With Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman set to return to the active roster at some point this week, the Baltimore Orioles are staring down the barrel of a few tough roster decisions. To make room for these two, the Orioles will likely have to designate two players for assignment. Throughout most of the month of June, the Orioles operated a veritable shuttle bus between Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk. This mostly allowed manager Buck Showalter a chance to keep his bullpen rested as well as get a look at players like Nolan Reimold and Chris Parmelee.
There will be no such easy shuffling around this time. The Orioles’ roster currently has only six relief pitchers. They cannot dip into that pool to create a spot for Gausman. A six-man bullpen is already pushing the limits of what is considered reasonable. Even if Gausman does not stick in the starting rotation, the Orioles would likely prefer to find a way to keep him in the big leagues. There is, however, a backlog of corner outfield/designated hitter types on the Orioles roster.
The Orioles currently employ Travis Snider, Nolan Reimold, Chris Parmelee, Delmon Young, and Steve Pearce. All are capable of playing left or right field. Parmelee and Pearce also have the ability to play first base. Simply put, there is a huge overlap in the skill set of each of these players. Parmelee and Sinder hit left-handed, while the rest of the group bats from the right side. Jimmy Paredes also fits in this group, but he has played 47 of his 59 games as the team’s designated hitter.
One of these players will have to go to make room for Jonathan Schoop. With a six-man bullpen, it’s clear the Orioles will not be trimming their roster that way to make room for their second baseman. The most likely candidates to be designated for assignment to me, are Delmon Young and Nolan Reimold. The Orioles just do not need this much of a backlog in the outfield.
Unfortunately for Delmon Young, he has been awful the entire month of June, batting just .200 with a .415 OPS. Young has been given limited action the entire month, but that also does not bode well for him. If he is to stick with the Orioles the remainder of the year, he must be able to be counted on to provide instant offense when inserted into the lineup. So far this season, he does not appear capable of doing that, and is also a defensive liability when asked to play the field. This makes him the most likely candidate to lose his roster spot in a crunch.
Reimold has had only 35 at-bats in 15 games since arriving in Baltimore at the beginning of the month. Even at 31, the Orioles still don’t know exactly what they have on their hands in Reimold thanks to years of injuries. At this point, it seems as if the team is willing to stick with the player they once drafted in the second round.
With the rest of the group — Snider, Pearce, Parmelee, and Paredes — enjoying scorching hot months of June, the Orioles will have to look elsewhere to free up a spot for Kevin Gausman. It is no secret that Bud Norris has struggled the entire year in the Orioles’ starting rotation. His 2-7 record and 6.79 ERA tell you all you need to know. In his most recent start, he surrendered four home runs in five innings to the Texas Rangers. On the year, he has allowed 11 home runs in 11 starts and a .311 BAA.
Norris had a 9.26 ERA in Spring Training, but the Orioles were willing to stick with him. Eleven mostly horrendous starts later, it is painfully evident that Norris is no longer the pitcher he was last year. His slider has no bite — witness the two flat, two-strike sliders deposited in the bleachers last night by Mitch Moreland and Carlos Corporan — and his fastball is not powerful enough to compensate. Norris has all but abandoned his changeup. Handing him the ball every five days now seems like an exercise in futility.
The most logical course of action for the Orioles going forward is to attempt to work a trade of Young in a similar manner to the trade of Alejandro De Aza to the Red Sox. Young should still be valuable to a Major League team, and the Orioles should try and get something for him. As far as Norris goes, there is little reason to believe he can regain the form that made him a 15-game winner last year, and with the bunched up American League East standings as they are, the Orioles cannot really wait around to find out. Kevin Gausman is waiting in the wings and ready to start in the Majors. Ubaldo Jimenez was banished to the bullpen last year to make room for Gausman, and now it is Norris’s turn to suffer the same fate.
Norris does not offer much value to the Orioles out of the bullpen, and they are not tied to him beyond this year as they were to Jimenez. The best course of action for both parties is for Norris to accept a minor league assignment and attempt to rebuild his confidence in Triple-A. With free agency looming in the offseason, Norris does not figure in the Orioles’ long-term plan, but he must attempt to regain his form to have some hope of getting more than a one-year deal this winter.
The return of Schoop and Gausman instantly upgrades the Baltimore Orioles’ roster. There will be tough decisions to be made, but the Showalter-Dan Duquette team have handled such decisions very well during their tenure in Baltimore. They have given the Orioles an incredible amount of depth to work with, but now the time has come to trim some of the spare parts to create an even stronger roster. The Orioles have a strong group of outfielders without Delmon Young, and with the exception of Norris, the starting pitching has mostly performed up to par. It’s time for the Orioles to move forward without both of these players, as hard as it may be to make that decision.