In the first month and a half of the season, the Orioles seemed content to stick with what they had. Or at least they were waiting for an adequate sample size from their players before making any knee-jerk reactions with the roster.
But ever since the middle of May, the Orioles have picked up the pace a bit as far as transactions, not counting the usual Baltimore bullpen carousel and the shuffling in and out of injured players. The two positions that have gone through the most adjustments recently have been right field and catcher.
The complexion of the right field situation changed on May 13 when the Orioles demoted the struggling Anthony Santander to the minors and recalled former Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard. That position remains unsettled, seeing as Rickard is hitting .205/.271/.410 in 78 at-bats. Santander has hit .287/.325/.400 since his demotion to Double-A Bowie.
Colby Rasmus is currently on an injury rehab assignment in the minor leagues and with his activation fast approaching, the right field situation could get murkier. Rasmus played poorly in the beginning of the year, batting only .095 in 21 at-bats with 13 strikeouts. He is hitting .100/.308/.100 in 10 at-bats with Double-A Bowie while on assignment.
Right around the same time as the aforementioned outfielder transactions, the Orioles optioned catcher Caleb Joseph to the minors, on May 17. He was replaced with Andrew Susac, who would only last on the 25-man roster for 17 days, until he was replaced by Austin Wynns. The state of the catching position took another turn when rookie Chance Sisco was demoted in favor of Caleb Joseph two days ago. The move was a bit confusing, as detailed in Tyler Young’s recent piece.
With Pedro Alvarez being designated for assignment the other day, the Orioles opened up a spot for infielder Steve Wilkerson, who is an intriguing player to watch in this otherwise glum season. We might have seen Wilkerson in Baltimore even earlier if not for his 50-game suspension to start the season.
One thing Wilkerson has working for him is defensive versatility. His main spot has been second base, where he has far and away more starts than any other position at 284. But in his minor league career he has played all around the diamond, starting 44 games at third, 37 at shortstop, 11 in the outfield corners and one at first.
Wilkerson has also shown a good batting eye throughout his career. Across four plus seasons, he has a cumulative .344 on-base percentage. He has drawn 147 walks versus 331 strikeouts. The big league club is sorely lacking in the on-base department, so let’s hope Wilkerson can continue to bring that skill to the table especially.
The Orioles also recently promoted infielder Corban Joseph. Caleb’s brother, for a brief five-day stretch and the two got to play on the same big league club for exactly one game. The writing was on the wall considering that Corban Joseph was part of a five-man bench at the time for the O’s, which is an alignment they are not known for. They have shown the preference for an extra pitcher over an extra bench player usually.
The Orioles keep making these minor moves when we all know the 25-man roster could lose a lot of prominent veterans in trades as we get further into the summer. As I look at the lineup on Wednesday night against the Nationals, it is not crazy to imagine a scenario where five of the starters are gone by August. Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Danny Valencia, Jonathan Schoop and Mark Trumbo are all veterans with varying degrees of trade value. I’m not saying they will all get traded, but who knows.
Even though fans may want to see action sooner than later, we will probably have to wait until the July 31 trade deadline, when teams are most desperate to grab that one last player they think can put them over the edge. In Baltimore, people are waiting with bated breath to see if Manny will be traded. They are also waiting to see if Buck Showalter will be fired. Or if Dan Duquette will be replaced.
But we are beginning to see some roster movement, albeit in small increments. Young players are being brought up from the minors and its only a matter of time before the more upper-echelon O’s prospects get promoted, like D.J. Stewart or Cedric Mullins. Once they get called up, it may be to take the place of someone who gets traded.
When Manny Machado was conspicuously absent from the lineup back on June 11, a lot of people were overreacting, assuming a trade was imminent. But as it turns out, Manny was just sick. He was right back in the lineup the next day. But it just goes to show you how much tension surrounds this club and the potential moves to be made, because a team this bad does not avoid getting torn down.