Baltimore Orioles roster decisions loom as they fight for AL Wild Card spot

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 07: Seth Smith
ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 07: Seth Smith /

The Baltimore Orioles continue to tread water, close in the AL Wild Card standings but unable to put together a stretch of play to vault them toward the playoffs.

Some new faces are expected to join on the Baltimore Orioles roster as the Orioles schedule brings them Safeco Field to play the Seattle Mariners, then back home later in the week for a weekend series versus the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Ryan Flaherty is hitting over .400 on his rehab assignment. The only thing left is for him to build up arm strength to be able to play the field.

Once that happens, and it could be in short order, it is expected that Flaherty will return to the Orioles.

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Who he replaces on the roster is easy. It will be Ruben Tejada, who has played one inning since Tim Beckham was acquired.

Tejada did an adequate job at short stop, but Beckham was brought in to be a starter and has been even better than expected.

Plus, Flaherty can play more positions, offering more value than Tejada.

Then comes Rule 5 draft pick Anthony Santander, who is expected to join the team on the Thursday off-day before a weekend series in Baltimore.

Who he replaces is a much bigger question.

There isn’t much fat on the roster for Dan Duquette to trim. You need two catchers and a utility player. Mark Trumbo being a DH takes a spot. You have seven guys in the bullpen, so a move isn’t happening there.

So, we are looking at an outfielder-for-outfielder swap it appears.

That means that Seth Smith, Joey Rickard and Craig Gentry are the three candidates.

Santander has never played center field, so that means that one of Rickard and Gentry has to stay on the roster in case something would happen to Adam Jones. I don’t think anyone wants to see Smith, Trey Mancini or Flaherty play center.

Smith has appeared in 83 games for the Orioles, hitting .270/.351/.461 with 11 HRs, 26 RBIs, 18 doubles, 42 runs in 302 at-bats, almost exclusively against right-handers.

Rickard has appeared in 91 games for the Orioles, hitting .258/.294/.373 with four homers, 18 RBIs, 14 doubles, 27 runs in 240 at-bats. He has appeared a lot as a defensive substitute, and primarily starts against left-handers.

Rickard also has seven stolen bases, a part of the game that Smith doesn’t have. He also has rated as a pretty good defensive outfielder for the Orioles.

Gentry has appeared in 61 games, batting .215/.292/.304 with a home run, six RBIs, four doubles and 14 runs in 91 at-bats. Notably, Gentry has more walks than Rickard in about 150 fewer at-bats but has no power and not much offense in general. He is the Orioles’ speed and defensive substitute, and Buck Showalter enjoys having him on the team.

Santander is a switch hitter but is hitting .438/.538/.969 versus right handers as a left handed batter.

It’s not good news for Smith, but I can’t see there is a ton of interest in him if the Orioles were to let him go.

Rickard, Jones, and Gentry give Buck Showalter the most athletic outfield and also best defensive outfield he has ever had in Baltimore. Santander is not known as a great defender at this point.

If Gentry goes, he could refuse his assignment and become a free agent, hoping to catch on with another team. Or, he could end up at Norfolk and be recalled on Sept. 1.

If Rickard is sent down, he will return on Sept. 1, barring injury.

For Orioles’ Smith, a release and it’s doubtful he returns.

The Orioles aim to bring up Santander and try to hide him on the bench since he has only played 15 games above the Single-A level.

The Baltimore Orioles hope to have him replace Smith against left-handers, well then it will present a different option.

Word is that Santander will likely be a bench player and not a regular. That would probably mean that the team will try to pass Gentry through waivers. If Gentry would somehow not return to the Orioles, that would mean that Logan Schafer and Chris Dickerson would be the options in AAA to be September call ups and provide defensive depth. Both veterans don’t have the speed that Gentry does.

Next: Orioles expected to activate Rule 5 draft pick Anthony Santander

Santander has to be recalled, and the Orioles should take a look at him.

But, no one knows what he can bring defensively, and the major leagues isn’t time to learn.