The Orioles' pending deal with infielder Everth Cabrera is expected to be finalized Wednesday as the team officially kicks off spring training with its first full-squad workout of the season.
But when Cabrera arrives, he will do so with few guarantees.
Once the deal becomes official, Cabrera will make $2.4 million in base salary and could add an additional $600,000 in incentives. But Orioles manager Buck Showalter was firm in saying Tuesday that the investment doesn't guarantee Cabrera a major league roster spot on Opening Day.
Because Cabrera, 28, still has a minor league option, the former San Diego Padres shortstop could open the season at Triple-A Norfolk if he doesn't play well this spring.
"That kind of player would have to make the club if he had an option, first of all," Showalter said Tuesday when hypothetically talking about Cabrera's role once he joins the club. "It's another attractive thing about a player like that. If they have an option, it makes them more attractive."
As the Orioles conduct their first full-squad workout Wednesday morning, the addition of Cabrera muddles the team's roster. Mostly a shortstop in six major league seasons, he likely would see most of his playing time at second base since the team signed starting shortstop J.J. Hardy to a three-year extension in October.
That would cut into the playing time of Jonathan Schoop, who hit 16 home runs as a rookie last season while playing through some growing pains, and place utility player Ryan Flaherty on the bubble as well. Given the fact that all three players have minor league options remaining, it is unlikely that the Orioles would begin the regular season with Cabrera, Schoop and Flaherty on the 25-man roster.
So the newest Orioles player will be in a competition to make the club this spring, Showalter said.
"I'm excited about who we have here now," Showalter said. "I like the options we have. If that person is here, he will be one of those. It will be up to him to make it more than an option."
It's not necessarily shocking that Showalter has made it clear that Cabrera will have to prove himself, especially with the baggage he brings.
Cabrera has a pending misdemeanor resisting arrest charge stemming from a traffic stop in California in September. He was pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana and was issued a $100 fine for vehicle code infraction for having marijuana in his car.
Cabrera pleaded not guilty to the resisting arrest charge, but faces an April 13 court date. Combine that with a domestic abuse charge in 2012 that was thrown out and a 50-game suspension for involvement in the 2013 Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal, and Cabrera has received his share of negative attention.
But count Showalter among those in the Orioles organization who believe it is worth the risk to take a chance on Cabrera, who led the National League with 44 stolen bases in 2012 and has 99 total stolen bases in the past three seasons.
"The risk factor is very much on our side," Showalter said. "We wouldn't do it if it wasn't. We'll see. There's some upside there for sure. … There's some unknown for me about him.
"The one division that I've constantly got to lean on people that I really trust is the National League West. … There's just a lot of unknown for East Coast teams."
Cabrera will make just slightly less than the $2.45 million he earned last season before the Padres nontendered him in December. The Orioles would have team control over Cabrera for the next two seasons.
Cabrera would give the Orioles — who were last in the major leagues with 44 stolen bases in 2014 — more speed on the bases. But he was limited last season, missing 69 games with left hamstring injuries, and his stolen-base success rate has declined since he converted 44 of 48 attempts (91.7 percent) in 2012. He was successful on 37 of 49 attempts (75.5 percent) in 2013 and was 18-for-26 (69.2) last season.
"In a perfect world, as long as it's in a high percentage," Showalter said when asked whether additional stolen bases are a facet the Orioles are seeking. "That's the thing. It didn't happen last year, and it didn't happen five years in a row, so there's no given on that just because a guy did it one time.
"The first thing is the health. He's worked very hard, from what we understand, with some of the problems he's had physically with his legs. There's nothing structurally [wrong], mostly a lot of pulls and different stuff."
In order to officially add Cabrera, the Orioles must clear room on their 40-man roster. Infielders Jimmy Paredes and Rey Navarro, as well as outfielder Alex Hassan, are candidates to be removed.