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Friday Bird Droppings: The offseason roster shuffling has begun

In Baltimore and around the majors, the hot stove action is picking up pace.

Mesa Solar Sox v. Surprise Saguaros
One-time top prospect Yusniel Diaz was jettisoned from the Orioles’ 40-man roster.
Photo by Jill Weisleder/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

Mike Elias’s promised offseason of “liftoff” is upon us, and for the first time in a long while, there could be plenty of exciting things happening with the Orioles this winter. The Birds’ days of doing nothing but making a Rule 5 pick and signing a couple of scrap-heap veterans are, hopefully, behind us. It feels good to imagine that the O’s will be in the bidding for some high-profile free agents or impactful trade acquisitions.

For now, though, there’s some internal roster management to take care of. Yesterday the O’s did a bit of shuffling by temporarily reinstating John Means from the 60-day IL — a required paper move, since there’s no injured list in the offseason — and, most notably, jettisoning former top prospect Yusniel Diaz from the 40-man roster. Diaz cleared outright waivers, which means that every team in baseball had the opportunity to claim him for free and chose not to.

It isn’t surprising that Diaz was no longer in the Orioles’ plans, but it’s sad to see just how far his star has fallen. Four years ago, he was considered the top prize of the Orioles’ trade of superstar Manny Machado to the Dodgers, and immediately slotted in as the Birds’ #1 prospect. Since then, through a combination of ineffectiveness and a slew of injuries, Diaz has just one major league inning to his name and no MLB team even deems him worthy of a 40-man slot. That Machado trade, which was supposed to be a franchise-altering deal that would kick-start the Orioles’ rebuild, has instead turned into one of ex-GM Dan Duquette’s biggest failures. Only Dean Kremer’s modest success has kept Duquette from going 0-fer on the five players he acquired in the return package.

Elsewhere around the league, we’ve seen a few trades and signings going on in the early days of the offseason. Yesterday the O’s division rival Rays traded away first baseman Ji-Man Choi, who’d been with the club for five years, to the Pirates. The Birds had seen plenty of Choi over the last few seasons, and I’d forgotten that he was actually a member of the Orioles for a hot minute. (The O’s signed him as a minor league free agent in November 2015 but lost him in the Rule 5 draft just over two weeks later.) And 14 free agents received qualifying offers from their teams, meaning it would cost the Orioles their third-highest draft pick to sign any of them. I’d certainly be willing to take that risk for some of the players on that list.

When will the biggest free agent dominoes begin to drop, and will the Orioles be involved? Stay tuned.


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Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! You share your day with two ex-Orioles: 2007 catcher J.R. House (43) and the late right-hander Ike Delock (b. 1929, d. 2022) of the 1963 Birds.

Nov. 10 has been a surprisingly busy day in Orioles history from the get-go. On this date in 1953, just weeks after the franchise had moved to Baltimore from St. Louis, the O’s hired veteran skipper Jimmy Dykes as the first manager in club history. Dykes had spent 13 years managing the White Sox and three the Athletics, but he lasted just one year in Baltimore, losing 100 games in the Orioles’ inaugural season before Paul Richards replaced him.

On this day in 1970, Boog Powell was voted the AL’s Most Valuable Player after bashing 35 homers, collecting 114 RBIs, and posting a .962 OPS to help lead the O’s to a World Series championship. Honestly, the award probably should have gone to Red Sox slugger Carl Yastrzemski, who led the league with a 9.5 WAR, .452 OBP, .592 SLG, and hit 40 homers, but I’m not complaining.

On this date in 1982, the Orioles hired former Giants manager Joe Altobelli for the impossible task of replacing Hall of Famer Earl Weaver as the Birds’ skipper. I’d say Altobelli more than held his own, winning the World Series in his first season with the Birds in 1983, though he lasted less than three years on the job in total.

And on this day in 2014, Buck Showalter was voted AL Manager of the Year after leading the Orioles to a 96-win season and an AL East title, their first in 17 years. It marked the last time an Oriole has won any of the four major BBWAA awards, a streak that could end this year with Brandon Hyde (Manager of the Year) and Adley Rutschman (Rookie of the Year) as finalists in their categories.