The Orioles broke camp with the more out-of-options players on their 25-man roster than any other team in baseball. That doesn’t leave the flexibility Orioles fans have come to expect from a Buck Showalter club, and so far this season hasn’t seen many roster moves. However, with Troy Patton and Manny Machado nearing returns, the Orioles are going to be forced to make some difficult decisions.
It was reported earlier this week that Manny Machado will begin running the bases. It seems to be the last logical step for his rehabbing knee. If all goes well, Machado could be playing simulated games next week, and before long entering a minor league rehab assignment. The Orioles would love to have him back sooner rather than later, but they will remain cautious not to rush their young star back. Once he does return the Orioles will be forced to make room for him on the 25-man roster.
The obvious choice would seem to be Steve Pearce. With the late addition of Nelson Cruz, and Delmon Young making the club out of spring training, Pearce seems to be the odd man out. So far Buck has struggled to find at-bats for the right-hander, and with the other right-handed hitters on the club, Pearce doesn’t seem to fill a discernible need. However, Pearce is out of options and would be forced to pass through waivers where the Orioles would likely lose him. If the Orioles can’t make a deal with somebody, they’ll likely hold on to Pearce.
If the Orioles elect to hang on to Pearce, the next logical solution may be to send down Jonathan Schoop. The Orioles seem to like the versatility of Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Flaherty, who have experience playing multiple positions at the major league level. There is no doubting Schoop’s talent and athleticism, but he has struggled at times this season. He could probably benefit from a few more at-bats at AAA. Lombardozzi and Flaherty could platoon at second until Schoop is ready to return.
The Orioles will have another dilemma in the bullpen once Troy Patton finishes serving his 25-game suspension for a failed drug test. Patton would give the Orioles three lefties in their bullpen, which may be more than they want to carry. The Orioles could try to move Patton, who has been serviceable out of the bullpen. However, there’s probably not much value in soft-throwing lefties who are coming off their second failed drug test. The Orioles could try to move Brian Matusz or Zach Britton, but Matusz’s slow start has probably hurt his value and Britton is pitching too well to let go of. If they decide to keep three lefties in their bullpen, they could try to find a trade partner for Josh Stinson. Stinson has started out the season slow, but at only twenty-six, may have enough trade value to warrant a move. If a move can’t be made, Evan Meek and Ryan Webb still have options, but it’s hard to imagine either of them being sent down.
Having too many quality players is a nice problem to have. It’s a problem every team would love to have. Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter always seem to find a clever way of manipulating the roster, and it can be assured that they have some kind of plan in place.