Orioles prepare for a pivotal week - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles prepare for a pivotal week

Seven Orioles are eligible for arbitration, and learning their fates this week will go a long way toward determining the makeup of the 2021 team.

Infielders Hanser Alberto, Yolmer Sánchez and Pat Valaika, catcher Pedro Severino, right-handed reliever Shawn Armstrong, first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini outfielder Anthony Santander are eligible for arbitration. Mancini and Santander will be offered contracts by Wednesday’s deadlines.

The Orioles reduced those eligible for arbitration from eight to seven when they released first baseman/designated hitter Renato Núñez on Wednesday after designating him for assignment on November 13th when they added six players to their 40-man roster.

The Orioles claimed Sánchez on waivers on October 30th. He’s a year removed from winning a Gold Glove at second base while playing for the Chicago White Sox. With MLBTradeRumors.com forecasting that Sánchez would earn $6.2 million in arbitration a year ago, the White Sox cut him loose.

Sánchez, who earned $4,625,000 in 2019, didn’t sign for 2020 until January 31st when he agreed to a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants. When play began in July, Sánchez was unable to play because of a back injury, and he never played a game for the Giants and was released on August 21st. A week later, he re-signed with the White Sox, played in 11 games and was claimed by the Orioles.

Because he signed a minor league contract, which presumably was incentive-laden and far below what he earned in 2019, it’s difficult to forecast what he could make in arbitration. Perhaps the Orioles will try to sign him ahead of Wednesday’s deadline for tendering contracts.

If they retain Sánchez, and it’s hard to think they won’t after claiming him and knowing the contract history, they might try to find a taker for Alberto.

Sánchez’s defense is superior to Alberto’s, though his offense isn’t. In his Gold Glove year, Sánchez hit .252 with a .638 OPS in 149 games. He had just two home runs and drove in 42 runs.

Alberto had a strong 2019 offensively, hitting .305 with a .751 OPS. He hit 12 home runs and had 51 RBIs, and excelled against left-handed pitching, hitting .398 against left-handers.

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As the regular second baseman in 2020, Alberto’s numbers weren’t as strong — a .283 average, a .698 OPS, three homers and 22 RBIs. He hit .375  against left-handers. Just 13 left-handers started against the Orioles in 60 games (21.6 percent). That was about half 2019’s total when 62 left-handers (38.2 percent) started against them.

Alberto would seem to fit in well on a contending team that could play him less often and appeal to his strengths. According to MLBTradeRumors, Alberto could earn at least $2.3 million in 2021.

Valaika was a nice surprise in 2020. Because of  injuries to shortstop José Iglesias and first baseman Chris Davis, he ended up playing in 52 of 60 games and hitting .277 with a .791 OPS. He could make at least $1.1 million in arbitration, according to MLBTradeRumors.com, and that’s probably too much for a utility player who is likely to play far less in 2021.

It’s hard to see the Orioles keeping him, especially since Richie Martin will be coming back after missing last season because of a broken wrist and the addition of Rylan Bannon, who plays second and third, to the 40-man roster. The Orioles also have utilityman Ramón Urias.

Severino is another difficult case. It doesn’t seem that $1.4 million is much to pay for a regular catcher, which he’s likely to be for at least much of 2021. Adley Rutschman still needs minor league play, and it’s hard to project when he’ll be ready.

However, Severino regressed in September. He hit just .159 without an RBI.

Backup Chance Sisco continued to struggle at the plate, hitting just .214, though his on-base percentage was .364 because of 17 walks and six hit-by-pitches.

The Orioles could keep Severino and Sisco and search for another veteran catcher. Bryan Holaday, who was kept as the third catcher for much of the season, is one of 20 catchers on the free-agent list. If there’s a 26-man roster, it’s unlikely he could find a place on the team, though his veteran savvy helped this past season.

Austin Wynns remains on the 40-man roster, though he’s out of options, and trying to send him back to the minor leagues will expose him to waivers.

Armstrong, who’s also out of options,presents another complicated decision. He missed a month because of a back injury but had a 1.80 ERA and a 0.800 WHIP in 14 games. If the Orioles are restricted to 13 pitchers as was supposed to be the case in 2020, keeping him could be hard.

