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Orioles Opening Day roster crunch has never really gone away

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The Orioles have gotten through a month without having to make any of the tough choices, but that could change as players like J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters make their way back from the disabled list.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles have several key players on the disabled list right now. When spring training broke, and there was an obvious roster crunch, the team got lucky (so to speak) with multiple players needing to start the season on the DL and some tough decisions were avoided. After several games, guys like David Lough and Jimmy Paredes came back. So far things have worked out, no hard decisions have really been made. But guys are getting healthier and that time may come. The problem hasn't gone away.

It's only a month into the season and due mostly to injuries, the roster has turned over without really alleviating the problem with which the Orioles began the season.

Opening Day 40-man players who have been removed from the 25-man

Ryan Webb
Wesley Wright
Steve Clevenger
Ryan Flaherty
Jonathan Schoop
J.J. Hardy
Matt Wieters

Players added to roster since it was set for Opening Day

Jimmy Paredes
David Lough
Rey Navarro
Ryan Lavarnway
Chris Davis
Eddie Gamboa (optioned before he appeared in a game)

Hardy, Schoop, Wieters, Wright, and Flaherty all remain on the DL. What will the team do for with these guys when they come back? When are they coming back?

Roch Kubatko reports that both J.J Hardy and Ryan Flaherty are hoping to begin rehab assignments on May 5th in Bowie. The time they each spend on those assignments may vary a little and of course something could happen to slow each guy down, but let's assume Flaherty comes back first (probably in the first half of May) since his injury was more minor. I'm pretty sure the obvious move here is to option Navarro.

When Hardy comes back (likely very shortly after Flaherty), it could be more complicated. Does Cabrera get optioned? Does Flaherty? Let's assume that somehow after all this shakes out, Navarro is optioned and Hardy is back on the team. Seems like a safe bet. So then it comes down to Cabrera or Flaherty. Both seem capable in the field, and I'd even give an edge to Flaherty. Cabrera only has a Fielding Percentage (Fld%) of .970 this season, which is a small tick above his career average. Flaherty has a Fld% of 1.000 this season and for his career at 2B (where he's likely to see most playing time with Hardy back) he's a got a career number of .991. As for offense:

2015

PA

AVG

OPS

wRC+

fWAR

Cabrera

73

.250

.543

48

-0.1

Flaherty

35

.300

1.000

175

0.5

The sample size is different, but Flaherty was having a good season before his injury. And it's not like Cabrera has done much. The last thing is Flaherty may be the best person to backup Machado at 3B, if needed. Nothing against Cabrera, but unless he gets a lot better while Flaherty is rehabbing, I'd option him and keep Flaherty.

After that, I'd guess Wesley Wright is the next guy back. The Orioles website lists Wright as coming back "possibly in early May." I doubt that would happen, but sometime this month is a good possibility. Wright didn't have time to do much before he went on the DL, but he's out of options and I'm not sure it makes much sense to DFA him.

I'd think this is where Jason Garcia finally heads back to Boston, but I've been saying that since before the season started and I've been wrong. This is where I'm going to stand up and say I think the team is wrong. I am not as smart about baseball as anyone in the Orioles organization and I recognize that, but why they would risk getting rid of yet another proven pitcher like Wright (or someone else) to keep on a guy who hasn't proven himself - who has actually proved he isn't anywhere close to ready for the big leagues - in a year when you're trying to contend and do something before you lose 11 free agents is completely beyond me. It was a neat idea, but it hasn't worked out and they should move on. If you don't like Wright, then call up McFarland.

*puts soapbox away*

Matt Wieters probably comes back next. The latest report is that he may get a rehab assignment around mid-May and be back at the beginning of June. This one is easy too - Lavarnway will get sent down.

That leaves Schoop, who may still be back before the All-Star break, but that seems a little aggressive to me. But he should be back this year at some point, at which time the Orioles will need to make a move. I don't see any good options for them on this one.

I actually think the most likely thing is Schoop gets optioned and spends the rest of the season in the minors. Coming back from an MCL injury isn't easy and even if he was cleared to play, it's hard to believe he'd quickly get back into form. And if they didn't have to, why would the team risk him re-injuring himself by rushing him back? I think it's clear they see him as their second baseman of the future, but with a crowded infield already, let him finish the season in the minors and come back next spring at full strength. And of course, he'd be there if someone else was injured and they had to call him up.

That's not the end of the Orioles roster woes. Will Kevin Gausman spend the entire season in the bullpen? Will Nolan Reimold ever get called up or will he opn out of his contract? Will the team be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline? I don't know, but the season is only a month old and lot has happened. Hopefully the team is seeing good results on the field and none of this becomes a distraction. That wouldn't be fun for anyone.