Spring Training is a time of excitement. Everyone, except for Pablo Sandoval last season, is in the best shape of their lives. There is limitless hope, teams are being molded and decisions are being made. THE ORIOLES ARE GONNA BE WORLD CHAMPS!
In reality, guys are just there to get there work in, taking grounders and fly balls, re-adjusting to seeing 95 mph fastballs and gelling with teammates. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some significance to those on the outskirts of the roster. For them, the spring means everything.
The signing of Mark Trumbo to a three-year, $37.5 million deal last week was the big splash of the offseason. The team’s payroll now reaches over $165 million, a significant uptick from 2016 when they spent about $150 million. That means that the O’s are unlikely to be handing out any more guaranteed major league deals, despite the recent Matt Wieters rumors. So, like it or not, this is what we’ve got.
Trumbo provides a power bat that can DH on a regular basis, give Chris Davis a day off at first base and *gulp* play right field, or at least stand in right field with a glove on. There were a handful of fringe major leaguers in the Orioles system that had hopes of filling one of those roles on this 2017 team. They will now be hard-pressed to make it to Opening Day.
So, let’s break the roster down a bit and make it more digestible. There are still a couple of position battles to be had, but for the most part this is a pretty settled roster. We can put the players into a few categories.
No doubt about it
A huge chunk of the Orioles roster will be made up of “no brainers”. Barring injury or some major trade, these guys will be on that first 25-man roster of 2017.
SP - Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy
RP - Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, Mychal Givens
C - Welington Castillo
INF - Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado, J.J. Hardy
OF - Adam Jones, Hyun Soo Kim, Seth Smith, Mark Trumbo
That is 16 players and it’s a pretty good group. You could probably surround them with the nine of us writers here at Camden Chat and still win like 75 games. That said, I’m glad the Orioles are looking elsewhere for their support.
SP - Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jimenez
They each have pretty big guaranteed deals for the season, so unless you can find a trade partner (ya never know) they have to stay. In terms of current ability, they are probably the fourth and fifth starters. But with Bundy still looking to build up to 200 innings per season, the Orioles will need to rely on this pair to be significantly better this season than last.
RP - Donnie Hart
The southpaw was fantastic as a rookie in 2016. In my mind, he should be a “no doubter” as the team desperately needs a lefty in the ‘pen, but he was primarily a LOOGY last year. That ability has a tendency to disappear for some pitchers. He will need to prove he’s not a fluke.
C - Caleb Joseph
What a struggle 2016 was for Joseph. Not a single RBI at the major league level. Yikes. If Wieters does come back on a one-year deal, Caleb is toast. Even without that, youngster Chance Sisco is putting some serious pressure on him. But this team needs a backup and Sisco needs to spend time in Norfolk.
INF - Ryan Flaherty, Trey Mancini
Flaherty is back year after year, making a modest salary, playing lovely defense and grounding out to second base a whole lot. But he’s affordable and reliable. Mancini could start at Triple-A if he doesn’t have a chance to play much, but he has shown he can crush lefties. Many on this team struggle in that area. He fills a need.
This group brings us to 22 players; 12 hitters, 10 pitchers. The lineup is looking good, but the bullpen is far too thin.
Three spots to fill. Who should it be? Why? Nobody knows, but here’s the best guess.
RP - Logan Verrett, Logan Ondrusek
The two Logans. Verrett can fill the void left by Vance Worley as a swingman who can give you a four-inning outing or come in for just one man. He’s versatile and the Orioles have liked him for a few years. Personally, I don’t get the fascination with Ondrusek. He was awful last year, but the team decided to give him a major league deal back in December. It’s unlikely that it was for much money, but it could be enough to keep him around for the first few weeks of the season, at least.
OF - one of the Rule 5 guys (Anthony Santander OR Aneury Tavarez)
No, I’m not committing! That is an article for a different day (actually last week). The O’s have a tendency for keeping the Rule 5 players around for as long as possible. How much influence will a fourth or fifth outfielder have in the season’s first month? Little or none. They can afford to hide a player on the team and another on the DL.
The big one is Joey Rickard. The rookie was impressive to start the 2016 season before dramatically fading. He now can be sent to the minors to work on some things and get regular playing time rather than platooning. It should be good for him.
Other notable names left off include Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, T.J. McFarland and Oliver Drake. However, the only name that seems tempting from that group is Wright. His fastball and the way he has struggled as a starter in Baltimore makes him an ideal candidate to move to the bullpen. He should begin the season with Norfolk as a reliever. That’s the best way he can help the Orioles.
The other three could contribute, sure. But what do they bring that the others don’t have? Wilson is the best spot starter of the bunch, but a team doesn’t need that early in the season. McFarland is a lefty, but isn’t especially good at getting left-handed hitters out. Drake has moments of brilliance, but is more of a plan B.