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Friday Bird Droppings: The Orioles are recycling roster moves

The O’s continued to tread water by reclaiming a guy they’d already jettisoned and dumping a guy they acquired two days earlier. Whee!

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins
Welcome (back) to Baltimore, Lewin Díaz.
Photo by Bryan Cereijo/Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

Is it just me, or is the Orioles’ roster going in circles?

Yesterday the O’s made a couple of surprising transactions, designating first baseman Ryan O’Hearn for assignment just two days after they’d acquired him from the Royals. To replace him, the Birds reclaimed first baseman Lewin Díaz, whom they’d claimed from the Pirates Dec. 2, then traded to the Braves on Dec. 23.

Got all that?

This isn’t the first time Mike Elias has pulled the ol’ claim-and-waive-and-claim-again maneuver on a player. In January 2019, he claimed infielder Hanser Alberto from the Yankees, lost him on waivers to the Giants in February, and then reclaimed him in March. One offseason later, Elias did the same with infielder Pat Valaika (claimed from Rockies in October 2019, lost on waivers to Arizona in January 2020, and reclaimed later that month). It’s a strategy the Orioles use when they like a player enough to bring him into the organization but don’t necessarily want him clogging up a 40-man spot. In both cases, Alberto and Valaika had first-year success — Alberto batted .305 in his inaugural season with the Birds, while Valaika posted a .791 OPS in his 52-game O’s debut — but each fell off badly in his second year and was jettisoned. So it goes. Perhaps Díaz will have more staying power, or maybe he’ll simply be waived again before ever wearing an Orioles uniform.

The one thing those 2019 and 2020 Orioles teams had in common, though, was that neither was expected to contend. The O’s were still firmly in the rebuilding stage, so making waiver claims of fringe players in hopes of finding a contributor was a reasonable approach. But the fact that the Orioles are still doing such things, coming off a feel-good 83-win season with eyes on contention in 2023, is a little frustrating.

At this stage, the Orioles should be making more significant moves to bolster their roster and address their areas of weakness, but this offseason they’ve mainly been shopping in the low end of the free agent market and playing hot potato with journeyman waiver claims. They’ve barely changed their usual offseason strategy, even though the team is now poised to compete with a few key moves.

Orioles fans started this offseason with big dreams about the type of talent the club could add. For the most part, that hasn’t materialized. Tinkering around the edges of the roster with the likes of Díaz and O’Hearn is uninspiring for an Orioles team that still has bigger fish to fry.


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Contract extensions start to bubble up this time of the winter. The Orioles might be wise to get on that. - Maximizing Playoff Odds
Jon Meoli points out another frustrating aspect of this O’s offseason: not only are they not paying for significant free agents, but they also aren’t locking in their own stars, such as pre-arbitration extensions for Adley and Gunnar. Where has the money gone?

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! It’s the 32nd birthday of recent ex-Oriole Kevin Gausman, the Birds’ first-round draft pick in 2012 who had a decent but unspectacular six-year O’s career, but has since emerged as a Cy Young contender for the division rival Blue Jays. I wish the current Orioles development staff had gotten a chance to work with Gausman before the club traded him in 2018. Alas. Other former Orioles born on Jan. 6 include righty Brian Bass (41), lefty Norm Charlton (60), and the late outfielder Lenny Green, who died on his 86th birthday in 2019.

On this day in 2017, the Orioles traded right-hander Yovani Gallardo to the Mariners for outfielder Seth Smith. It’s frankly amazing the O’s got anyone to take on Gallardo and his entire $11 million salary after his one woeful season in Baltimore, in which he was 6-8 with a 5.42 ERA. (He went on to have an even worse year for Seattle.) In exchange, the Orioles got Smith, a decent OBP guy who was reasonably productive in his one year for the Birds before retiring.