As the delay to the 2020 season goes on, it’s complicating life for the Orioles. There’s no telling how many schedule and roster scenarios have gone though the mind of executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias. Manager Brandon Hyde has probably contemplated lineups and pitching matchups in his ample down time.
Here are five ways that life has been complicated by the uncertainty:
- If the season begins in Florida or Arizona, where does everyone go?
From the Orioles’ standpoint, it’s easier if they’re allowed to return to Sarasota. The training facility is there. Hotel rooms would be available and inexpensive, and they’re familiar with the other teams’ spring training stadiums.
In Arizona, it becomes more complicated. Would they train alongside other teams? There are 10 spring training facilities used by 15 teams, and while the Diamondbacks’ Chase Stadium and perhaps some college stadiums could be used, where would all those players go?
- How do they prepare for the draft?
Even though the draft is going to be different from last year and previous years, it’s still selecting the best handful or two handfuls of players available.
The draft could be only five or 10 rounds, and as Elias said in a Zoom conference call on Monday, the Orioles have prepared as if it’s a 40-round draft.
With a truncated high school season, the Orioles probably would lean toward taking college players because they’ve seen more of them and at a mature age. There’s a huge difference between watching a 16- and 17-year-old.
Elias pointed out that players from cold-weather climates would be at a disadvantage and if they’re high-schoolers, they’ll probably go on to college. College players can also take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted.
Overall, Elias is more comfortable with the drafting process since he’s been through it and can work with more certainty than other areas.
- A shortened or canceled season could make for difficult contract questions
The Orioles have only two players with guaranteed contracts for 2021, first baseman Chris Davis and pitcher Alex Cobb.
Davis would be entering the sixth year of a seven-year, $161 million contract. He earns $17 million a season with $6 million deferred. No decision as been made on deferred money payouts.
Next season is the final one on Cobb’s four-year, $57 million contact. According to Cot’s Contracts, Cobb’s deal calls for $20 million of that money to be deferred, and if he doesn’t pitch 130 inning this season, which seems probable, $5 million of next year’s contract becomes deferred.
- The Orioles don’t have many thorny free-agent questions
The only possible free agent on the 40-man roster is José Iglesias. He was signed to a one-year $2.5 million contract with either a $3.5 million option for next season or a $500,000 buyout.
Iglesias was signed to provide solid defense at shortstop, and other than Richie Martin, who was probably ticketed for Triple-A Norfolk, there isn’t a major league ready prospect in the system.
Wade Leblanc and Tommy Milone, who looked as if they had good chances to be part of the Orioles’ rotation when spring training ended, would be free agents but have not been added to the 40-man roster.
Neither has veteran catcher Bryan Holaday, who was challenging for a roster spot when camp concluded.
- Arbitration could be a headache
The Orioles have five players on their 40-man roster who were eligible for arbitration: infielder Hanser Alberto, pitchers Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens and outfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini.
Givens was the only one in his second year of arbitration and his 2020 salary is $3.23 million. The other four are in their first year.
It’s not known how the arbitration process would be affected by a shortened season or a canceled one.
According to Baseballreference.com, the Orioles have six players on their 40-man roster who could be arbitration-eligible next season: pitcher Shawn Armstrong, infielder Renato Nunez, outfielder Anthony Santander catcher Pedro Severino and pitchers Hector Velázquez and Asher Wojciechowski.
They didn’t acquire Velázquez until March 8, four days before the end of spring training, and he hadn’t pitched for them.
If the 2020 season had proceeded as scheduled, the Orioles might have cycled through some of the starting pitchers who began the season in the rotation and replaced them with minor league call-ups.
With uncertainty prevailing now, the Orioles can’t come up with even rough plans for exposing their young players to the major leagues.