Armstrong’s projected arbitration number isn’t high, just $800,000, but if they have eight relievers and Jorgé Lopez and César Valdez are both on the team, that could complicate matters. Like Lopez and Valdez, Armstrong would have to pass through waivers to be sent to the minors, and he’d surely be claimed.

Having young relievers with options available, including Hunter Harvey, Travis Lakins, Dillon Tate, Bruce Zimmermann and a new addition to the 40-man roster, Isaac Mattson, could make bullpen management easier than having veterans.

A year ago, the Orioles traded Jonathan Villar, who was due for a hefty raise in arbitration, to the Miami Marlins for a young left-handed pitcher, Easton Lucas, just before the deadline for offering contracts.

Two days after he was tendered, Dylan Bundy was traded to the Los Angeles Angels for four right-handed pitchers, including Mattson.

Armstrong would be attractive to a contending team.

It looks like a challenging few days for executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, whose moves are difficult to forecast and interesting to dissect.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Birdman

    November 30, 2020 at 7:57 am

    What is disturbing is that the criteria for almost all of these current and recent personnel decisions appears to be, not which players (or coaches) can best contribute to fielding a competitive team, but simply whether the Orioles can save a few hundred thousand dollars here, or a few hundred thousand dollars there.

    The Orioles are already at or near the bottom of projected MLB team payrolls for 2021, and they now appear intent on filling the roster with even more players making the Major League minimum.

    • VICTORTEE

      November 30, 2020 at 10:30 am

      The O’s should be known as “Mike’s Bargain Store”. No offense to Ollie’s.

      • Birdman

        November 30, 2020 at 2:14 pm

        Not sure you should put the onus on Elias. No doubt Elias would prefer a bigger budget, but he is operating under the financial constraints imposed by ownership.

        • VICTORTEE

          December 1, 2020 at 8:23 am

          Nope! Houston tanked and cut the budget down to almost nothing and they had $. The Boy Wonder is following Houston’s “Tankers R Us” model..

  2. Orial

    November 30, 2020 at 8:48 am

    Whatever decisions they make PLEASE base them on defense. This young pitching staff demands a solid fundamental team fielded behind them.

    • VICTORTEE

      November 30, 2020 at 10:29 am

      Infield defense is becoming less and less important in MLB. Elias and company want all pitchers to try for K’s and virtually all hitters try to
      uppercut the ball now.

      • willmiranda

        November 30, 2020 at 11:14 am

        One factor diminishing the importance of infield defense is the copious use of exotic shifts. Traditional infield excellence came from individual players in fixed positions. Each position had specific needs with regard to range –both extent and direction– and throwing — distance and direction, not to mention the different pivots around second base. Many times now you have a first baseman and, in softball terms, three short fielders. We say players are versatile when they are simply not specialized.

  3. Phil770

    November 30, 2020 at 9:23 am

    Rich, all of the arb eligible players are waiver wire pick ups with some MLB experience, so the question for Orioles is, are they better than others on the team? Are they worth to the team the extra dollars? I think all of us in these times are value shoppers, these type of trade offs seem prudent. All of these players are on the 40-man roster?

  4. VICTORTEE

    November 30, 2020 at 10:40 am

    If the O’s drop Alberto and Valaika they will have the worst hitting 2B. SS. and 3B in MLB. Nobody can possibly believe Iglesias will hit in 2021 like he did in 2020. And is $1.1 million REALLY too much for Valaika who is versatile and provides HR pop off the bench?
    The Boy Wonder is really doing his best to decrease fan interest in the O’s as much as he decreases payroll.
    No other business(other than a sports franchise ) intentionally makes their product worse to save $ and still expects customers to buy it.
    And no other business (other than a sports franchise) expects to make a profit every year AND sell for a huge capital gain.

