The Orioles have had a strong tradition of shortstops over the years. Luis Aparicio, Mark Belanger, Cal Ripken Jr., Mike Bordick, Miguel Tejada and J.J. Hardy have combined for 47 of the Orioles’ 68 Opening Day starts at shortstop.
In the team’s early years in Baltimore, Willy Miranda and Ron Hansen started seven straight openers.
Since Hardy left the team after the 2017 season, the Orioles have had different Opening Day starters at short each year. It’s likely it to be four straight years with Tuesday’s signing of Freddy Galvis.
Manny Machado, who moved over from third base and was traded at midseason, was the 2018 starter. Rule 5 draft pick Richie Martin started in 2019, and José Iglesias, who was traded last month to the Los Angeles Angels, was the 2020 starter.
Galvis has a one-year contract worth $1.5 million with a $250,000 bonus if he’s traded.
His signing makes it easier to forecast a starting infield. Galvis will pair with second baseman Yolmer Sánchez, and Rio Ruiz is likely to be back at third for a third straight season. Trey Mancini, who missed the 2020 season after having colon cancer surgery, is expected to start at first.
In 2017 and 2018, Galvis played 162 games for the Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres. His durability is a plus for manager Brandon Hyde, who can pencil in Galvis and Sanchez most days.
When the Orioles announced Galvis’s signing, they designated infielder/outfielder Chris Shaw for assignment, keeping Ramón Urias on the 40-man roster. Shaw was claimed on waivers from San Francisco. If he passes through waivers, Shaw could come to spring training on a minor league contract.
Urias played 10 games, mostly in the season’s final days, showed some offense but committed three errors in five games at short.
Along with Martin, who missed last season because of a broken right wrist, and Pat Valaika, who played some shortstop when Iglesias was hurt, the team has competition for a utility infielder’s spot.
Rylan Bannon, who has minor league experience at second and third base, is on the 40-man roster for the first time. Stevie Wilkerson, who’s coming to camp on a minor league contract, could also be in the mix. So could Mason McCoy, who was in camp last season for the first time on a minor league deal.
Galvis has played most of his career in the National League,and has appeared in only nine games at Oriole Park, hitting .300 (9-for-30) with two homers and five RBIs.
The Orioles have drafted a number of middle infielders in Mike Elias’ first two drafts as executive vice president/general manager. Although several are highly thought of, none can be of immediate help.
In the best case, Galvis can provide solid defense and some offensive punch. His lifetime defensive WAR is 4.9, and he’s been rated a plus-defender over the last five seasons.
His offense slumped badly in the 60-game 2020 season. In 47 games with Cincinnati, Galvis hit only .220 but his on-base percentage was .308, the second highest of his career.
Galvis has always been a high strikeout guy. From 2015-2019, he struck out more than 100 times each season. In 2019, when he combined to hit 23 home runs and drive in 70 runs in 147 games for Toronto and Cincinnati, Galvis struck out 145 times while walking 28 times.
Coincidentally, Galvis started 23 times at second base for the Reds after he was acquired on waivers in August 2019. Cincinnati’s shortstop was Iglesias.
With the scheduled start of spring training less than three weeks away, the free agent market has begun to heat up. Two star shortstops on the market, Marcus Semien and Andrelton Simmons, found new teams on Tuesday.
Semien signed a one-year, $18 million deal with Toronto. Simmons agreed to a one-year, $10.5 million contract with Minnesota.
Didi Gregorius is the other big-name shortstop who remains unsigned. Former Oriole Jonathan Villar is also unsigned as the number of shortstops available has thinned.
The Orioles are still looking to bolster their staring rotation, and there are many remaining free agents looking for new teams.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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