The Orioles kept a departing minor league free agent in the fold by signing him to a major league contract on Tuesday. Oliver Drake, a former 43rd round draft pick from 2008, was out there getting real offers from teams, and it seems the Orioles wanted to make sure they kept him. These are the luxuries you have when you have seven open spaces on the 40-man roster. Now they have six, and Drake is back in the fold.
Who is Drake? It's safe to say the Orioles will never draft anyone like him again, if only because the draft only goes 40 rounds now. They won't have any more 43rd round picks. That's a long time ago for a guy to get drafted to be getting an MLB deal now. It's even longer when you consider that he is 27 years old (soon to be 28) and has never pitched a full season above Double-A Bowie before.
The O's had him as a starter from Delmarva through Bowie, spanning 2009-11, but he was converted into a relief role after a shoulder surgery cost him most of the 2012 season. Drake was on the 40-man roster for 2012 to protect him from the Rule 5 draft at that time. He was outrighted after that season, because guys coming off a shoulder surgery aren't going to be in high demand and, sure enough, he wasn't.
Since then, he's fired off a couple of good seasons for the Baysox. Though he only appeared in 19 games in 2013, he pitched 31 innings and struck out 38 batters. This year, he threw 52.2 innings over 50 games and struck out 71 batters while serving as the Bowie closer. That's pretty good, but then, he was about two and a half years older than the average Double-A player. It was enough to draw interest, though.
Drake existed on the fringes of my radar if only because I remember he went to the Naval Academy and I decided he should be called the Admiral. Then he got hurt and I forgot about him. Now he exists on the fringes of the 40-man roster instead. Congratulations to him for earning his way there.
Dan Duquette is not above giving 40-man spots to guys who may, when spring training rolls around, prove to be useless. This trail of the discarded includes the likes of Edgmer Escalona, Kelvin de la Cruz, Matt Antonelli, and others. This way, the O's get the first crack at a guy who held hitters to a .214/.278/.297 batting line this year.
If he shows them something, he could work his way into the bullpen conversation at the major league level in short order. He has minor league options remaining, having only used one during 2012. Someone who can ride the Norfolk-Baltimore shuttle is an important asset for the team. If Drake doesn't show them anything, well, tomorrow is only a DFA away.