Should We Expect More Orioles Waiver Claims in the Coming Weeks?
The Orioles don’t seem likely to kick the habit.
The Orioles front office has been working the waiver wire to an even greater extent than usual lately. Last week they claimed not one, but two catchers from the Cincinnati Reds. The double move comes soon after reselecting Anthony Bemboom to the 40-man roster to prevent him from becoming a minor league free agent. They also added Jake Cave last week, a rare claim in the outfield. As other teams shuffle through their own 40-man rosters, expect the Orioles to continue claiming players in the early stages of the offseason.
The team is currently carrying six catchers on the 40-man roster, which is obviously an unsustainable number. As the club looks to fill the backup role behind Adley Rutschman, they can audition a bunch of guys and let most of the rest go at very little cost. The Orioles claimed Cam Gallagher late in the season as emergency insurance, and since he is eligible for arbitration and likely due for a larger salary, he might be the first shown the door.
Almost every player who is claimed is in danger of being designated for assignment again. That is just the nature of roster construction since they are still low in the pecking order. To make room for all these catchers, the Orioles have DFA’d Jake Reed, Anthony Castro, Rico Garcia, Louis Head, and Beau Sulser. Four of those guys pitched for Baltimore this season, and four were waiver claims themselves. Head is the most notable of the group since he had a good 2021 season before declining this year.
Since the waiver wire is such a low-cost form of acquisition, the front office has no qualms about moving on from players soon after bringing them in the fold. Some of them pop like Cionel Perez, Joey Krehbiel, and Bryan Baker, but most show little-to-no-improvements in limited outings. It is still worth claiming 20 players in the hopes that one gets suddenly better in a new environment.
Who Could Be Next?
It is extremely difficult to predict which players a team is interested in claiming, even when there is a noticeable trend. But since the Orioles have already claimed three players eligible for arbitration, we can look at who else teams might be unwilling to pay, and thus expose them to waivers.
The White Sox have very little depth, but they might non-tender Adam Engel after a .579 OPS following two successive partial seasons with an OPS over .800. These are all big ifs, but if he is waived and the Orioles claim him, he would be competing with Cave for a bench role.
Drew Hutchison of the Tigers has had spotty playing time over the years, but his slider has a high spin rate and above-average vertical movement, which is true of many Orioles pitchers. The Birds have plenty of internal options in the middle infield, but Harold Castro could be a fine situational pinch hitter.
I doubt the Royals will put Brad Keller on waivers, but if they non-tender him, he could be a depth signing for the O’s. They have enough swingmen already, but he also has their desired slider traits and even throws one as his primary pitch. We know the front office loves the Rule 5 Draft, and Keller is a Rule 5 success story.
Josh Taylor did not pitch in the Majors this season but had a 3.40 ERA and a 2.83 FIP with the Red Sox last season. Boston might move on to their own bullpen depth, which could give the Orioles an opportunity to swoop in.
The Rays unsurprisingly have the largest arbitration class of any team, but the Orioles might have to swing a trade to take advantage of a team with many shared players. I have mentioned elsewhere that Ji-Man Choi might be worth signing, and Tampa has plenty of cheaper alternatives at first base. Colin Poche has a very deceptive fastball/curveball mix, and most of his Statcast percentiles are above average. JT Chargois has good surface-level numbers but was left off the wild card roster. His slider does not move well but it has a ton of spin, and he spots his sinker all around the bottom of the strike zone.
The Brewers also have a very large arbitration class and could move on from “look” relievers Hoby Milner or Jandel Gustave. Again, a trade might be required to lure them away from a competitive team that focuses on their bullpen.
Despite playing much better than his previous two seasons, Kevin Newman might be done in Pittsburgh due to cheap ownership. He reminds me a lot of a right-handed Terrin Vavra, which could be good for the Orioles and bad for Vavra.
Josh James has fallen way down the Astros depth chart given how much pitching they have. Mike Elias might be too tempted to pass on someone with good stuff he found in the 34th round.
Its’s very possible none of these players come across the Orioles’ dashboard. Even if they are put on waivers, a team with higher priority might claim them first. That is a good position to be in since the O’s are no longer one of the worst teams in the league. We will find out what the rest of the fall has in store for the Orioles roster.