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Addition of Alexi Casilla on minor league deal gives Orioles important middle-infield insurance

Major League BaseballBaseballAlexi CasillaBrian RobertsNew York YankeesRay Flaherty

In this space 24 hours ago, I wrote an update on the Orioles' nine free agents. One of those players -- second baseman Alexi Casilla -- had yet to sign with a team.

But on Friday, the Orioles announced that they were re-signing Casilla, whose $3 million option was declined in October, to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.

Bringing back Casilla is an interesting move -- and it seems to be a good move for both the Orioles and Casilla. I think few will be surprised if he makes the team, despite the growing logjam of candidates at second base.

Casilla didn't have a tremendous impact on the Orioles last year, hitting just .214/.268/.295 in 62 games (he was 9-for-11 on stolen-base attempts). And it was evident that he was below Brian Roberts and Ryan Flaherty on the totem pole at second base. During one stretch in May, even Yamaico Navarro started ahead of Casilla at second base.

More than anything, Casilla offers the Orioles an insurance policy if third baseman Manny Machado is unable to return from offseason knee surgery by Opening Day. If that occurs, the Orioles would likely shift Ryan Flaherty, the leading candidate to start at second base, to third base until Machado returns.

Heading into the offseason, Danny Valencia could have also filled in for Machado at third base, but he was dealt to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for outfielder David Lough.

Flaherty's move to third base would set the table for either Casilla or Jemile Weeks, who was acquired from the Oakland Athletics in the trade for closer Jim Johnson, to fill in at second base. And even if Weeks beats out Casilla for time at second base, Casilla’s ability to play second base, third base and shortstop while offering some speed off the bench would make him an enticing addition to the major league roster.

Also in the mix at second base are top position player prospect Jonathan Schoop, as well as Cord Phelps and utility player Ivan DeJesus Jr.

Ideally, the organization would like to see Schoop, who missed two months last season with a stress fracture in his lower back, gain more experience at the Triple-A level. Phelps was claimed off waivers by the Orioles in late November but was outrighted off the 40-man roster two weeks later. DeJesus signed a minor league deal.

The Orioles have plenty of options to replace Roberts, who agreed to a one-year deal with the New York Yankees. Interestingly, Roberts’ deal with the Yankees has yet to be made official. The Yankees do need to clear space on their 40-man roster for Roberts, and if Alex Rodriguez’s suspension is upheld, that could make room for Roberts.

eencina@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EddeInTheYard

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Major League BaseballBaseballAlexi CasillaBrian RobertsNew York YankeesRay Flaherty
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