One of the hallmarks of the Dan Duquette era has been roster flexibility. This allows Duquette and manager Buck Showalter to easily alter the lineups and roster from day to day to give the team a fresh supply of players putting the team in the best position to win that day. One of the other hallmarks of the past four seasons has been hiding a player from the Rule V draft on the roster. This year, it has been Jason Garcia, who was recalled on Thursday from his rehab assignment at Bowie.
The Rule V draft is another one of those weird creations that only baseball could come up with. Essentially, if a minor league player is not placed on the team's 40 man roster by the end of their fourth or fifth year (depending on the age they were when they signed) they can be selected in the Rule V Draft. However, in order for the selecting team to keep the player beyond the first year, that player has to be on the 25 man roster for 90 or more days in that season. Otherwise, the player must be offered back to their original team. Therefore, if a team wishes to keep a Rule V player beyond their first year with the team, then they have to keep a player with no options and most likely fringe talent on the roster for most of the season.
These two practices are at odds with each other with each other and they often lead to roster crunches and headaches. Regardless, Duquette has monkeyed the rosters enough over the past four years to keep two players (Ryan Flaherty and T.J. McFarland) and traded back for the other one when he could not find a way to keep him on the roster (Michael Alamanzar). McFarland and Flaherty at the time were at the very least capable of being the 25th man on a roster. Alamanzar never saw the majors and was eventually given back to the Red Sox. However, Jason Garcia, a player who had never pitched above A ball has managed to stick on the roster and now coming back from his rehab assignment has pushed Mychal Givens--a quality reliever with options--back to the minors.
Garcia in his short time actually pitching for the Orioles has not shown the promise the Orioles saw in him. A dead arm period was blamed for his slower than reported velocity and he has struggled with command and control thus far, not too surprising for such an inexperienced prospect. In 14.2 major league innings for Garcia he has pitched to a 5.52 ERA, with 12 walks, 8 strike outs, and 3 home runs given up. He has been bad and was not great in his rehab assignment in Bowie either, yet the Orioles bumped Mychal Givens for him.
Givens, recently converted to pitcher from shortstop, has been a revelation coming out of the bullpen this year. A side arming righty who can throw 95 mph and snap off a good slider. In 57.1 innings for Bowie Givens has a 1.73 ERA with 79 strike outs and 16 walks. In his brief stints for the Orioles he has pitched four scoreless innings and not given up a run while striking out six. Givens is clearly a superior pitcher right now to Jason Garcia. Yet, in the middle of a playoff run with the Toronto Blue Jays surging and while playing the Angels, one of the teams in front of them for a playoff spot, the Orioles opted for Garcia.
It's possible, if not likely, this does not matter in the end. With the trade of Tommy Hunter and the releasing of Bud Norris, the Orioles had two open and flexible bullpen spots. Garcia has taken one and T.J. McFarland can get used to being on the Norfolk shuttle again as a bevy of minor league arms will be coming through that last spot. Furthermore, it is less than a month to September 1st when the roster expand and Garcia can be hidden even better.
Yet, even though it is within the rules and it may not affect the team negatively for all that long, it still makes no sense. Sometimes the intangible is important. In the middle of a playoff run the Orioles are intentionally hampering themselves in order to keep one guy around long enough so that he can maybe help in two years. This year they have traded away a prospect and kept on to many of their big free agents at the trading deadline. Duquette and Showalter are clearly attempting to go for it this year. Yet, they insist on keeping around a player that cannot help them win this year.
So why keep a minor league player on the roster? What message does that send? If you want to acquire talent, stop selling draft picks. It makes no sense to trade a Zach Davies and then turnaround and carve out a special place on the roster for a Jason Garcia. These moves are hard to reconcile. This move hurts the team and it matters, even if the damage ends up being minuscule.