Theory on why Orioles didn't immediately replace Chris Davis on roster

The Baltimore Sun

On Saturday night, the Orioles knew Chris Davis would be placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday. On Saturday night, the Orioles played an extra-inning game in which they used five relievers.

With the combination of manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette at the helm, there's probably no team in baseball more diligent about shuffling the organization's rosters to make sure the major league team is properly equipped for the next game.

There have been several occasions in the past when Triple-A players were sent to Baltimore or to where the Orioles were playing on the road and stayed at a hotel waiting to be called onto the active roster, if necessary, only to be sent back when a roster spot wasn’t created.

So it seemed a little strange that the Orioles didn’t have someone on hand -- specifically, a reliever -- Sunday for insurance in case the game went into extra innings again.

It was easily explained away that the club had a day off Monday, so if they could get through Sunday's game, they wouldn’t need anyone until Tuesday. Therefore, there was no need to rush a move.

But there was something else at play here, too, in my opinion.

Shortly after the Orioles announced Sunday that Davis was going to the DL with the strained oblique, the club announced that it had unconditionally released Steve Pearce. It seemed like a cruel moment of ill-fated timing.

The Orioles designated Pearce, the club’s backup first baseman, for assignment last Tuesday, meaning they had 10 days to trade, release or put him through waivers. They couldn’t pull Pearce back from the designation once Davis was injured, and they don’t have another obvious alternative at first base while Davis is sidelined.

Well, this is the Duquette-Showalter regime. Moves don’t just occur without a good reason. And strangely Duquette wouldn’t comment on why Pearce was released Sunday; he’d only say that Pearce had to go through release waivers before he could be a free agent Tuesday.

So we’re not going to get an on-the-record insight into their reasoning for the timing of the move. But I don’t see it as a coincidence, not with this front office.

Consider this: Normally, according to baseball’s rules, if a released player re-signs with his old team, he must wait 30 days before being placed back on that club’s active roster. And that, obviously, wouldn’t work for the Orioles -- who need a first baseman now -- or for Pearce -- who is the kind of guy who loves playing baseball.

However, there is a stipulation in the rules that allows a club to re-sign a player and place him on the active roster if the “club has had less than the full complement of active players at all times from the date of the waiver request to the date [the] player is re-signed.”

In other words, Davis was placed on the DL on Sunday, dropping the Orioles active roster to 24 players. They then released Pearce. The club should know by Tuesday afternoon whether Pearce passes through release waivers. The Orioles wouldn’t have to make a roster move until later Tuesday.

So, based on the rules, they theoretically could then re-sign Pearce on Tuesday afternoon, add him to the roster and then return to a full 25 players.

This isn’t a slam dunk, of course. First, Pearce, a 31-year-old veteran with some pop and defensive versatility, will have to clear waivers. And, in talking to several people in the industry, that seems like a 50-50 proposition.

Then he’d have to immediately agree to re-sign with the Orioles, and as a free agent, he could look at other teams that might try to entice him with promises of more consistent or longer-lasting playing time (the salary would be the same, since he already agreed to $850,000 for 2014).

So some things will have to happen to get Pearce back on the Orioles’ roster. And there’s no certainty that this is what the Orioles were thinking when they made their moves (or lack thereof) Sunday.

But it makes more sense than Showalter and Duquette deciding to play with only 24 players on their roster for no other reason. Because that doesn’t seem to be in their DNA.

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