Since the start of 2022, Camden Chat has written an article about each player on the Orioles 40-man roster, with updates as new ones arrive.
How he arrived: Waiver claim from Minnesota Twins, 10/11/22
Who left: Jake Reed designated for assignment 10/11/22
It hasn’t even been ten days since the end of the regular season, the postseason is ongoing, and the Orioles already have two 40-man roster moves under their belt for the offseason. The first saw them select the contract of catcher Anthony Bemboom (again), apparently to ensure he does not become a minor league free agent. The second saw the O’s hitting the waiver wire, winning a claim on outfielder Jake Cave, who arrived from the Twins earlier this week.
Cave, who turns 30 in December, is a lefty-batting outfielder with experience at all three outfield positions. He was originally drafted by the Yankees in the sixth round in 2011, but never reached the big league level until he was traded to the Twins before the 2018 season. He’s played in parts of five MLB seasons, though his high in games played is 91, which he reached in that 2018 rookie season.
As an MLB hitter, Cave has batted a combined .235/.297/.411, and since the start of the 2020 season that batting line is much worse: .206/.262/.352. No wonder he hasn’t gotten much playing time. This isn’t even the first time Cave has been on the waiver wire. The Twins dumped him late last year and he went unclaimed. He found his way back to the roster of an injury-wracked team that only won 78 games, then was dumped again following the 2022 season.
This time around, the Orioles put a claim on Cave. Why they have done this is not something for which I can readily conjure an explanation. The outfield is not an area where it seems like the O’s have a big need of depth. Even if we suppose that they are looking for some insurance in case they trade a corner outfielder this offseason, they should already have Kyle Stowers ready to plug in.
A lot of the waiver claims made earlier in the season involved players who were still young and had some possibly untapped talent. That’s obviously not the explanation for the 29-year-old Cave. The immediate comparison is Brett Phillips, the lefty-batting outfielder who the Orioles acquired for cash considerations in early August, whose acquisition seemed (for two more hours until the trade deadline) to presage a trade of Austin Hays or Anthony Santander.
The Orioles didn’t trade Hays or Santander before that deadline. Phillips batted 2-17 in eight games, then he was designated for assignment again. It never made a lot of sense why he was here, as he didn’t seem to add anything to the roster, unless “player with an apparent to the public sunny disposition” was some kind of important clubhouse role. Nor did it make sense why Jesús Aguilar was here for the 16 games he played.
Now there’s Cave, who as an October arrival would have to survive five-plus months on the roster to even make it to the next regular season. Perhaps he will, though the O’s do have a bunch of prospects to protect from the Rule 5 draft next month (and John Means returning from the 60-day injured list) and will be trimming the fat ahead of that.
Cave has a minor league option remaining for 2023. With that flexibility available, he could be more appealing injury insurance than a minor league free agent signing would be likely to be. If the 2023 Orioles get to the point where they need that insurance, things have probably gone very wrong, but it is better to have it than not.
Maybe Mike Elias, for whatever reason, felt it was important to have a Jake on the roster, and had to set about finding a new one when he designated Reed for assignment. Other Jakes who played in MLB in 2022, Bird, Brentz, Burger, Cousins, Cronenworth, Diekman, Fishman, Fraley, Hager, Marisnick, McCarthy, McGee, and Meyers, were not immediately available. Cave was on the waiver wire. So here we are with Cave. This is a facetious paragraph.
Joking aside, Cave looks like a typical “Quad-A” kind of player. He is good enough to be better than the competition at Triple-A, where he’s now OPSed .855 across seven different seasons. He’s good enough to have bursts of success at the MLB level; Cave had a .795 OPS after his first two seasons. He’s not good enough, or at least hasn’t been good enough, to sustain that success.
There are worse players to have around as a kind of “in case of emergency, break glass” in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle. There are lots of better ones, too, but they don’t become available on waivers in October. Time will tell us whether there is ever an occasion beyond right now to have a Jake Cave-centered article on Camden Chat. I’m not holding my breath.
Still to come: That’s all, for now