OAKLAND -- There were times when DJ Stewart couldn’t make an out, showing some of the prodigious pop that made him the 25th overall pick in the 2015 Draft in the first place. And there were spells where he simply struggled to stay on the field, mostly due to injury but also due to lack of performance.
The roller coaster in Baltimore likely came to an end on Tuesday. The Orioles designated Stewart for assignment, after 195 games in an O’s jersey in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Chris Ellis to start the evening's game against the A's in Oakland.
The Orioles can now try to trade the 28-year-old, or he can be claimed off waivers by any of the other 29 teams. If no moves come to fruition after seven days, he can be sent outright to the Minors. But since Stewart is under three years of service time and has not cleared outright waivers before, he cannot be granted free agency, though the O’s may also release him.
"DJ is just an outstanding guy and somebody who's been around here since I've been here over the last few years. Hard to see a guy that you've been around a lot go," said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. "But I'm really hoping for the best with him. He's a fantastic human being, and I really wish him the best."
Stewart’s 2022 was a microcosm for his career to date. He sustained a left hand contusion in Spring Training after being plunked during a plate appearance, losing valuable at-bats, but was included on the Opening Day roster. Just three games into the season, he was optioned to the Minors to try to make up for lost at-bats. Just two games in, he was designated for assignment.
Should Stewart be traded, claimed off waivers or released, his Orioles tenure would end with a .213/.327/.400 slash line, paired with a 97 OPS+ and 26 home runs alongside 73 RBIs. Seven of those homers came in a euphoric stretch of nine games in 2020, when Stewart provided a glimpse of the power that made him a player the Orioles long wanted to get healthy and going
But those moments -- unaided by knee, hand, hamstring and concussion injuries through the years -- were too few and far between for him to have roster space amid a crowded outfield and burgeoning farm system.
"He's a great guy, he's a great teammate, he's dealt with a lot of injuries, just trying to get healthy," added outfielder Austin Hays, in the organization with Stewart since 2016. " … I hope he gets claimed by somebody and he gets an opportunity to show what he can do, because he is a really good ball player that has a lot of power. He's not that old, so I think he's still going to get an opportunity with somebody.”