In nearly seven decades, the Orioles have had a long list of excellent shortstops: Luis Aparicio, Mark Belanger, Cal Ripken Jr., Mike Bordick, Miguel Tejada and J.J. Hardy.
Ever since Hardy left after the 2017 season, there’s been a new starter each season. Manny Machado began 2018 at shortstop but was traded at the All-Star break.
Jonathan Villar took over shortly after Machado’s departure and played regularly through the end of 2019 when he was dealt to the Miami Marlins.
Villar was replaced by José Iglesias, who signed a one-year deal with an option for 2021, but after a $3.5 million option was exercised by the Orioles, he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels.
This year’s shortstop, Freddy Galvis, signed a one-year deal for $1.5 million with a $250,000 bonus if the Orioles trade him.
The instability at shortstop has been unusual for the Orioles. Even though they are a number of promising middle infield candidates in the minor leagues — Cadyn Grenier, Darell Hernaiz, Gunnar Henderson, Joey Ortiz and Jordan Westburg — none is playing at Triple-A, and don’t project to begin 2022 with the Orioles.
While the Orioles wait, the 31-year-old Galvis has performed admirably at shortstop, batting .255 with nine homers and 23 RBIs. Entering Saturday’s game, Galvis has a 1.3 WAR (wins above replacement) on FanGraphs, which exceeds Iglesias’ .3 WAR.
Galvis’ work on the field, and especially away from it, has earned the respect of manager Brandon Hyde.
“He’s a behind-the-scenes guy in a big way,” Hyde said. “He’s a huge voice in our clubhouse privately. You constantly see him talking to our players after games. Guys gravitate to him, just because of the experience he has. He’s got great info.
“Whether it’s facing a pitcher, a situation that happened in the game, he’s talking to our guys all the time. He’s one of the first guys on the field. His work ethic on a daily basis is extremely professional. He’s got an unbelievable routine in the [batting] cage and on the field, so guys can see that.
“He talks about that with some of our younger players. He’s been such a pleasure to have on our team. You see him talking here during games about the pitcher, telling guys what things to look for. He’s just been wonderful.”
It’s possible that the Orioles will trade Galvis by the July 30th deadline, but it might make sense to keep him.
If the Orioles moved him, they could play Ramón Urias, Pat Valaika or Stevie Wilkerson at shortstop for the rest of the season. Or they could see if Richie Martin, who’s on the 60-day injured list because of a broken left wrist, will be ready to return.
When Martin injured the wrist in mid-May, it was estimated he’d miss eight-to-12 weeks. Maybe he’ll be ready by early August. Martin and Villar played shortstop in 2019, but Martin lost his 2020 season when he broke his right wrist diving back into first base during summer camp.
There are a number of top-shelf shortstops who could be on the free-agent market — Javier Baez (Chicago Cubs), Carlos Correa (Houston), Corey Seager (Los Angeles Dodgers), Marcus Semien (Toronto), Andrelton Simmons (Minnesota) and Trevor Story (Colorado). Semien, Simmons and Didi Gregorius were the top shortstops in last winter’s market, but only Gregorius signed a multi-year contract with Philadelphia.
Galvis, Iglesias and Villar could be on the market again, too.
With the glut of fine shortstops available, it seems likely that a few will not get the high dollar, multi-year deals they’re seeking. Galvis, who has been a solid player and valuable addition to the Orioles, might be one of them.
If the Orioles don’t trade him, they would be wise to re-sign Galvis for 2022 as they wait for Henderson or some of the others to be ready for the major leagues in 2023.
The Orioles are not going to bid on any of the big-name shortstops. Galvis has demonstrated his worth to the team and could again in 2022.