Officials for the players association and Major League Baseball met twice this week to discuss economic issues related to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. While a new agreement isn’t imminent, it looks closer than it did a week ago.
MLB hasn’t set a deadline for when an agreement needs to be reached for spring training camps to open on time. The Orioles are scheduled to open camp for pitchers and catchers on February 15th, with the first Grapefruit League game set for February 26tt. For that to happen, there needs to be an agreement within a week or 10 days.
That will be hard, but it’s not impossible. If there’s an agreement by February 5th, leaving 10 days to prepare, here’s a look at what would need to be done
Rule 5 draft
The Rule 5 draft was scheduled for December 8th, the final day of the Winter Meetings, which were canceled. The Orioles’ 40-man roster is at 38, with Jordan Lyles, a right-handed starter, set to be added when his physical is completed.
If the Orioles, who have the first pick in the draft, want more space they must drop another player in the hours before the draft. They’ve made two selections in each of Mike Elias’ three years as executive vice president/general manager.
The guess is that the Orioles will select a relief pitcher first, though there’s room for another infielder, and there aren’t any catchers on the 40-man roster. It’s easier to maneuver the roster with a reliever. The Orioles were able to keep Tyler Wells, who was an excellent choice, on the 26-man roster last season, though he was placed on the injured list twice.
Sign more players
In the hours before the lockout began on December 2nd, the Orioles agreed on a one-year, $7 million contract with Lyles. He needs to pass his physical to be added to the roster.
Although the Orioles signed two catchers to minor league contracts, neither Anthony Benboom nor Jacob Nottingham has enough major league experience to consider them as sure things to begin the season with the team.
If top prospect Adley Rutschman begins at Triple-A Norfolk, it’s possible both will be with the team, but Elias could sign another catcher.
The Orioles also signed Rougned Odor to challenge for the second base job but signing another infielder or two is a possibility. Signing a veteran outfielder also is a possibility.
The additional players could be signed to minor league contracts.
There aren’t many spots in the bullpen that are assured. Wells, Paul Fry, Jorge López, Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser and Dillon Tate have strong shots to start the season with the team, but there is room for a Rule 5 draft choice or someone else who has yet to sign.
Lyles will provide help for John Means and the Orioles’ other young starters, but Elias has signed veteran pitchers to non-roster contracts in the days leading up to spring training.
Since there won’t be much time between the agreement and camp opening, it’s likely that additional candidates will come into camp in the first few days of spring training.
Get the arbitration cases settled
The Orioles have three players eligible for arbitration who have yet to agree to a contract: Means, Scott and first baseman/designated hitter Trey Mancini. They’ll have to sign quickly or head for arbitration, a process they’d like to avoid.
Often, arbitration cases bleed into the opening days of spring training, and that might be the case in 2022.
Get the spring training roster in order
One of the most enjoyable parts of late January is taking a look at the spring training roster and seeing if there are any surprising non-roster invites.
Besides Benboom and Nottingham, the Orioles will have relievers Marcos Diplán, Travis Lakins and Spenser Watkins, all of whom played for the team last season.
There will be some big-name prospects who don’t have to be included on the 40-man roster — Rutschman, starter Grayson Rodriguez, and infielders Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg. César Prieto, a Cuban infielder who recently signed with the team, also should be on the list.
So should outfielders Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad and Kyle Stowers. The Orioles would love to see more of Cowser and Kjerstad, the most recent No. 1 draft picks who have been in Sarasota for minicamps this month. But if there’s an abbreviated spring training, that probably means fewer looks for them.
Many fans haven’t made plans to attend spring training. A settlement in the next week or 10 days could convince them to escape the winter weather.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB