BALTIMORE—The 2018 season still has 41 games remaining, and the Orioles will use those games to evaluate who has a chance to play for the 2019 version.
Only two players are free agents, Adam Jones and Craig Gentry, who’s completing a minor league rehabilitation stint.
There are four under contract for 2019: Chris Davis, Andrew Cashner, Alex Cobb and Mark Trumbo.
Six are eligible for arbitration: Tim Beckham, Dylan Bundy, Mychal Givens, Caleb Joseph, Jace Peterson and Jonathan Villar.
The rest of the Orioles are under club control for next year and years beyond.
Which of these Orioles are likely to be back for 2019?
Of those under contract, the four years remaining on Davis’ seven-year, $161-million contract renders him untradable while Cobb’s guaranteed him a no-trade clause for the first year of a four-year, $57-million deal, and limited no-trade protection for the succeeding three years.
Cashner, who has a year remaining on a two-year, $16-million deal, could be traded to a pitching-hungry team, but the Orioles do need starters for next season, and he and Cobb have been getting stronger.
The Orioles would love to be able to deal Trumbo, even before the end of August, but the $13.5-million salary for 2019 may prove too much for a power-hitting DH.
The players eligible for arbitration might be even trickier. Beckham is making $3.35 million in his first year of eligibility for arbitration, and his 2019 price could rise to perhaps $5 million, which might be more than the Orioles are willing to pay during a rebuild.
Bundy, whose name was mentioned during last month’s trade chatter, is unlikely to be dealt unless the Orioles are blown away by an offseason offer.
He has three years of club control left, and if the Orioles can improve by his final year of arbitration in 2021, Bundy may be a key part of an improved starting staff.
Givens’ name was also a popular one ahead of the trade deadline, but the Orioles do need a closer, and early returns have been promising. He has three years of arbitration eligibility.
Joseph is an interesting case. He hasn’t performed well offensively this season, but the Orioles’ catching hope, Chance Sisco, has been a huge disappointment in his time in the major leagues, and he’s languished at Triple-A Norfolk.
The Orioles had hoped that Sisco would have assumed the regular catcher’s job by now, but Joseph, who made a bargain $1.25 million this year, could be back in 2019.
Peterson was thought to be a stopgap pickup when the Orioles snatched him off waivers April 24, but he’s remained on the roster for nearly four months.
Manager Buck Showalter likes the gritty utility player, though his $3-million salary is likely to rise in arbitration, and the Orioles are unlikely to want to pay that much for a multi-tasker, especially if rookie Steve Wilkerson is healthy.
Jonathan Villar, who was obtained from Milwaukee in the Jonathan Schoop trade, is making $2.25 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility, and he seems likely to return.
How will the Orioles fill out their roster in 2019?
Many of the players given a look in August and September will be on the roster come next April. Some who won’t get called up Sept. 1, could make the team next spring.
Of course, we don’t know if Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette and Showalter will return in 2019, but it seems unlikely under any administration that the team will be a major player in free agency.
The Orioles could sign some infielders to one-year bridge contracts, and with some openings in the starting staff, some starters could be lured on one-year deals. If they’re doing well next July, they could be flipped for more prospects, But inexpensive deals should rule.
Under Duquette, the Orioles have been baseball’s heaviest user of the Rule 5 draft, which has produced Joey Rickard and Pedro Araujo on the current team. Araujo who has been on the disabled list for more than two months with a right elbow injury, could return in September.
It will be interesting to see if they’ll continue to employ the Rule 5 draft or if they think the farm system has been producing enough prospects of their own so that its importance can be minimized.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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