One of the more mundane parts of the offseason is routine roster pruning. The Orioles took their first step of this on Friday afternoon when they outrighted local guy Steve Johnson, whose surprisingly good 2012 appearances seemed to follow in the footsteps of his father Dave Johnson, a pitcher on the 1989 team.
Outrighting the younger Johnson to Norfolk means that he is immediately off of the 40-man roster, having already passed through waivers. A player can only be outrighted once in his career, after which he can instead choose to be a free agent. As it turns out, Johnson was outrighted in the past, so he could become a free agent now, and in any case, he will now be eligible to file as a free agent following the World Series as a six-year minor league free agent.
Johnson battled a shoulder injury through this season with the Tides. In 13 games at the Triple-A level, he walked 30 batters in 38 innings and gave up 47 hits to boot. That's a good way to end up with a 7.11 ERA, a far cry from the 2.11 ERA he had in his 12 games with the 2012 O's.
At 27, he's probably reached his ceiling as a player. Little surprise if the Orioles are not counting on him for their long-term plans. His chances were fringy at best and the shoulder injury could have robbed him of even that. He'll probably get a chance to compete for a spot in spring training but he will not be occupying a roster spot as he does so. If he surprises and earns a spot, they'll make space for him again. That's how Dan Duquette rolls.
Removing Johnson gives the Orioles a space on the 40-man roster. Maybe Duquette wants to make one of his famous waiver claims or maybe he's just getting ready for the free agency period. The scrap heap calls like a siren. The O's had two of their regulars stashed on the 60-day disabled list as the season ended: Manny Machado and Matt Wieters. Players on there do not take up a roster spot during the season.
There is no 60-day DL in the offseason, so they'll have to go back on the 40-man roster soon. The O's will also get some space when their free agent players declare their intentions, as well as if the Orioles non-tender any players at that deadline.