26 June 2015

How Should the Orioles Open Roster Spots for Chen and Schoop?

Since the promotion of Nolan Reimold and Chris Parmelee, the Orioles have been putting off a roster decision or two. They controversially optioned Wei-Yin Chen last week to get a closer look at Parmelee, and the move worked out well. Not only has Parmelee raked since joining the team (.333/.400/.815), but Kevin Gausman, who made the spot-start in Toronto in place of Chen, pitched effectively, if not efficiently, and helped the Orioles take two of three entertaining games in a competitive series.

Chen is scheduled to pitch tonight, so he's going to need a place on the roster. Jonathan Schoop could also be activated soon. So what should the Orioles do to create roster space?

One way to put off one of those decisions would be to move Adam Jones to the 15-day disabled list. Jones has been dealing with a nagging shoulder injury, and it's in the O's best interest to get Jones as healthy as possible before his return to the lineup. However, Roch Kubatko of MASN noted in the article above that "it wouldn't be shocking if [Jones] returned to the lineup tonight," so that option could be off the table.

T.J. McFarland could also be sent to Triple-A Norfolk, but that would also leave the O's with six relievers in the bullpen. It would be yet another temporary fix, maybe for a game or two.

The current logjam on the O's roster is due to the team's group of corner outfielders. Steve Pearce, David Lough, Parmelee, Reimold, Travis Snider, and Delmon Young are all candidates to be designated for assignment. Jimmy Paredes, who probably doesn't need to carry a glove with him, was a candidate to be designated a few weeks ago but started hitting again and has a wRC+ of 125. So his roster spot appears to be safe.

If I had to rank the six outfielders above from least least likely to get DFA'd to most, it would be Snider, Parmelee, Pearce, Lough, Young, Reimold. That's a complete guess, and my preferred ranking would be close but slightly different: Snider, Pearce, Parmelee, Lough, Reimold, Young.

Let's start with Delmon Young, who should be the first player to be removed from the roster. Young and Reimold are redundant. Young is a better career hitter against left-handed pitching than Reimold (112 wRC+ vs. 104 wRC+), but Reimold is also not a platoon bat, is a better outfielder, and is better on the basepaths. The Orioles re-signed Young to hit, and he has not done that this season (73 wRC+).

To me, the next move comes down to Lough or Reimold. It's important for the Orioles to keep at least one outfielder on the roster besides Jones who's capable of holding down center field defensively. That's especially important with Jones on the mend. I give the clear defensive nod to Lough, who's both a better outfielder overall than Reimold and also has more experience playing center field in the majors. Reimold is superior offensively to Lough, but simply put, he is not a center fielder.

Lough career as OF: +30 DRS, 31 UZR
Reimold career as OF: -2 DRS, -13 UZR

It wouldn't be ideal to jettison two right-handed bats at the same time, but the Orioles are also getting Schoop back. His return should help balance the lineup when Ryan Flaherty isn't playing.

Really, you can make a case for anyone in this group to be designated for assignment. The Orioles could also work out a trade to alleviate the roster pressure, similar to the trading of Alejandro De Aza to Boston. But Snider should stay because he's hit well enough and is also under team control for 2016. Parmelee should hang around because he's been on fire and it's worth seeing how good he really is. Pearce should stay because while he hasn't hit well, his peripheral numbers aren't that bad and he's hit into some tough luck (still hitting the ball hard; low BABIP). Plus, he can also fill in at first base and even second base and field well enough. Still, with Schoop close to returning, Pearce's ability to now play second base matters slightly less, and Parmelee can also handle first base duties.

Yet another alternative would be to send Flaherty to the minors. Schoop shouldn't be considered an everyday option right away, necessarily, but Pearce could fill in on days when Schoop sits.

But the Orioles seem to revel in making unconventional decisions pushing the limits, so it's wise to expect the unexpected in any case. Considering the crafty roster moves the Orioles have made the last few years, any player with an option is a candidate to be temporarily removed from the active roster. As Jones accurately said last week, "I don't know how they do it. I'm just glad I'm out of options."

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