For some reason, the Orioles have traded their competitive balance draft pick the last two years in order to dump a little bit of salary. The first instance came in 2015, when the O's shipped Ryan Webb and the $2.75 million left on his deal along with the No. 74 overall pick to the Dodgers in exchange for two minor leaguers. The Dodgers then released Webb, because they wanted the draft pick.
Then, this past season, the O's traded Brian Matusz and the about $3 million left on his contract, plus the No. 76 pick in the draft, to the Braves for two minor leaguers. The Braves designated Matusz for assignment quickly. Again, the trade for the Dodgers and Braves was all about paying for a draft pick, and the O's were happy to oblige.
There's no guarantee the O's will do the same thing this year, but it's a strategy Dan Duquette has used to shed a little payroll early in the year. It seems bizarre -- you'd figure it would make more sense to non-tender a player or two to make up that salary instead of sending away a top-75ish draft pick -- but the O's seem to think this is some kind of market inefficiency (along with targeting unwanted qualifying offer players late in the offseason).
So who are some possibilities to be attached to another competitive balance pick and sold away to the highest bidder? (It's worth noting MLB and the MLBPA have postponed the Competitive Balance Lottery until January, and that the format could be altered.) Let's explore the options quickly.
5. Ubaldo Jimenez/Yovani Gallardo/Wade Miley
Just kidding. They all make too much money (Ubaldo: $13.5 million; Gallardo: $11 million; Miley: $8.75 million). Let's look elsewhere.
4. Hyun Soo Kim ($4.2 million)
How good does that two-year, $7 million deal for Kim look now? You wouldn't think the Orioles would trade him away in this type of deal because Kim showed he can successfully hit major league pitching. Then again, Kim's playing time was sporadic at the beginning of the season, and it sure didn't seem like Buck Showalter wanted him on the team for a portion of the year.
I don't think the O's will trade Kim -- and they shouldn't -- but it's at least possible they try to attach him to the competitive balance pick in an effort to garner a somewhat better return of minor leaguers than the past two trades.
3. T.J. McFarland (MLBTR projection: $0.7 million)
McFarland might have run out of chances to stick with the Orioles. He's out of options, and he might also be out of a role. McFarland has always been more of a swingman type than a lefty specialist, but the O's might not need either one. Donnie Hart is the second left-handed pitcher in the bullpen to go along with Zach Britton. And for now, they have six starters to choose from, plus long relievers/spot starters Vance Worley, Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright, Parker Bridwell, and others.
McFarland is a clear non-tender candidate, and he doesn't make enough money anyway to be included as the only player sold in a potential comp. pick deal. However, he could be included with someone like...
2. Ryan Flaherty (MLBTR projection: $1.7 million)
Say what you will about Flaherty (I have), but it's clear what he brings to the table. He can play multiple positions competently, including middle and corner infield spots. But he's also not a very good hitter, and it's possible the Orioles seek someone else to fill this role for less money. He could be someone the O's keep at the beginning of the season and then dump to shed some salary. Or, you know, he could just be non-tendered. You could say the same thing for the next guy on this list.
1. Vance Worley (MLBTR projection: $3.3 million)
The Orioles' two competitive balance pick trades involved pitchers, and the O's could find themselves with six starters and no defined role for Worley. So why wouldn't the O's just non-tender him? Great question! Why didn't they non-tender Matusz last year? Why did they go out of their way to dump Webb and his reasonable salary the year before that? The Orioles clearly do some smart things, but they also do some really weird things. This could just be another one of those, and Worley's salary seems just about the right amount to dump on another team.
By the way, this whole thing is crazy. Shouldn't the Orioles be doing more to actually keep extra draft picks? At least with Webb, the O's had already signed him to a guaranteed deal. The O's didn't have to keep Matusz around. The same goes for Worley, Flaherty, and McFarland.