.

MLBTradeRumors.com posted its annual top 50 free agents list with predictions on landing spots and, as expected, the Orioles aren’t tied to any of them.

The club is willing to offer short-term major league deals while searching for starting pitching, at least one infielder and the catchers. The Orioles could dangle one year with an option, but they probably won’t go multiple guaranteed years.

Not yet.

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