Baltimore Orioles Players Who Are in Serious Danger of Being Cut or Demoted
It's an exciting time for baseball fans.
Spring training games around MLB have begun, as fans now have the privilege of witnessing somewhat meaningful baseball for the first time since the World Series.
The Baltimore Orioles are hoping that the spring exhibition schedule provides some answers for the team's roster construction. As much of the roster is already set and most players tend to know their roles, there are still a few openings and some questions to be solved.
Manager Buck Showalter will use his time this spring wisely to determine who deserves to head to Tampa Bay with the O's for Opening Day on April 6.
Unfortunately for some guys, that means that they're at risk of being cut or demoted by the team. But that's the business, and the O's are going to break camp with the best 25 ballplayers that they have.
Let's take a look at some players who are at risk of being cut or demoted by the O's due to the nature of roster battles in spring camp.
Everth Cabrera, Utility Man
The Orioles just recently brought in shortstop Everth Cabrera on a one-year, $2.4 million deal with up to $600,000 in possible incentives. Cabrera's contract will keep him under team control through the 2016 season with the value for the second year to be determined by the arbitration process.
Though he's been a shortstop in his five-year career for the San Diego Padres, the O's view him as a guy who can play second base as well as the outfield. The team already has J.J. Hardy entrenched at the shortstop position, so Cabrera provides a bit of insurance should Hardy get injured or Jonathan Schoop struggle with his offensive development at second base.
He's had a tough stretch in his personal life, as he was suspended the final 50 games of the 2013 season for his role in the Biogenesis scandal as well as having just reached a plea deal for resisting arrest in San Diego late last year, as reported by Jeff Sanders of U-T San Diego.
His upside is undeniable, though, and the Orioles are no strangers to taking a chance on guys with baggage. Though he struggled in 2014, batting just .232 with a .272 OBP, he was a bit of a spark plug from 2011-2013, batting .264 with a .339 OBP and 84 stolen bases in 100 attempts. That kind of on-base ability coupled with speed is something the Orioles sorely lack.
It'll be interesting to see if Cabrera forces the hand of Showalter and makes the team out of spring training. After all, Ryan Flaherty has been the team's utility man for three seasons now, and Flaherty's ability to play every infield position with great skill makes him extremely valuable to Showalter.
Cabrera does have an option remaining, so he can be stashed in the minors and called upon later if needed. As long as he behaves himself, he'll be playing for the Orioles at some point this summer.
Jason Garcia and Logan Verrett, Pitchers
The Orioles selected a pair of right-handed pitchers in the Rule 5 draft: Jason Garcia and Logan Verrett (pictured).
Garcia, 22, had Tommy John surgery in 2013 but appears to have fully recovered and then some, as he's been throwing in the upper 90s and pitched to a 3.70 ERA in the Boston Red Sox's organization last season. He's never pitched above Single-A.
On the other hand, Verrett will be 25 in June and pitched at Triple-A in the New York Mets organization last year. He went 11-5 with a 4.33 ERA in 162 innings, but he allowed 188 hits.
Being Rule 5 picks, both players are required to be on the O's 25-man roster the entire 2015 season, otherwise they'll have to be offered back to their original teams. That alone makes it an uphill battle for the pitchers.
When you also take into consideration that the team already has six starting pitchers for five starting pitching spots and likely only has two bullpen spots open at most, it seems impossible for both Garcia and Verrett to remain on the team the entire year. They'd both really have to impress this spring and then maintain high value through the season to justify occupying two roster spots.
It'll be tough enough for even one of them to break camp with the club. Expect at least one of these guys to be on his way out by the end of spring training.
Ryan Flaherty, Utility Infielder
As I stated previously, Flaherty has been the team's utility man for the last three seasons. His defense at all four infield positions is superb, making him valuable to the club.
However, his offense is lacking, and he's failed to grow much as a hitter over the last three years (though in his defense, it's tough to do that when you're not playing every day).
He's hit .216, .224 and .221 over the last three seasons, and while he can drive a fastball, he tends to have trouble handling off-speed stuff. But when you're a utility man, it's much more important that you play strong defense than produce offensively.
Now that the O's have brought Cabrera into the fold, Flaherty's job is at risk a bit more than it has been the last couple of springs. Cabrera brings something to the table that Flaherty doesn't with his more established on-base ability and superior speed, but for Cabrera to steal Flaherty's job this spring, the switch-hitter will have to prove he can play defense at multiple positions at an above-average level, like Flaherty can.
Flaherty does have options remaining, so the Orioles won't have to cut him if they feel Cabrera is the better option to bring to Tampa Bay. Flaherty can be stashed in the minors, and if he is, he'll be back in Baltimore at some point this year.
The Starting Rotation
Six starting pitchers. Five starting rotation slots. That's the dilemma the Orioles currently face.
That's a good dilemma to have.
Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez (pictured), Kevin Gausman and Ubaldo Jimenez are all vying for a rotation spot. The first three are likely guaranteed a starting role, leaving three pitchers for two spots.
For whatever reason, Gonzalez is always viewed as a guy who could be bumped to the bullpen even though he's gone 30-21 with a 3.45 ERA in 69 starts (75 games overall) the last three seasons. One thing that's great about Gonzalez is that he seemingly never gets rattled out on the mound, no matter how intense the situation is, and he almost always provides the team with a chance to win. Having a guy like that in the starting rotation is a huge plus.
Gausman is coming off of his first (relatively) full season in the O's rotation, making 20 starts for the team last year. He went 7-7 with a 3.57 ERA in 113.1 innings pitched, and it appears as though the 2015 season could be the time when Gausman takes a huge step forward in his development. He does have some experience pitching out of the bullpen, making 15 relief appearances for the team in 2013.
Despite being the highest-paid pitcher in O's history, Jimenez didn't even finish the season in the team's starting rotation in 2014. The right-hander went 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA in 22 starts and three relief appearances. His control was his biggest issue, as he walked a whopping 77 batters with four hit batters and four wild pitches in just 125.1 innings.
Unless Jimenez can make a change or two and drastically improve his performance, it appears as though the team's best rotation is the one without him. However, he's entering the second year of a four-year, $50 million deal, and it's highly doubtful that the O's would be excited about paying that much to a long reliever for mop-up duty. Therefore, the team will likely be giving him every chance to succeed as a starting pitcher.
One thing is for sure: One of these pitchers won't be in the starting rotation when the season begins on April 6, but having depth is always a good thing. It'll be shocking if the team can make it through the year without an injury to its starting rotation.