It's mid-September in Baltimore, which means it's time for Andy
MacPhail to start thinking about the offseason. The first order of
business is to clean up the 40-man roster in preparation for the Rule 5 draft in
The Orioles have 46 men on their 40-man roster right now (those extra 6 are on the 60-day DL), and they will need to add 5 prospects to the extended roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. The 60-day DL disappears for the offseason in October, so the Orioles will need to prune at least 11 players next month - and more if they sign any free agents.
Here's how I see it.
Under Contract (6)
The Orioles have just 6 players currently under contract for 2009, and all of them are due to be free agents after 2009. The top 4 guys on the list are candidates to be traded, and the bottom two are candidates to be cut (a la Gibbons) if they don't earn a spot in spring training.
Markakis, Sherrill, and Ray will be arbitration-eligible for the first time. Guthrie and Scott should also qualify for the first time under the super-two rule. Cabrera enters his second year of arbitration and he's the only member of this group who has any chance of being non-tendered. I expect all 6 will be Orioles next year.
Likely Major Leaguers (8)
These players are all virtual locks to make the opening day roster (if healthy). All of them will earn close to the major league minimum. All 6 of the pitchers could theoretically fit in either the rotation or the bullpen. Johnson and Sarfate are out of options.
Matusz is already on the 40-man because of his major league contract, and the others will need to be added to the 40-man to protect them from the rule 5 draft. I don't see any of these guys making the major league club out of spring training, but some of them could push for spots later in the season.
AAA Depth (7)
All of these guys have a shot at making the opening day roster. Patton, Moore, Hoey, and Penn are coming off serious injuries, and the others will have to prove themselves in spring training. Moore and Penn are out of options, so they will be exposed to waivers if they don't make the opening day roster.
Fringe Depth (7)
These guys will round out the 40-man roster and are on the cusp of being cut. If the Orioles sign any free agents or need to free up room to make a rule 5 pick of their own, these guys will be the first to go. Burres and Fahey are out of options.
Likely to be cut (7)
These players can fight for a spot on the Fringe Depth list, but most of them will be cut shortly after the World Series in order to get the roster down to 40. Loewen is obviously a bit of a special case, but he needs to come off the 40-man because he is out of options.
Free Agents (4)
These players are currently on the 40-man, and they will be eligible to file for free agency. I don't expect any of them will be invited back on a major league deal.
Matt Wieters (1)
Wieters may make the team out of spring training, but the Orioles won't have to add him to the 40-man until the last minute, so he's not going to affect their roster planning over the offseason.