When I contemplated possible removals from the Orioles’ 40-man roster, some were easy to forecast. Two that weren’t were pitchers Hunter Harvey and Chris Ellis.
Oriole fans were frustrated with Harvey. The team spent so much time on the team’s top draft choice in 2013 and got so little out of it.
Harvey is an exceedingly nice and polite man, and he was easy to root for. Only at the end of the 2019 season in a brief audition did he show any real promise. There were so many injuries, and clearly the team became as frustrated with him as the fans did.
I had been asked about Harvey often, and I thought the Orioles would give him one final year. He wasn’t eligible for arbitration. They didn’t have another reliever poised to take his place, and whatever they got from him would be unexpected. And, if they traded him, they wouldn’t get much in return.
In fact, they get only the waiver fee, because the San Francisco Giants claimed the 26-year-old right-hander. Since Harvey was offered to American League teams first, and then to National League teams with the worst records first, 28 teams passed on him until the Giants, who won 107 games, decided to take a chance.
It baffles me to see Harvey go, but the Orioles must have thought that his medical issues would prevent him from being a dominant, or even a serviceable pitcher.
It wasn’t until 2019 that Harvey became a reliever to save wear on his body, but two more years of injuries convinced the Orioles it was time to move on, and executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias acted decisively.
Ellis’ departure is another mystery. Although he had a 2.49 ERA in six starts, he walked 13 batters and struck out 16 in 25 1/3 innings.
The Orioles have a number of internal candidates to start next season. Besides John Means, there are inexperienced pitchers who were inconsistent last season — Keegan Akin, Mike Baumann, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells and Bruce Zimmermann. But there was room for another candidate who could also pitch in middle relief, another area where there are plenty of openings.
Again, the Orioles saw something they didn’t like with Ellis. He threw lots of pitches, 92 to get through five scoreless, one-hit innings against the New York Yankees on September 4th, and six days later threw 91 in five innings against Toronto. That time, he allowed a run on five hits with four walks.
Ellis’ minor league numbers weren’t great. This year, at Triple-A Durham, he had a 6.32 ERA in 15 games.
Some of the other moves weren’t a surprise. Even though they assigned Nick Ciuffo to Triple-A Norfolk, they figured he’d get through outright waivers. While they don’t have a catcher on the 40-man roster, they’ll probably sign two catchers and top prospect Adley Rutschman doesn’t have to be added until he’s part of the 26-man major league roster.
For the moment, the 40-man roster has 27 players. Four — Akin, infielder Jorge Mateo, outfielder DJ Stewart and right-hander Jorge López — must be moved off the 60-day injured list and on to the 40-man roster by Sunday.
Also gone since the season ended are pitchers Fernando Abad, Zack Burdi, Marcos Diplán, Thomas Eshelman, Conner Greene, Travis Lakins, Eric Hanhold, Matt Harvey, Spenser Watkins, Konner Wade, catchers Pedro Severino and Austin Wynns, and infielder Pat Valaika.
There’s room for the minor league players they want to add to the 40-man roster, and some possible waiver claims and free-agent signings.
Interestingly, the team for now has opted to retain two right-handed pitchers claimed on waivers in the final weeks of the season, Joey Krehbiel and Brooks Kriske, who saw little action.
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