Baltimore Orioles: Roster shakeup coming soon?

The Baltimore Orioles have won ten of their past 12 games to move within 1.5 games of the first place Tampa Bay Rays. After slumping offensively for much of the month of May, the Orioles’ bats have woken up in a big way in June. The club has already scored 81 runs in the season’s third month after scoring only 95 runs the entire month of May. Part of that offensive resurgence is attributable to the return of Matt Wieters, the red-hot Manny Machado, and a more consistent Chris Davis. Lost in all of the fireworks, however, have been the contributions of Nolan Reimold, who has driven in five runs in seven games since being recalled from Triple-A, and Chris Parmelee, who debuted in a big way with two home runs and four hits in a 19-3 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies.

With the additions of Reimold and Parmelee, the Orioles bench is getting a bit crowded with corner outfield/designated hitter type players. Parmelee was added to the 25-man roster to avoid triggering an opt-out clause in his contract. Reimold had a similar clause in his minor league deal. Wanting to avoid losing these two potentially valuable bats, the Orioles made space, but with the pending returns of Miguel Gonzalez, Kevin Gausman, Jonathan Schoop, Wesley Wright, and Wei-Yin Chen, the roster flexibility that allowed the team to add Reimold and Parmelee without cutting ties with a spare part like Travis Snider or Steve Pearce may no longer exist.

Pearce is listed on the Orioles’ 25-man roster as an infielder, and he has been a passable facsimile of a Major League second baseman when used there in the absence of Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Flaherty. Schoop should be back in Baltimore by the end of June. Pearce will not see second base time, but will probably still be needed to spell Davis at first. Pearce has been a massive disappointment after a revelatory 2014 season. His .210/.281/.362 line this season will not keep him on a big league roster, but his ability to play nearly every position in a pinch remains valuable to the Orioles.

Snider was expected to play every day after coming over from the Pittsburgh Pirates in an offseason trade. The thought was that Snider could reasonably be expected to replace Nick Markakis, but in 47 games with the Orioles, he has shown virtually no power with only 10 extra-base hits and a .355 slugging percentage that is nearly 100 points off the .438 value he posted for the Pirates last season. Snider is also a defensive liability in right, but the Orioles second-best option in right field this season has been Delmon Young, who only looks slightly more comfortable than Hanley Ramirez when trying to corral a fly ball. That being said, Young is an established, veteran presence, and the Orioles are highly unlikely to be willing to part with him.

By adding Reimold and Parmelee, the Orioles have made it clear that they are not satisfied with their outfield options. The reality is that they cannot keep all six outfielders currently on their roster. David Lough, who is the only option capable of spelling Adam Jones in center is indispensable, and may actually be the Orioles’ second best outfield defender. For argument’s sake, let’s assume the Orioles want to keep both Parmelee and Reimold on the active roster for the foreseeable future. They will not clear up a roster spot for either of them with a pitcher’s spot. The Orioles already manipulated Chen’s minor league options to make room for Parmelee. Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson can be manipulated in the same way, but that is not a sustainable solution. Gonzalez and Gausman will return from the disabled list shortly, and Wesley Wright‘s rehab assignment is underway. Wright and Wilson will likely be sent down to the minors until roster expansion, but one more pitcher will need to be cleared out of the bullpen to make room for all three returning injured pitchers.

Jonathan Schoop’s return will also force the Orioles’ hand in the infield. Everth Cabrera has already been released. The player who got his chance thanks to early season injuries to Schoop and Flaherty, Jimmy Paredes, is entrenched as the primary designated hitter and is not going anywhere thanks to his .300 batting average and run production. Pearce cannot be released, as he is the best backup option to Davis at first, unless the Orioles want to test Reimold or Parmelee in the infield on a limited basis. Parmelee has played 115 career games at first base, which could make him an attractive option for the Orioles. Reimold has never played first base in his Major League career.

Fortunately for the Orioles, Schoop is unlikely to return until July. That should give the team enough time to determine if Reimold and Parmelee are better options than Pearce and Snider. The injuries and roster moves that allowed the Orioles to add both Reimold and Parmelee could not have come at a better time, as they were able to be inserted into the middle of a struggling lineup looking for options. Reimold and Parmelee, however, are not dissimilar to Pearce and Snider, and all four simply cannot be kept on the 25-man roster. Before Schoop’s return, the Orioles will have to make a decision regarding the makeup of their roster, and someone will have to go. It’s about as close to a full-out position battle as you can get midseason. The corner outfield positions were the biggest question marks for this team entering the season for the Orioles, and 64 games into the season, those questions have still not been answered. Reimold and Parmelee will now have a few weeks to try and prove they can be the answers to those questions.

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