The Orioles took a few swipes at their 40-man roster yesterday, including how they outrighted infielder Richie Martin to Triple-A Norfolk. The former Rule 5 pick couldn’t decline because it was his first outright.
Martin stays in the organization and can compete for a job in spring training or provide more depth in the organization.
Injuries have messed with Martin the past few years. Who knows how badly they’ve hurt his development - the factures in both wrists and a broken hamate bone?
They didn’t do him any favors as he tried to stay with the club.
Martin missed the truncated 2020 season after injuring his right wrist in a July intrasquad game at Camden Yards. He injured the left wrist in May 2021 after crashing into the center field fence while playing for Norfolk and didn’t get recalled until Aug. 2.
In between was the surgery to remove the broken hamate bone sustained in winter ball.
Martin can’t seem to catch a break or avoid them.
The Orioles optioned Martin on Aug. 23 and brought him back on Sept. 9 while placing Matt Harvey on the injured list. Martin collected hits in the last three games in Toronto, but finished the season batting .235/.269/.286 in 105 plate appearances. He also repeated his minus-0.5 dWAR from 2019, per Baseball-Reference.com.
The infield remains unsettled and lost a candidate yesterday with the Nationals claiming Lucius Fox off waivers. Rougned Odor, a needed left-handed bat, is expected to compete for the job at second base after signing a one-year deal, with the Orioles responsible only for the league minimum salary.
Just don’t hand him the job. Many of us made that mistake with Yolmer Sánchez.
Ramón Urías, Jorge Mateo, Jahmai Jones and Kelvin Gutiérrez are infield options on a 40-man roster that currently holds 38 players and leaves room for a couple of selections at the Rule 5 draft, which seems more like a fantasy draft with labor unrest.
Initial negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement yesterday lasted only 30 minutes, per reports. I’ve taken longer to choose a show on Netflix.
We were warned to not read too much into the abrupt ending, that the union made a proposal and the sides could reconvene, which they reportedly did in the afternoon. Again, for about 30 minutes.
We also were told again that a lockout seemed “inevitable.” MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweeted that talks “are going nowhere” and a lockout is coming Thursday.
* The roster bubble couldn’t support the weight of Brooks Kriske, the reliever claimed off waivers three weeks before the season ended and known more for his parents’ choice to name him after a certain Hall of Fame third baseman in Baltimore.
The minor league transactions page broke the news yesterday of Kriske’s release, which we found out later was done so he could pursue an international opportunity. He had vanished from the Orioles’ 40-man. The announcement was made later in the day, when the club had to tender contracts to its arbitration eligible players.
Kriske figured to be a free agent in search of a new team and maybe the Orioles could circle back and re-sign him to a minor league deal, which was my initial assumption. But not if he already has a deal to play abroad and requested his release.
An audition in September consisted of four appearances, 3 2/3 innings and a 12.27 ERA. Pretty bad on the surface, but four of the five runs and hits he allowed came in an Oct. 1 game in Toronto.
I assumed that a full 40-man led the Orioles to remove Kriske, just in case they can keep doing business and avoid a shutdown. Or to set their roster prior to it. Maybe he was a goner anyway. Fox didn’t last two full weeks before he hit the waiver wire and the Nationals claimed him.
There go my plans to stage a match race in spring training between Fox and Mateo. On pay-per-view, no less.
* The Orioles reportedly held interest in free agent catcher Roberto Pérez, who entered the market after the Guardians declined his $7 million option for 2022 and gave him the $450,000 buyout. His original four-year extension guaranteed $9 million and included a $5.5 million option in 2021.
The Pirates reached agreement with Pérez a few hours later to a one-year, $5 million deal, which made sense after they traded Gold Glove recipient Jacob Stallings to the Marlins on Monday.
The Orioles are willing to offer a major league deal to a catcher, but also are expected to add at least one more on a minor league pact. The 40-man roster doesn’t include any catchers after the removal of Pedro Severino, Austin Wynns and Nick Ciuffo.
Pérez, who turns 33 on Dec. 23, would have needed to lower his expectations financially with the Orioles and for steady playing time while Adley Rutschman paces outside the door. He’s a two-time Gold Glove winner with a career .206/.297/.360 slash line in eight seasons and 1,683 plate appearances.
Playing throughout the 2019 season with bone spurs in his ankle that required surgery in October, Pérez appeared in a career-high 119 games and hit 24 home runs - 16 more than any other season. He threw out 20 of 49 runners attempting to steal and owns a career success rate of 39 percent.
Anyone who starts on opening day needs to be comfortable slipping into a reserve role later, which could be a tough sell for some veterans. But Rutschman also is expected to play first base or serve as the designated hitter to keep his bat in the lineup.