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On draft day, Orioles may keep competitive balance pick for first time since 2013

Baltimore Orioles' Dan Duquette (right) talks on the phone during the team's first intrasquad game at Ed Smith Stadium baseball complex.
Baltimore Orioles' Dan Duquette (right) talks on the phone during the team's first intrasquad game at Ed Smith Stadium baseball complex. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

The Orioles are hours away from doing something they haven't done in the last four years — use their competitive balance draft pick (No. 74 overall) for a player instead of in a trade.

In 2012, MLB instituted two additional sets of draft picks on the first day of the MLB draft, one for teams in the bottom 10 in revenue and another for teams in the bottom 10 of market size.

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The Orioles have been selected in the pick lottery five times now, counting this year, and three prior times they've traded away their pick.

They used their 2013 pick on outfielder Josh Hart, who is in his third season at High-A Frederick after injuries have slowed his career. Later that summer, they packaged their 2014 pick with prospects to acquire pitcher Bud Norris from the Houston Astros. At the outset of the 2015 season, the pick was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with reliever Ryan Webb.

In 2016, they sent the pick, along with beleaguered left-hander Brian Matusz to the Atlanta Braves for a pair of minor league pitchers, including right-hander Brandon Barker.

The last two trades were essentially salary dumps — Webb was owed $2.25 million, and Matusz approximately $3 million.

When executive vice president Dan Duquette and scouting director Gary Rajsich met with the media last week, they said they could still trade the pick up to Monday, and it's not unreasonable to assume there's value in it as a sweetener for a similar type of trade this year.

The problem, however, is where the pick is in the draft, and the salary that they would likely be looking to move: right-hander Ubaldo Jiménez.

For the third season out of his four with the Orioles, Jiménez has lost his rotation job, and is in the bullpen with a 6.66 ERA.

The profile certainly fits, but the money may not work to even the most liberal-spending team. The 74th pick in the draft comes with a signing bonus slot of $779,500, which would be applied to the new team's bonus pool and subtracted from the Orioles' pool.

According to Cots Contracts information, Jiménez has $2.25 million of his $13.5 million salary for 2017 owed in deferred money, leaving roughly $7.5 million in salary remaining for him this year. The Orioles may have been holding out hope that someone wants a draft pick — or still are holding it out, for all we know.

It could be about more than the money, too. Without a qualifying offer free agent for the first time in the last two years, the Orioles don't have a compensation pick to work with. They also, however, didn't sign any qualifying offer free agents, as they did in 2014 with Jiménez and Nelson Cruz and 2016 with Yovani Gallardo.

They could still possibly use the pick to bring in bullpen help, though that's hard to come by at this juncture of the season, or maybe they're just interested in making the pick with an eye toward the future.

But considering how things have gone the last few years, Rajsich needs to get past their selections at No. 20 and No. 61 and see pick No. 74 in his  possession before he can get it going.

"I'll know when it's our turn to pick if we still have it — let me put it that way," Rajsich said. "Right now, I feel pretty good about it, but you never know what will happen. You know, it just takes one ring of the phone and it disappears. We'll see what happens."

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