Unless the Orioles conducted minor league business in secrecy and the transactions didn’t hit the wire, there hasn’t been a move made since the Dec. 16 announcements on catcher Anthony Bemboom and pitcher Matt Vogel.
The Vogel deal was confirmed earlier that week and the club later shared the news.
Bemboom will try to win a job in spring training, perhaps starting if Adley Rutschman remains in Triple-A. Vogel hasn’t pitched for an affiliated team since 2017 and hasn’t moved past high Single-A.
His goals are a tad lower.
Baseball’s lockout has frozen free agency on the major league side. The last bit of work done on the 40-man roster came with the signing of second baseman Rougned Odor and the agreement with pitcher Jordan Lyles that’s official after he passes a physical.
Lyles will land on the 40-man with a new collective bargaining agreement. There’s a spot waiting for him.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias can fill other needs via minor league free agency before and after a new CBA is in place, and he can engage in trade talks, but he’s also going to regard major league free agency as an avenue.
There’s also a Rule 5 draft that’s been postponed, and the Orioles usually make multiple selections.
The rotation isn’t lacking for candidates, just experience and seasons with positive results. John Means is the undisputed ace, certain to pitch on opening day if healthy, and Lyles currently slots as No. 2. Elias figures to seek another veteran or two to dump into the competition - probably at a lower price than the $7 million committed to Lyles.
The Orioles don’t necessarily need another reliever, especially when an arm can be pulled from the field of starting candidates, but I’m expecting at least one more minor league signing. They do need a catcher or two to join Jacob Nottingham and Bemboom, both signed to minor league contracts.
Here’s another check of the major league free agent catchers, supplied by MLBTradeRumors.com:
Robinson Chirinos (37)
Grayson Greiner (29)
Wilson Ramos (34)
Austin Romine (33)
Chance Sisco (27)
Kevan Smith (34)
Kurt Suzuki (38)
Austin Wynns (31)
What’s left beyond getting the catching right?
The Orioles could use players already in the organization to start at shortstop and third base. Ramón Urías, Kelvin Gutiérrez and Jorge Mateo will be options in camp. Richie Martin remains in the system. But they’re seeking at least one middle infielder with the versatility to handle the hot corner. There could be multiple acquisitions.
Who will be the 2022 version of José Iglesias, Freddy Galvis and Maikel Franco?
Odor was signed for the major league minimum to play second base, but must hold onto the job. The Orioles would benefit from a more solid backup plan than experimenting with Rio Ruiz.
The organizational depth is most evident in the outfield. They could break camp with Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, DJ Stewart and Ryan McKenna, along with extra coverage from a super-utility player. But Elias also could bring in a veteran on a minor league deal to provide insurance and deepen the pool at Triple-A.
Craig Gentry arrived in camp in February 2017 and 2018. Eric Young Jr. was signed in February 2019. Alex Presley signed in February 2018. Michael Bourn signed in February 2017. Julio Borbon signed in February 2015. Randy Winn arrived in February 2011.
They don’t all stick around.
The Rule 5 draft, whenever it’s finally held, is going to give manager Brandon Hyde a few other choices, whether it’s pitching, the infield, the outfield or behind the plate.
Areas that still need to be addressed.
Notes: Among the many changes coming in the Orioles minor league system in 2022 is Josh Conway moving up to serve as Double-A Bowie pitching coach and Justin Ramsey joining manager Buck Britton at Norfolk.
Conway was hired from Coastal Carolina prior to the 2019 season to work as Bowie’s development coach. He was named Single-A Frederick pitching coach in 2020 and Single-A Aberdeen pitching coach in 2021.
Ramsey was Bowie’s pitching coach in 2021 and he’s replacing Kennie Steenstra, who’s no longer in the organization. Ramsey entered the organization as Single-A Delmarva’s pitching coach in 2019 and joined the Baysox in 2020 before the cancellation of the minor league season.
The international signing period begins on Jan. 15 and Baseball America’s Ben Badler reported that the Orioles will give Dominican center fielder Braylin Tavera a bonus in the $1.5-$2 million range, the 18th highest in baseball.
Tavera, born in February 2005, ran the 60-yard dash in 6.47 seconds at a Dominican Prospect League showcase.