Are the Orioles showcasing Heston Kjerstad for a trade with latest call-up news?

The timing of Baltimore's call up of Kjerstad suggests that they may have some ulterior motives for the move.
Baltimore Orioles v Los Angeles Angels
Baltimore Orioles v Los Angeles Angels / Ric Tapia/GettyImages

The Baltimore Orioles' plans when it comes to how and when they promote/demote prospects have looked a bit scatterbrained at times in 2024. The Jackson Holliday saga was straightforward, as they truly did want him to play every day, but he was so bad that that solution swiftly became untenable. However, a lot of their other call-ups of top guys have resulted in those players getting scant playing time, followed by a near-immediate demotion when their injurec counterpart returns. That is precisely what happened to Heston Kjerstad earlier this season.

Obstensibly, Kjerstad's first promotion represented an opportunity to play while Austin Hays was dealing with a calf injury. However, what ACTUALLY happened is that Kjerstad appeared in just seven games, made just 17 plate appearances, and got optioned back to the minors, where he has continued to destroy baseballs at a high clip.

Again, this isn't an isolated incident this season, as Connor Norby was called up, played in just four games, and then got optioned back to the minors. Kyle Stowers managed to hang around for 17 games and played pretty well, but he, too, got the roster axe last week. It was very curious as a result when word got out on Sunday that Kjerstad was being called back up to the majors, and definitely calls into question Baltimore's motivations here.

Heston Kjerstad's promotion by Orioles could be a trade deadline preview

Obviously Kjerstad has played well enough in the minor leagues to warrant a big-league roster spot, as the guy has posted a .998 OPS with 16 homers in Triple-A, but the timing of this roster move is kind of strange. There isn't an obvious injury he is coming up to fill in the void for, and if the Orioles are going to actually play Kjerstad this time, it is likely it will come at the expense of Colton Cowser, as he has been struggling. Baltimore is going to continue playing Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, and Anthony Santander until the sun implodes.

It would be unfortunate to see Coswer lose playing time, as he is loaded with upside and is a stellar outfield defender, but Baltimore may be positioning themselves for the upcoming trade deadline here. Kjerstad has long been considered at or near the top of the list of high-end prospects that the Orioles could move at this year's deadline in search of pitching depth, and hoping that Kjerstad shows prospective trade partners that he can be an impact MLB bat right now is likely to grease the wheels of those trade negotiations.

For now, fans will just have to wait and see what the Orioles are doing here. If they are calling up one of their best prospects AGAIN to just sit and rot on the bench, that is a mistake. The Orioles' 40-man roster spots are precious and few, and the team may think it is better to just add the prospects they like instead of journeyman types from Triple-A, but bringing guys up only to do nothing with them is just not it. However, if the Orioles do play Kjerstad a good bit and he plays well, we could finally see what Baltimore's end game looks like.

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