Baltimore Orioles: Playing with off-the-field fire?


MASN analyst and former Oriole Dave Johnson said something interesting on Saturday’s Wall-to-Wall Baseball program. In referencing how the Baltimore Orioles manage their roster (in the context of sending players to and from the minors so frequently), he said that players aren’t overly keen on that. And in a way one can understand why; in looking at a guy like Kevin Gausman (as an example), I know that I wouldn’t want to constantly be up and down all year.

However the fact is that what Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette are doing is working – and it has been since the two have been together. First off, players know that if they aren’t getting the job done, they’re going to be held accountable in the sense that they’re going to be headed back to the minors. However it goes beyond that from a human recourses standpoint as well. 

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    Players in the Orioles minor league system see how the roster is managed and manipulated. They know that the Orioles utilize the entire 40-man roster and then some. The O’s don’t just make roster moves – they often times plan them. Again using Gausman as an exmple, it appears that he’s been put in line to start again on Thursday night against Texas – right when the Birds might need another starter.

    The Orioles are also the kings of bringing guys up and then optioning them back immediately following a game. Now I will say that there have been times when I’ve thought the O’s did that a bit too often. Not from a personnel standpoint, but from a business view. Players only have five options, and bringing someone up for one game burns one up.

    I mentioned Gausman; also keep in mind that the likes of Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, Nolan Reimold, and a few others also fell into this group. And all three of those named are out of options. In fact, that might be one of the only reasons that Matusz is still on the team. So at a certain point, it can also put the team in a bad spot, something that we saw earlier this season. 

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    Going back to Johnson’s comment however, the question is whether or not players themselves are in effect being alienated by this. We saw Wei-Yin Chen get a bit snippy when he was optioned for roster reasons, and even further back than that the Orioles appeared poised to send Ryan Webb to the DL coming out of spring training (in an attempt to keep him). Webb all but nipped that in the bud when he announced that he was healthy and had no reason to go to the DL.

    So…was Webb kind of refusing to allow the Orioles to play roster games with him in that instance? As Johnson (a former player himself) said, players don’t like this type of thing. Presumably agents don’t either. While a free agent coming to the Orioles isn’t going to have to worry (because presumably he’s either a veteran or has burned through his options), it makes one wonder if agents might be turned off from doing business with the Orioles overall.

    Or worse yet, how would it be if a draft pick declined to sign with the Birds simply because he or his agent was afraid that he’d end up getting shuttled back and forth to and from Norfolk and Baltimore? Speaking for myself, I think that’s a bit extreme. Most players are simply happy to have been drafted by an organization to pull a stunt like that. However players have not signed before, and it’s a failure across-the-board when that happens.

    Personally I think it’s admirable the way that Showalter and Duquette move guys around for the betterment of the team. However hopefully they do their due dilligence behind closed doors as well, and explain all of this to the players involved. As is the case in all things, communication is the key!

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