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Sorting through the Orioles' suddenly crowded 40-man roster

The Orioles added four players to their 40-man roster last week and are expected to sign infielder Rey Navarro to a major league contract this week, putting their suddenly crowded 40-man roster at 38 players.

So where's the space for the Orioles to add free agents, especially if they are to sign Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz? They certainly want to keep one spot open for the Rule 5 draft on Dec. 11.

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The Orioles offered right-handed reliever Oliver Drake a major league deal to keep him in the organization after he led the Eastern League in saves last year. They also claimed outfielder Alex Hassan off waivers from the Oakland Athletics after placing an unsuccessful claim on him one week earlier.

They also added their past two minor league pitchers of the year, right-handers Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson, to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft.

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And, in late October, the team added left-hander Patrick McCoy, claiming him off waivers from the Detroit Tigers.

It may seem like they're filling all their open roster spots, but keep in mind that just because a player is on the 40-man roster now – or even has signed a major league deal – there's no guarantee that he will be on the 40-man roster in February, or even by Christmas.

Last season, the Orioles added right-handed knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa before the Rule 5 deadline, then nontendered him two weeks later and eventually signed him to a minor league deal with a spring training invitation.

The Orioles claimed infielder Cord Phelps off waivers last Nov. 25, then outrighted him to Triple-A Norfolk on Dec. 9 during the winter meetings.

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More than anything, adding players to the 40-man roster is more about adding to the team's organizational depth. It's clear that many of the Orioles moves this offseason – whether they are waiver claims, major league signings or minor league signings – have been made to address depth.

The Orioles have made several moves to address what they felt was a hole at shortstop at the Triple-A level, closing in on a deal with Navarro after also signing middle infielders Paul Janish and Derrik Gibson to minor league deals.

There will be a lot of 40-man roster movement after the Rule 5 draft throughout the sport.

And if the Orioles need to free up room on the 40-man roster, there are options.

Triple-A second baseman Steve Lombardozzi wasn't included in a group of minor leaguers who went to Sarasota, Fla., after the minor league season to prepare for a possible late-season or postseason call-up.

The fact that Lombardozzi doesn't play shortstop hurts his ability to help the major league club as a utility player. That's another place where the Orioles are looking to upgrade.

Other possibilities to be removed from the 40-man roster are McCoy, who struggled to make a mark with the underwhelming Tigers bullpen last year, or even Quintin Berry, who was added to the 40-man roster when he was a September call-up last season.

The Orioles' priority still appears to be re-signing Markakis and Cruz, even though there hasn't been much movement on either front.

Regardless, if the Orioles need to clear space for either -- or both -- it shouldn't be a problem.

twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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