    • willmiranda

      November 30, 2020 at 11:27 am

      Some think Martin would be an improvement over Valaika. I disagree. But, as in all the options presented, none of the choices is a game changer. I think Mancini and Santander are more problematic than they seem. Both have great and obvious natural ability, but both of them also have had health issues keeping them off the field. There’s no reason not to sign them and they both have great upsides, yet their prospects are still intriguing.

  5. sportscoper

    November 30, 2020 at 11:47 am

    Unless Elias feels there is a need for create more roster space, these decisions really aren’t that challenging.

  6. CalsPals

    November 30, 2020 at 11:53 am

    Play your best players, I’m sick of hearing Rutschman needs a year in the minors, bull crap, all they want is to control him, he’s the same age or OLDER than many who’ve debuted in the majors the last two yrs, young pitching staff, he calls a great game, strong defense up the middle, same, play him now, I’m telling you when his 6 yrs are up he’ll remember how they really treated him & go elsewhere…go O’s…

    • dlgruber1

      November 30, 2020 at 2:32 pm

      I couldn’t agree more with that comment. As great as Soto is I seriously wonder if he were an Oriole how much he’d have played already. And it’s not just him, as you mentioned, I think there are more great young players playing now than in my lifetime. They’re playing because their teams realized how good they are. We’ve already lost a season or two that RM could’ve played. And you’re right about the players not forgetting it when free agency time comes.

    • ClayDal

      November 30, 2020 at 2:41 pm

      Soto was signed when he was 16. Same with Acuna, Tatis Jr. and Vlad Jr. They had almost 4 years minor league experience when they came to the majors. The Orioles spent too many years ignoring the International market and they are having to make up for lost time. Rutschman hasn’t played above low A ball. Let him start next year at AA and if he tears it up, bring him up. As for Mountcastle, the timing worked out perfect. He is still eligible for Rookie of the Year next year and the Orioles have him under control for 6 more years.

    • Bhoffman1

      November 30, 2020 at 3:07 pm

      Excatly look at Tatis and Soto possibly best players in each league now and younger then Adley and didn’t have any college experience like him. Look at Diaz he’s almost 25. Also let the young guys pitch now triple A experience is overrated.

  7. Bozman

    November 30, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    Keep Hanser and put him at 3rd. He hits much better then Ruiz.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      November 30, 2020 at 3:26 pm

      Ruiz stinks.

  8. Boog Robinson Robinson

    November 30, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    Time for Mikey to put up. Rutschman starts the season in Baltimore. And Chris Davis had better be nowhere to be found other than standing in his bank’s line to cash the check.

    Mike assured us at press conference #1 a couple years back that he had full autonomy over baseball decisions. Let’s see if he has the juevos to back that claim up.

    I expect 80 wins.

    • BirdfanVA

      November 30, 2020 at 3:36 pm

      Why not expect 81 wins? That way, the O’s finish up at .500!

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        November 30, 2020 at 8:49 pm

        I’ll see your 81, and raise it another to 82!

    • Bhoffman1

      November 30, 2020 at 5:15 pm

      He can cash the check without standing in line it might hurt his knees.

    • CalsPals

      November 30, 2020 at 6:18 pm

      Hey, he can do it electronically, just not while taking a real players spot on the roster…go O’s…

    • dlgruber1

      December 1, 2020 at 1:30 am

      I think you’re all dreaming if you think CD won’t be on the Opening Day roster. I’d love to be proved wrong but I’ll be stunned if he’s not.

  9. BirdsCaps

    November 30, 2020 at 10:02 pm

    Why can’t the club just cut ties with Crush? He is just a reminder of wasted opportunities during the good times. Even though this is irrational, it feels like the team can’t Fully move onto the next era with the walking strikeout in the lineup.

  10. fan since 63

    December 1, 2020 at 12:08 am

    BirdsCaps
    Remember, if the season is shorted again, like last year, Davis’ salary is prorated to the number of games played.

    Gotta save a buck wherever possible.

    • BirdsCaps

      December 1, 2020 at 12:26 am

      Good point, but a well run organization would cut ties (see Kung fu panda and the Sox).

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 1, 2020 at 8:45 am

      BLah blah blah … how can we forget? Make a stand and make a statement … worth more than saving a buck.

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