On April 6th the Orioles will play the first game of their season against Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg. They’ll play three games in Florida before having a day off and then coming home to host Toronto in their home opener. The O’s first home stand includes games against Toronto and New York (Yankees) before the club has another off day and ships up to Boston. I’ve included a photo of the schedule below for you visual learners out there.
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There are two interesting things about this that gives Dan Duquette some flexibility. They are:
- Chris Davis still has 1 game from his 25-game suspension to serve.
- Off days mean that the O’s won’t turn over a full rotation in the first week of the season.
And so we can expect Dan Duquette, the king of roster margin moves, to use this to his advantage and keep a player in the organization that otherwise would go claimed. How does this all work? Well, let’s explore.
The O’s will need to travel to Tampa Bay with a 25-man roster in place. That roster won’t include Chris Davis since he’s ineligible to play in that first game. You might expect the club to simply leave an empty spot for Davis, but that’s not how they roll. No, they’ll have a full 25-man roster going into Tampa Bay, with a roster move to take place early the morning of the 7th.
As we approach Opening Day, MLB teams must make roster cuts, add guys to their 40-man rosters, and generally shuffle deck chairs in order to optimize their rosters. Non-competitive clubs lie in wait, hoping to snap up a potential contributor from a division hopeful that just doesn’t quite have room. As such, the days leading up to Opening Day ignite a transaction frenzy. Just look at all the moves Duquette made prior to last season’s opener. This included losing Mike Belfiore to Detroit. He simply didn’t cut it, and was lost.
Theoretically, the O’s could put a guy that’s on the cusp in Davis’ slot. Give him a day on the 25-man roster in the hopes of protecting him from other teams. This would have to be someone on the 40-man, though they could be added at some point during Spring Training if need be. So while all other MLB teams will have their rosters set, the O’s might be able to sneak a player through waivers one day into the season in order to add Davis back.
It’s not a lock, but perhaps there’s a player that Dan Duquette would like to try to sneak past other teams. After all, he had to release and re-sign Steve Pearce last year. This kind of roster manipulation could be the difference between keeping a contributor in the fold and losing them to another team. Remember, the goal here is to keep a player in the organization that otherwise might not make the cut. It’s likely that this would be someone like JP Arencibia, or another borderline MLB player, since they’d be the only ones that would need such manipulations to keep within the organization. Younger players can simply be sent down to the minors without a second thought (though with potentially burning an option year).
The second opportunity Dan Duquette has would be to go into the first series of the year with a short rotation. Since the O’s have an off day three games into the season, they can go through the first eight games of the year using just four starting pitchers. This means that the club can, theoretically, only have four starters in the rotation to start the year and utilize an extra bench spot or another bullpen arm.
This tactic has more to do with getting the most out of each roster spot on the 25-man. There’s no sense in keeping, Kevin Gausman let’s say, if he’s not going to pitch in those first eight games. And so, he can simply “spend 8 days in AAA” to start the year before being called up to pitch again. I use Gausman here because he would be the easiest of the starters to leave down.
As a result, the club would have an extra spot for a bench bat, pinch runner, or reliever if need be. Then, after eight games, you call up Gausman and begin using your starting rotation as you would normally.
It’s possible that Duquette could use this as a means to stash yet another player he doesn’t want to lose, but it seems more likely that the club would use this roster spot on a player that could contribute over those eight games.
Why even talk about all this? If one aspires to be a fan of Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter, they must indoctrinate themselves with the ways of the O’s brain trust. This includes meticulous work on the periphery of the major league roster. This is, after all, the specialty of the O’s brain trust–and one that results in a lot of success on the field.
Sure, the Orioles may opt to just go into the season straight up and have their roster set with just a Davis addition to come on April 7th. That doesn’t seem too likely though, does it? This is a team that was ostensibly led last season by a man who was cut and re-signed to make room for Davis just under a year ago.
Part of out-performing expectations on a regular basis, at least in the Orioles’ case, involves wringing every last bit of value out of each roster spot at the club’s disposal. It may not be pretty, but it has damn sure been successful. I can’t imagine that the O’s would pass up on a chance to extract just a wee bit more value out of their roster in 2015.
Jeff was the owner of the Orioles blog Warehouse Worthy, which focused on making advanced statistics a part of the conversation for the average fan. Outside of baseball, Jeff is a graduate of Loyola University where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Business Administration. The Maryland native currently works for an Advertising Agency in downtown Baltimore. Previously a contributor to Beyond the Boxscore, he joined Baseball Prospectus in September 2014. You can reach him at [email protected].