27 March 2015

The Orioles Shouldn't (and Likely Won't) Keep Both Rule 5 Pitchers on the Roster

The Orioles really like Logan Verrett and Jason Garcia, their two Rule 5 picks. They'd like to keep both of them, though doing so would be incredibly difficult. Here are some of Buck Showalter's recent comments on the topic, courtesy of Roch Kubatko of MASN:
"Conventionally thinking, it would be hard, and especially in the American League. Rule 5 guys, you don't hide them anymore. They have to pitch and they have to be able to present themselves. . . . The days of taking a Rule 5 and sticking him in the end of the dugout for the whole season so you can have him the next year, that doesn't exist anymore. Especially a pitcher. They've got to pitch. And not just because it's the American League East. It could be any team, but especially in the American League, where the lineups are so deep with the DH. Is it possible? Sure, it's possible, but it creates some challenges for your bullpen because you don't know what you've got. You're not going to know until about June or July what you've got." [Emphasis added.]
As a reminder, Rule 5 picks have to stay on a team's 25-man roster for a full season. So unless the Orioles make a trade for Verrett or Garcia, in order to keep them they'd have to stay on the major league roster. Keeping both would not only be improbable, but illogical. Verrett, 24, has at least logged more than 300 innings in Double- and Triple-A. But because of injuries (he had Tommy John surgery in 2013), Garcia, 22, has yet to pitch above Single-A. Verrett is obviously the more likely of the two to stick for a full season. And yet, the O's don't want to lose Garcia, either. The Red Sox didn't think any team would pick Garcia in the Rule 5 draft (there's an interesting anecdote on that here), so they'd clearly welcome him back with open arms. Keeping Garcia would be intriguing, but it's also a luxury the Orioles can't afford. They'll need every bit of help if they're going to repeat as AL East champions, and keeping two unproven relievers would be impractical.

Let's break down the current pitching situation for the O's. Here are the starting options:

Chris Tillman*
Wei-Yin Chen*
Bud Norris*
Ubaldo Jimenez*
Miguel Gonzalez
Kevin Gausman

... and bullpen options:

Zach Britton*
Darren O'Day*
Tommy Hunter*
Brad Brach*
Wesley Wright*
Brian Matusz**
Ryan Webb**
T.J. McFarland
Logan Verrett
Jason Garcia

Single asterisks indicate pitchers who are locks to be on the roster; double asterisks signify possible trade candidates. Jimenez has to be in the rotation or the bullpen. Gausman could either be in the rotation, in the bullpen, or optioned to Norfolk. The same goes for Gonzalez. Hunter is a lock because he has five-plus years of service time (meaning he can refuse a minor league assignment). The same is true for Wright. Brach is out of options, and the O's surely want to keep him. Matusz is out of options, but he's a much-discussed trade candidate. Webb, who's also out of options, is another trade option. And McFarland will probably start the year in Triple-A Norfolk.

There are a bunch of options here for Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette to consider. Putting Jimenez, Gonzalez, or Gausman in the bullpen would take away one bullpen spot from a reliever. If a starter is sent to Norfolk, the O's could keep Webb or Matusz on the roster. Or they could keep Verrett as the long man if a starter is optioned and both Matusz and Webb are traded. But that's not even factoring in Garcia, who would in all likelihood need Matusz and Webb to be gone and a starter to be optioned to Norfolk. That seems entirely unlikely for an entire season.

Showalter has said the O's could open the season with 13 pitchers. That would keep an extra pitcher for a few days, but it wouldn't have much of an impact on the rest of the season. As they should, the O's are looking for every conceivable advantage, especially when it comes to roster construction and flexibility. And they have thrived on roster gymnastics and utilizing the Norfolk shuttle the past few years. But there aren't many players on the roster who can be optioned as needed, particularly in the bullpen. That could present some challenges, and it may be a reason to look out for a trade or two before the season gets underway.


Michael T Sweeney said...

Swapping Matusz (who the Mets have expressed interest in) for Verrett straight up, which would allow the Orioles to option Verrett to Norfolk would make it far easier to find a way to keep both guys.

The only thing that complicates that is that the cash-strapped Mets might require Duquette to eat some of Matusz's $3M salary.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Sure. That's a popular trade idea. But another move would probably be needed.

John said...


I don't believe you expressed a preference for Verrett or Garcia in the article, but if you could keep only one, which would you choose?

I'd like to see the O's go with the higher risk/higher reward of Garcia, but Verrett has certainly done nothing to this point that would suggest he couldn't be successful also.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I haven't seen enough of either player to have a solid opinion, and I'm certainly no scout. I'd probably go with Verrett, as he could help the O's more this season and doesn't have the injury concern.

Anonymous said...

I do not mean to be dismissive, but this probably does not matter much to keep those guys. TJ and Flaherty have been somewhat useful, but are quite replaceable. Almanzar looks to be nothing much. THese guys probably do not matter. I know it is worthwhile to contemplate, but I hope any reasonable bloke does not think these guys will impact a playoff bid.

Pat Holden said...

While having Verrett or Garica isn't going to make or break this team, depth has been one of Duquette's hallmarks. Here's a good article about that. http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/dan-duquette-and-avoiding-the-awful/

Anonymous said...

Depth is when you can rollover guys. Rule 5s, guys with no options, and FAs are not exactly the depth they mean.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

The Orioles have demonstrated in the past that finding suitable replacement players isn't an easy task. It probably won't make a huge difference whether these Rule 5 guys or other fringe players contribute much during the season, but it's still worth talking about.

Also, was it a huge deal when the O's picked up Nate McLouth? What about Steve Pearce? Miguel Gonzalez? These things can't always be predicted, and the O's have been pretty good at getting a lot out of overlooked players. Some of that is good fortune. A good portion is also scouting, coaching, and roster management.