After word surfaced on Friday that the Orioles had reached agreement with their three players eligible for arbitration and just before the team sent out its letter from general manager Mike Elias to season ticket holders, Elias acquired his fourth infielder, Hanser Alberto, in the past month.
If Elias’ predecessor, Dan Duquette, had added an infielder with a lifetime OPS of .440, fans would have been outraged, claiming that Duquette was bringing in players on the cheap. Duquette often claimed players for depth purposes, both for the Orioles and for Triple-A Norfolk and Double-A Bowie.
Because the Orioles haven’t developed any major league-ready infielders in the recent past, they overspent for minor leaguers. A year ago, they re-signed major league veteran Ruben Tejada, who had been a solid major league regular before breaking his right leg in October 2015 when Chase Utley crashed into him.
As the Orioles cycled through a team-record 56 players last year, Tejada wasn’t one of them. He batted just .230 at Norfolk, and Elias wants to have better options.
Of the five major league players he has added to the roster since taking over nearly two months ago, four are infielders — Alberto, Rio Ruiz, Richie Martin and Drew Jackson.
In 2018, the Orioles used 14 infielders. Only four — Villar, Chris Davis, Renato Nunez and Steve Wilkerson — remain on the 40-man roster. Another, Jace Peterson, was outrighted and re-signed to a minor league contract. He’ll get a chance to make the club in spring training.
Elias recognized the severe lack of depth he inherited from Duquette, particularly in the infield, and he has focused on that.
To make room for Alberto, the Orioles designated catcher Andrew Susac for assignment. That transaction was noteworthy because it took longer than expected.
Susac batted just .115 in nine games, and left Triple-A Norfolk after he broke his left wrist in late July. He wasn’t given permission to leave the Tides, and the Orioles placed him on the restricted list for a time.
It was expected that he would be the first player, or among the first, to be removed from the 40-man roster after the season. Instead, he survived more than three months.
The move leaves the Orioles with two incumbent catchers, Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns. Carlos Perez, a catcher with an excellent defensive reputation, was signed to a minor league contract and has a strong chance to make the team. Another veteran catcher or two will likely be added.
Martin Cervenka, another strong defensive catcher, was nearly put on the 40-man roster in November and also will be coming to spring training.
It’s important to have at least five or six catchers during the early weeks of spring training to catch the number of pitchers who will be there.
In the month before pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13, the Orioles will complete a coaching staff and add more players — possibly candidates for the starting rotation and veteran outfielders.
The Orioles don’t have an obvious right fielder, and while a starting rotation could be pieced together, a few potential starters would help.