In what could turn out to be the biggest Orioles move of the winter meetings by virtue of it being the only move, the O’s nabbed infielder Rio Ruiz from the Braves on a waiver claim on Monday afternoon. The O’s also lost Maryland-born pitcher Ryan Meisinger on waivers to the Cardinals.
Ruiz, 24, was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 draft by the Astros and ended up in the Braves organization in the January 2015 trade of Evan Gattis. He has spent the past three seasons chiefly at the Braves Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett, though he had his contract selected for a cup of coffee in September 2016 and has appeared in the big leagues in each of the past two seasons.
That maneuvering leaves Ruiz with one minor league option remaining for 2019, and perhaps explains the interest in him by the O’s, whose infield is in flux. Ruiz has never played shortstop, so scratch him off as a utility candidate. At the moment, his role seems to be “Someone to compete with Renato Nunez for a job,” assuming he even stays on the roster long enough to do that.
The 2016 campaign is what offered a bit of appeal for Ruiz as a then-22-year-old prospect, when he posted a .271/.355/.400 batting line in 133 games for Gwinnett. The lefty-batting Ruiz had respectable walk totals at every stop in the minors, but with a .189/.282/.302 batting line in his limited 72 big league games, he hasn’t shown enough power to make MLB pitchers afraid of him yet. He has not stolen more than two bases in a season since 2015.
With two open 40-man roster spots, the O’s still opted to place Meisinger on waivers. The 24-year-old Marylander was the O’s 11th round pick in the 2015 draft, from Radford. He ascended the minor league ladder with high strikeout totals, and even struck out 21 batters in 21 big league innings this year.
The results in that small sample were not great, though, with Meisinger allowing six home runs and a 6.43 ERA overall. That’s just the sort of fringe player a new GM is likely to look at and think he can use that roster spot better. Meisinger won’t be the last to fall into this category.