How the Franco Signing Furthers the Orioles’ Infield Crunch
The Orioles have some tough roster decisions to make before Opening Day
On Tuesday morning, the Baltimore Orioles officially announced their signing of Maikel Franco, making space on the 40-man roster by placing RHP Hunter Harvey on the 60-day IL with a left oblique strain. The signing gives Baltimore yet another infielder who will be in the market for an Opening Day roster spot, making the active roster for 2021 just a little more unclear.
With Franco, the Orioles currently have 12 infielders on their 40-man roster in-play for a spot on the Major League roster. Here’s how RosterResource projects these players to begin the season:
- Rylan Bannon (AAA)
- Chris Davis (IL)
- Maikel Franco (MLB starting 3B)
- Freddy Galvis (MLB starting SS)
- Jahmai Jones (AAA)
- Richie Martin (AAA)
- Ryan Mountcastle (MLB starting 1B)
- Tyler Nevin (AAA)
- Rio Ruiz (MLB reserve)
- Yolmer Sanchez (MLB starting 2B)
- Ramon Urias (AAA)
- Pat Valaika (MLB reserve)
Prior to Franco’s agreement with Baltimore, Rio Ruiz was penciled in as the team’s starting third baseman. In 2020, Ruiz played 53 of the team’s 60 games at third base, carrying an OBP of just .286 in 204 plate appearances. However, Ruiz has shown the ability to hit well against left-handed pitching in his career, which gives him an opportunity to be a platoon player or a situational pinch hitter in the Majors.
The decision to start veteran infielders like Yolmer Sanchez, Freddy Galvis, and Maikel Franco gives the Orioles a chance to compete against almost any team in the league on a nightly basis in 2021. However, it may not be what is best for the rebuild. Allowing younger players such as Rylan Bannon and Jahmai Jones to get their shot at the big league level is essential in the rebuilding process, although it doesn’t appear either one will break camp with the Major League squad this Spring.
With Chris Davis dealing with a back injury and being projected to begin the season on the IL, a spot is open for one of the team’s other vying infielders. However, the spot Davis will likely return to once he’s healthy is the one RosterResource currently projects Pat Valaika in. The issue with this exchange is that Valaika only has one remaining minor league option, meaning the Orioles would have to designate him for assignment and risk losing him on waivers if they were to try and send him to the minor leagues in future seasons.
Richie Martin, who will reportedly make his 2021 Spring Training debut this weekend, is also in the running for a Major League spot. Baltimore selected Martin with the first overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft of 2018 before he suffered a broken hamate in his right wrist and missed the entirety of the 2020 season.
The decisions the Orioles have to make in the coming weeks are not easy, nor is there a perfect solution that can please every player in the hunt for an active roster spot. Regardless, the team will have to make these decisions as Opening Day 2021 begins to come into view.