Liam Hendriks, Kelvin De La Cruz, Edgmer Escalona, Francisco Peguero, Brad Brach, Michael Almanzar, Johnny Monell.
They’ve all been added to the Orioles’ 40-man roster so far this offseason, and none of them may be a factor for the team in 2014.
Each time Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette acquires a no-name player, he says it’s to add to depth.
Fans often scoff at these additions. When Hendriks was claimed on waivers Monday, it was easy to look at his 2-13 record and shudder.
Maybe the Orioles see something in a few of these players. More likely most of them are quickly flipped for someone else.
Late last month, the Orioles claimed infielder Cord Phelps, another player who wasn’t’ widely known. By the winter meetings, he was outrighted to Norfolk. Others will follow.
The acquisitions of Hendriks and others speak to the lack of depth in the Orioles’ farm system. If the Orioles had better players in the higher levels of the minors, those players, and not some of those named above would be filling out the 40-man roster.
Last month, the Orioles added three players from the minors to the 40-man. One of them, knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa, was quickly jettisoned. The others, pitcher Tim Berry and catcher Michael Ohlman, are likely to start the season at Double-A.
The Orioles’ other best prospects, pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez and Mike Wright, could conceivably play for the team later in the season, but won’t start the year in Baltimore. Neither needs to be placed on the 40-man yet.
Hendriks, Brach, De La Cruz and Escalona may spend most of their time at Norfolk and be available in case of injury. For now, the Orioles don’t have better players at Norfolk.
There was another pitcher added to the 40-man earlier in the fall. Chris Jones, a left-hander acquired from Atlanta for Luis Ayala, could take Troy Patton’s spot on the roster at the beginning of the season.
The Orioles traded some of their better young players last summer for Scott Feldman, Francisco Rodriguez, Bud Norris and Michael Morse.
While they knew that Jake Arrieta, who was sent to the Cubs in the Feldman trade desperately needed to get away, Nick Delmonico, who was sent to Milwaukee for K-Rod, wasn’t highly thought of. But, Delmonico was still ranked among their best prospects a year ago.
They traded L.J. Hoes, who could have succeeded Nate McLouth in left to Houston for Norris and Xavier Avery, a one-time hot prospect, was given to Seattle for Morse. The Orioles also traded young pitcher Josh Hader, who was highly valued by some scouts in the Norris trade, but he’s several years away from major league consideration.
Those deals took away some of what little depth there was at Triple-A. At the winter meetings, Duquette said that the depth of the farm system has improved a bit. In the case of Berry and Ohlman, they’re not yet ready to play at the major league level.
Duquette has begun his third year as the Orioles’ top baseball executive, and when he took over, he pointed to beefing up the farm system as a point of emphasis. It takes three-five years to really measure the success of the minor league system.
While the draft has produced Matt Wieters, Brian Matusz, Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman in recent years, those were first-round draft picks, and the Orioles will have to have some hits in later rounds.
That’s where teams produce useful players for the major league team and prospects who are wanted by other teams.
Fans are angry about the Orioles not signing an adequate replacement for Jim Johnson and for not adding a free agent starter or big-name hitter.
The additions of Ryan Webb for the bullpen and David Lough for the outfield may turn out to be shrewd, but they need something bigger.
They shouldn’t be angry about the team signing Hendriks, Escalona, and others because they’re filling a need. They’re not going to be starters—unless there is a spate of injuries.
Monell could challenge Steve Clevenger for Wieters’ backup, but in a best-case, the understudy catches perhaps a game a week.
These acquisitions are simply filling a need because the minor leagues haven’t produced.