The Orioles made moves to their 40-man roster on Thursday, and many more are expected.
Three of Thursday’s four cuts were predictable.
David Hess was just 4-20 with a 6.43 ERA in three seasons with the Orioles. Branden Kline, a Frederick native, had been taken off the 40-man roster and even though he had a 1.80 ERA in three games this past season, it appeared a number of relievers were ahead of him. Infielder Andrew Velazquez played more than expected because of injuries to shortstop José Iglesias but hit only .159 with two extra base hits in 40 games.
With the Orioles needing depth in their starting rotation, an argument could have been made for putting Kohl Stewart on the 40-man roster. If he chooses to stay, he’ll likely be a contender. Stewart opted out of the coronavirus-shortened season for health reasons a week after it started without pitching for the Orioles.
All four were outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk.
Always gracious after a bad start, Hess, who opted to become a free agent, won his major league debut on May 12, 2018 and his first start of the 2019 season. Manager Brandon Hyde pulled a disappointed Hess after 6 1/3 hitless innings in Toronto. Hess lost 20 of his 22 other decisions.
Because of injuries, it took Kline nearly seven years to make the Orioles. In 2019, Kline, Hess and Evan Phillips, who was taken off the 40-man roster last month, were shuttled between Norfolk and Baltimore.
In 34 games, Kline, 29, had a 1-4 record and 5.93 ERA and passed through waivers before last spring training. He, too, will have an opportunity to look for a fresh start elsewhere.
The Thursday moves leave the Orioles with 32 players. Trey Mancini and Richie Martin will be reinstated from the 60-day injured list and, assuming the club exercises its 2021 option on Iglesias, that leaves room for some minor league additions–perhaps four.
Right-hander Michael Baumann, left-hander Zac Lowther and outfielder Yusniel Diaz are likely to be added and perhaps right-handed reliever Isaac Mattson.
After Mancini and Martin and four minor leaguers are added, that would leave the roster at 38, and the Orioles always like to have a spot or two available for potential Rule 5 picks.
But there probably will be more moves between now and early December.
The Orioles have seven players who are arbitration-eligible — Mancini, second baseman Hanser Alberto, right-handed pitcher Shawn Armstrong, designated hitter Renato Núñez, outfielder Anthony Santander, catcher Pedro Severino and infielder Pat Valaika.
It’s unlikely all will return.
Clubs have already been unloading high-priced talent and, while the Orioles won’t be in the bidding for top free agents, they could find prices to their liking late in the cycle, as they did with Iglesias.
They’ll look for infield upgrades and inexpensive starting pitching options as well as waiver-wire pickups.
Alberto, Armstrong, Núñez, Severino and Valaika were all claimed on waivers. Some of them could be dealt off cheaply as was Jonathan Villar a year ago.
The Orioles were afraid that Villar, in his final year before free agency, could fetch more than $10 million in arbitration. Unwilling to pay anything close to that, the Orioles traded him to Miami for left-handed pitcher Easton Lucas.
Villar had career highs in home runs (24), RBIs (73) and in WAR (3.9) while stealing 40 bases in 2019. He got an $8.2 million salary with the Marlins and hit a .232 with two homers and 15 RBIs in 52 games for Miami and Toronto. It’s unlikely Villar will have many suitors this offseason.
Another former Oriole, relief pitcher Darren O’Day, is an unexpected free agent. O’Day, who was set to make $3.5 million next season with the Atlanta Braves, was bought out for $500,000. The 38-year-old sideraming right-hander was 4-0 with a 1.10 ERA in 19 games.
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