Only one player was active for each Oriole game during the past three seasons, and that was catcher Pedro Severino. On Wednesday, the Orioles assigned the catcher to Triple-A Norfolk, and he’ll soon be a free agent.
Severino will be replaced by the top prospect in baseball, Adley Rutschman, who was the overall No. 1 pick in June 2019. Severino, who could have made more than $3 million as a backup had the Orioles offered him a contract, will look for a new baseball home in 2022.
Oriole fans were often frustrated with Severino as was Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, who criticized him on telecasts.
Severino’s offensive numbers weren’t bad. In 2019, he hit .249 with a .740 OPS. In 2020, it was .250 with a .710 OPS. In 2021, he hit .248 with a .690 OPS. He also hit 11 home runs and drove in 46 runs.
He could be terribly inconsistent. In the 60-game season of 2020, Severino was hitting .309 at the end of August but hit just .159 in September and didn’t drive in a single run.
The Orioles signed him to a $1.825 million contract for 2021, avoiding arbitration. They didn’t have much choice. Rutschman had played only 37 professional games before this year, and they didn’t want to spend big money on a placeholder. Because the Orioles aren’t a contender and Rutschman is on his way, big-name catchers wouldn’t have been eager to sign on.
Severino outlasted the player the Orioles thought would be their future catcher, Chance Sisco. The team gave Sisco, who was a second- round choice in 2013, every opportunity before cutting ties with him in June after he hit .199 in 196 games from 2017-2021,
Sisco was claimed on waivers by the New York Mets. He played in just five games, hitting .111 (1-for-9), and hit only .198 in 34 games for Triple-A Syracuse. New York let him go after the season.
In 2013, the Orioles drafted Sisco and Austin Wynns, who was assigned to Norfolk late last month and is now a free agent. Wynns backed up Severino in 2019 and 2021.
Although Severino’s offense wasn’t bad, fans were annoyed by his defense, though he had a positive defensive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in each of his three seasons with the Orioles. Severino threw out just 23 percent of runners attempting to steal on him this season (9 of 40). From August 30th through the end of the season, he threw out just two of 14.
Pitchers threw 66 wild pitches in his 109 games and, for the second straight season, Severino was tied with the leaders in passed balls. In 2020, his five passed balls tied for the major league lead. This year, he tied with New York’s Gary Sánchez and Tampa Bay’s Mike Zunino for the American League lead with 10.
Good catchers are hard to find, and good backup catchers may be harder to find. With the surprise retirement of San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, that makes the few free-agent catchers an even more marketable commodity.
It would not have made economic sense for the Orioles to pay $3 million for a backup catcher. If Rutschman plays regularly, a backup might catch only once or twice a week, and that probably won’t entice a veteran looking to extend his career.
The Orioles knew they couldn’t trade Severino. Another team wasn’t going to acquire a backup and pay him that well, but once the December 2nd deadline for offering contracts comes and goes, the market for Severino could be healthy.
For now, Nick Ciuffo, who played in just two late-season games, is the only catcher on the 40-man roster. The Orioles could wait until later in the offseason to sign a veteran to be Rutschman’s understudy once the market settles.
Severino was outgoing and when times were good, he’d joke about this being “Sevy time.”
“Sevy time” is over, and soon it will be Rutschman time.
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