One way the Orioles have been able to overachieve in the Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette era is by milking every last drop out of the major league roster. That means constantly scouring the waiver wire, hoarding players with minor league options, using those options for both roster gymnastics purposes and to give players extra rest, selecting and keeping Rule 5 draft picks, and sending a never-ending supply of players back and forth on the Norfolk shuttle.
Duquette never stops looking for a way to improve the team's depth, and Showalter is (or at least seems to be) happy to oblige by picking and choosing from sometimes less-than-ideal choices and figuring out the best way to maximize their talents. Showalter is a master at this, particularly when it comes to reliever usage throughout a long season, and is very good at keeping his club's arms fresh.
The Orioles have never been shy about using roster rules and minor league options to their advantage, even when guys like Wei-Yin Chen were unpopularly optioned for a brief period of time in an effort to keep him healthy. Just wait and see how they try to take advantage of the new 10-day disabled list.
This upcoming season, though, is shaping up to be Duquette's and Showalter's greatest challenge in roster juggling. They seem to relish jumping through these hoops, and they've given themselves even more things to worry about than usual.
If figuring out what to do with two Rule 5 picks in Aneury Tavarez and Anthony Santander (likely DL bound) weren't enough, they also have to select a fifth starter among underwhelming options until Chris Tillman hopefully returns in May; figure out if Oliver Drake is worth losing if he doesn't make the 25-man roster (he's out of options); try and make room for Trey Mancini, who is mashing in spring training and is mostly blocked by Mark Trumbo's presence; figure out if Mancini and Pedro Alvarez can survive any amount of time in a major league outfield; and then also discover if Craig Gentry and Joey Rickard can form a successful right-handed side of a platoon with their left-handed counterparts in Hyun Soo Kim and Seth Smith.
The Orioles recently jettisoned Michael Bourn, who just a couple months ago seemed like a strong option to make the club. A broken finger from a botched football catch and his contract opt-out date took care of that, along with him never being a truly great fit with Kim and Smith around (plus Tavarez, who gets a slight bump for the Rule 5 designation).
No team plays the fringes quite like the Orioles, who, while maximizing the major league roster, spend very little on international players and have assembled a farm system that doesn't produce many great choices to round various positions of need. Mancini counts, for sure, but there's a reason why the O's have to experiment with outfielders who aren't outfielders, add guys like Vidal Nuno and Gabriel Ynoa as depth pieces in February, and play the Rule 5 game every season. That doesn't make them bad moves by any means. It's just what the Duquette and Showalter Orioles do. It can be frustrating, and you may wonder how much these peripheral moves really matter. But they do in some small way, as Duquette keeps the roster churning and Showalter figures out which pieces can be useful.
One day, when Showalter and Duquette are long gone, you won't have to pay such close attention to which players have options remaining or how many active roster days are left for a Rule 5 pick. They will be simpler times, but probably not better ones (except for the draft pick selling nonsense; no one will miss that).