On Monday, the Orioles dropped two players from their 40-man roster. One, Carson Fulmer, had been with the Orioles since September 5th when he was selected on waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates, who reclaimed the 26-year-old right-hander.
Fulmer had pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings for the Orioles.
The second was Cody Carroll, who passed through waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Norfolk. Carroll, who was obtained in the July 2018 trade with the New York Yankees for Zack Britton, allowed 12 runs on nine hits in two innings for a unsightly 54.00 ERA. Carroll will stay at the Bowie alternate site.
Those moves are the beginning of many changes to the 40-man roster, which for the moment has 37 players. One player will be added to the 28-man roster, which has a vacancy with Fulmer gone.
If José Iglesias’ bruised wrist requires more rest, then the Orioles will need infield coverage, and they could again select the contract of Dilson Herrera, who was on the active roster earlier this month and played three games. Infielder Ramón Urias is already on the 40-man roster.
The biggest action will occur after the season when the Orioles have a number of names to consider as additions to the 40-man roster.
Last fall, the Orioles added Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer, outfielder Ryan McKenna and Ryan Mountcastle.
They must return Trey Mancini and infielder Richie Martin, both of whom are on the 60-day injured list, to the 40-man roster. They also could bring back pitcher Kohl Stewart, who opted out of the season for health reasons, and is on the Covid-19 injured list.
Left-handed pitcher Bruce Zimmermann has already been added, and outfielder Yusniel Diaz is a certainty to be added.
Diaz, who came along with Dean Kremer, infielder Rylan Bannon and pitcher Zach Pop from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade on July 18, 2018, was the biggest name in the deal at the time.
Infielder Breyvic Valera also was in the trade, and he played 12 games with the Orioles that year before moving on.
At the time, Diaz was considered the centerpiece of the trade, but he’s been slowed by injuries. This year’s minor league shutdown has delayed Diaz’s promotion to the Orioles. He’s been at major league spring training and then at the Bowie alternate site.
Bannon and Pop are eligible for the Rule 5 draft, too. Bannon, who was a late addition to the alternate site, showed some punch last season when he hit .317 with an .893 OPS in 20 games for Norfolk. Earlier, Bannon hit .255 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs in 110 games for Double-A Bowie.
The Orioles haven’t called him up this season.
Pop, who got off to a strong start last season with the Baysox, allowing just one run in 10 2/3 innings for an 0.84 ERA, needed Tommy John surgery. It would be a risk for a team to draft Pop if he were left unprotected, but it could be tempting.
The much surer bets to be added are pitchers Michael Baumann and Zac Lowther. Baumann, who reportedly suffered an elbow injury at the alternate site in recent weeks, and Lowther would have pitched in Triple-A this season if there had been a minor league season.
Lowther wasn’t added to the player pool until earlier this month because of an oblique injury.
Baumann and Lowther are highly thought of prospects. Baumann was rated as MLB.com’s 27th-ranked prospect in the organization while Lowther was ranked No. 8.
Left-hander Alexander Wells, who was named the team’s top minor league pitcher in 2017, is eligible for the Rule 5 draft for the first time. The 23-year-old Australian was 8-6 with a 2.95 ERA for Bowie in 2019, and allowed just one run in 15 2/3 innings for Surprise in the Arizona Fall League a year ago. He is not part of the 60-man player pool.
Wells, who MLB.com rated as its 28th-leading prospect, has terrific control. He walked just 24 in 137 1/3 innings for the Baysox in 2019.
Reliever Isaac Mattson seems like a decent bet to be protected. Mattson was acquired along with three other pitchers in the December 2019 trade with the Los Angeles Angels for Dylan Bundy.
The 25-year-old right-hander is at the Bowie alternate site and did pitch in five games for Triple-A Salt Lake.
Also Rule 5 eligible for the first time is infielder Mason McCoy, the Orioles’ sixth-round selection in 2017. McCoy raised eyebrows in the organization last season when he hit .379 for High-A Frederick. At Bowie, McCoy hit .266 with two home runs and 31 RBIs. Althoug he received an invitation to major league spring training, McCoy wasn’t part of the 60-man player pool.
Brian Gonzalez might be the most intriguing of all 40-man roster questions. Gonzalez was the Orioles’ third-round draft pick back in 2014 but, because they lost their first- and second-round picks for signing free agents Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz, he was that year’s top selection.
Gonzalez has been Rule 5 eligible twice before, but the left-hander has a higher profile now that he’s been converted to a reliever and made part of the 60-man player pool.
Not only is Gonzalez Rule 5 eligible, he could also be a minor league free agent because he’s spent six full seasons in the organization.
After spending so much time on Gonzalez, the Orioles could lose him to another organization unless he’s either protected on the 40-man roster or re-signed to a minor league contract.
With Executive Vice President/General Manager Mike Elias’ talent pool growing larger, it seems as if they have more contenders and more difficult decisions to make in 2020.