With the Orioles set to leave Sarasota and head north for their opening series at Fenway Park, manager Brandon Hyde must still whittle the roster down to 26 players. Since 2000, Orioles managers Ray Miller, Mike Hargrove, Lee Mazzilli, Dave Trembley, Buck Showalter, and of course Hyde have had to make tough decisions and decide who would travel north with the team. I decided to put myself in their shoes and compile the best 26-man roster of Orioles since 2000 in a two-part article.
The first article will identify nine starters and five bench players, including a backup catcher, while Part II will identify the pitching staff. Metrics used for spots included longevity (a player who spent more good years with the team would make it over a player who spent less good years), All-Star appearances, importance to winning, and of course overall performance. Enjoy the list and feel free to let me know any changes you would make in the comments!
1. Matt Wieters, C
Matt Wieters gets the nod as my starting catcher, serving as the Orioles' catcher from 2009-2016 and playing on three different playoff teams. The fifth pick in the 2007 draft out of Georgia Tech, Wieters hit 117 home runs as an Oriole, and while he did not live up to the extremely high standards he faced entering the big leagues, he was a solid stalwart behind the plate for 8 years for the Orioles.
2. Chris Davis, 1B
Despite the tumultuous, and frankly awful end to his career as an Oriole, Chris Davis was incredibly productive as the Orioles first baseman from 2011 through 2016. Acquired along with Tommy Hunter for Koji Uehara, Davis (like Wieters) played on the only three playoff teams in the 2000s and hit an impressive 247 home runs. Hopefully, he will be remembered more for the good times than the bad.
3. Brian Roberts, 2B
Although he never played in a playoff game for the Orioles, the diminutive Roberts spent parts of 12 seasons in Baltimore (2001-2013), playing with both Cal Ripken Jr. and Manny Machado. Roberts was a great base stealer and the Orioles longtime leadoff hitter, even during some tough times in Baltimore.
4. JJ Hardy, SS
I went back and forth a bit between Miguel Tejada and Hardy, but a discussion with my brother Matt convinced me Hardy was the right choice. Acquired from the Brewers before the 2011 season, Hardy spent 7 good years with the Orioles, winning three gold gloves, starting in one All-Star game, and starting at shortstop for all three playoff teams during the relevant time period.
5. Manny Machado, 3B
Arguably one of the most talented players on this list, Machado spent parts of 7 seasons with the Orioles (2012-2018), Machado hit 162 home runs with the Orioles, won two gold gloves, and earned four All-Star appearances. The last remnant of Machado is Dean Kremer, one of the five players the team got for Machado in a trade with Los Angeles in 2018. For many fans, myself included, Machado will forever be "the one that got away."
6. Nick Markakis, RF
A steady force in right field for the Orioles from 2006-2014, Markakis was as consistent as it gets both offensively and defensively for the Orioles. He played in only one playoff series for the Orioles thanks to CC Sabathia breaking his thumb weeks before the 2012 postseason, and easily earns the starting nod in right for this team.
7. Adam Jones, CF
Easily one of the most popular Orioles over the last 23 years, Jones earns the start in centerfield for this team. Acquired from Seattle in the Erik Bedard trade, Jones had a spectacular career in the orange and black, winning three goals gloves, earning five All-Star appearances, and patrolling centerfield for each and every playoff game the Orioles appeared in from 2000 to 2023.
8. Luke Scott - LF
To be honest, there were not a ton of standout left fielders from 2000 to 2023, with Nate McLouth, Scott's doppleganger Steve Pearce, and even Austin Hays drawing some consideration. Ultimately, it was Luke Scott, who hit 84 home runs from 2008-2011 with the Orioles, that makes the team as my left fielder.
9. Nelson Cruz - DH
While this breaks my longevity rule, Nelson Cruz's one season in Baltimore was pure awesome. Nicknamed Boomstick, Cruz hit 40 home runs in 2014 as the Orioles primary DH, posted an OPS of .859, and helped lead the team to its one and only AL East crown since 2000. Cruz hit an opposite-field two run home run against the Tigers in the clinching Game 3 victory at Comerica Park in the ALDS, and took the Orioles to their only ALCS in the era. I only wish we had more time with him in orange and black.
The Orioles' five-man bench includes players who just missed the cut for starting positions. And even this was difficult, as there were certain players who it was tough to keep off.
10. Adley Rutschman, C
I vacillated a bit between Ruschman and Javy Lopez, simply due to Rutschman only playing 113 games with the Orioles in his strong rookie season. But in those 113 games, Rustchman amassed an incredible 5.2 WAR, finished 12th in American League MVP Voting, and nearly led the Orioles to a stunning playoff appearance. Lopez was an impressive bat with the Orioles for 2.5 years after coming over as a big signing from Atlanta, and perhaps its recency bias, but I had to give the nod to Adley as the backup catcher. Rustchman is also clearly the better defender.
11. Melvin Mora, Super Utility
Acquired from the Mets in a deal that sent Mike Bordick to the Mets in 2000, Mora net 9 solid seasons in Baltimore. Mora is the perfect super utility player; he played LF, CF, SS, 2B, and 3B for the O's. He made two All-Star teams and had some incredible seasons in in the orange and black, including 2004, where he posted a pristine .981 OPS. Adding Mora to the bench was an easy decision.
12. Miguel Tejada, SS/3B
Several Orioles fans jumped for joy when the Orioles signed Tejada, then a star shortstop for the Oakland Athletics, to a six-year, $72 million contract in 2003 (ironically, this was also the day the U.S. caught Saddam Hussein). Tejada led a stout offensive force in 2004 and 2005, also featuring, Mora, Brian Roberts, Javy Lopez, and Rafael Palmeiro, that gave Orioles fans hope for a postseason berth for the first time since 1997. Tejada had an Orioles record 150 RBI in 2004, and over 5 seasons (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2010) hit 109 home runs. Unfortunately for Tejada, his use of illegal steroids during his Major League career tarnished much of his success between Oakland and Baltimore.
13. Cedric Mullins, CF
The heir apparent to Adam Jones in centerfield, Mullins truly came into his own in 2021 with the Orioles, producing the first 30/30 season (30 home runs, 30 steals) in club history. As he did in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Mullins comes off my bench but will see significant playing time as a defensive replacement, pinch runner, and spot starter. If Mullins' competition for a starting job wasn't the iconic Adam Jones, he would likely be starting.
14. Mark Trumbo, DH/PH
The final spot on the bench goes to Mark Trumbo, who quietly spent four seasons with the Orioles (2016-2019) and helped lead them to the Wild Card game in Toronto in 2016. Orioles fans, including myself, might not initially remember just how dominant Trumbo was, especially in 2016, when he hit 47 home runs - the most by an Oriole not named Chris Davis during this time period - and posted an .850 OPS. In fact, Trumbo hit the go-ahead two run home run against the Blue Jays in the 2016 ill-fated Wild Card game, and would often go on incredible power streaks during the season. While his career in Baltimore did not end on a high note (Trumbo resigned with the Orioles after 2016 and was never quite the same player), Trumbo still earns the final bench spot on the all 2000s roster.
Stay tuned for the all-2000s 26-man roster pitching staff! Let me know how your all-2000s offense would stack up against mine!