The Orioles on Wednesday began what figures to be an offseason of reshuffling, clearing three spots on the 40-man roster and adding some much-needed middle infield depth. The club claimed infielder Pat Valaika off waivers from the Rockies and assigned five players outright to Triple-A Norfolk: left-hander Josh Rogers, right-handers Ryan Eades, Luis Ortiz and Tayler Scott and outfielder Mason Williams.
Valaika, 27, hit .214 with a .656 OPS in 231 games for the Rockies from 2016-19, mostly in a reserve role. He hit 13 homers as recently as 2017, when he saw time at five different defensive positions. But Valaika spent much of 2018 and ’19 in the Minors; he hit just .169 with a .504 OPS over 108 Major League games over the past two seasons.
In Baltimore, Valaika profiles as necessary insurance for a club that must make decisions on Jonathan Villar (non-tender? trade?) and Richie Martin (Majors? Minors?) in the coming months. A natural shortstop, Valaika sports Major League experience at short, second, third and first base, as well as left field.
Eades, Ortiz, Rogers and Scott combined to make 20 appearances with the Orioles this year, 19 of which came out of the bullpen. The lone start came from Ortiz, who was summoned to the Majors in emergency fashion for one day in June and allowed four runs over 3 1/3 innings against the Red Sox. Ortiz, 24, has pitched to a 12.71 ERA over three games in the Majors since he was acquired from Milwaukee in the Jonathan Schoop deal of 2018.
Rogers, 25, was also a product of that 2018 Trade Deadline, coming over from the Yankees with two other players in the deal for Zack Britton. Rogers went 0-1 with a 8.79 ERA in five games this year before undergoing UCL revision surgery in June. He is expected to miss most of the 2020 season.
Late-season waiver claims this year, Eades and Scott combined to pitch to a 11.57 ERA over 14 appearances. Williams, 28, had a productive season at Norfolk before hitting .267 with a .624 OPS as a September call-up. He sustained head and right knee injuries in a Sept. 17 collision with the center-field wall that truncated his season after 11 MLB games.
The moves shave the number of players on the Orioles’ 40-man roster to 37. That number will remain the same with slugger Mark Trumbo becoming a free agent and right-hander Alex Cobb being reinstated from the 60-day injured list after the World Series. The club is also expected to clear more space before the Nov. 20 deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft.