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Bringing back Nolan Reimold involves little risk, potentially-high payoff for Orioles

Former Orioles outfield Nolan Reimold has struggled to stay health since his rookie season in 2009.
Former Orioles outfield Nolan Reimold has struggled to stay health since his rookie season in 2009. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

The Orioles are closing in on a minor league deal with their former outfielder, Nolan Reimold. A deal wasn't complete as of Tuesday night, but both sides believe it will get done.

A lot of fans are asking why, especially since Reimold hasn't been able to show he can stay healthy for the past several years.

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The answer is in the logistics. When the Orioles designated Reimold for assignment last July, he had used up his minor league rehabilitation assignment window. As a major league player with no minor league options remaining, the club had two choices: either place him on the active 25-man roster or designate him for assignment.

At that time, seeing there was no spot for him on the active roster, they cut bait.

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But this time, keeping Reimold in the organization would require far less commitment.

Reimold will be signed to a minor league deal, so he won't be on the organization's 40-man roster. If there are any health concerns, he can start the season on the minor league disabled list, which doesn't affect the major league team in any way.

Even though Reimold was seen as the Orioles left fielder of the future during his rookie season in 2009, there are a lot of people now ahead of him on the outfield depth chart. So, in a lot of ways, signing Reimold is much like any of the other low-risk minor league deals that Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette makes.

Even with an out clause -- that was a sticking point in negotiations between the Orioles and Reimold's representatives -- the deal would give the club an opportunity to see if Reimold can be a major league contributor again.

It wasn't that long ago when Reimold was showing the promise that made the Orioles think so highly of him. He opened the 2012 season on a tear, hitting .313 with a .333 on-base percentage and .627 slugging percentage, six doubles, five homers and 10 RBIs through 16 games until a dive into the seats at U.S. Cellular Field sent him into another spiral of injuries. He has had two neck surgeries since.

While rehabbing last season at Double-A Bowie, Reimold was confident his neck issues were behind him. But even after the Toronto Blue Jays claimed him, he played in just four games before going back on the DL with a left calf strain. He struggled once he returned for the Blue Jays and was designated for assignment in late August. The Arizona Diamondbacks took a late flier on Reimold, but he played just seven games for Arizona.

Reimold is now 31 and hasn't played more than 87 games since his rookie year. It appears he will have one more chance to show the Orioles he can make good on all those expectations, this time with less pressure on both parties.

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