Thoughts and observations on free agency, roster moves, Mark Ellis and the Platinum Glove

The free-agency season is officially underway, and the Orioles made their first pair of roster moves since it began, outrighting infielder Dan Johnson and outfielder Chris Dickerson to Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday.

Both have the right to refuse the assignment, which they will likely do, and then become free agents.


In the coming days, expect the Orioles to decline their 2014 options on second baseman Alexi Casilla and left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, also making them free agents.

It's all a part of some annual roster housekeeping to clear 40-man roster space. Meanwhile, the Orioles have until Monday to exclusively negotiate with their free agents.


In less than three weeks, the Orioles will have to set their 40-man roster to protect minor leaguers eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Among those the organization must decide whether to protect are left-hander Chris Jones, left-hander Tim Berry and catcher Michael Ohlman.

Last season, the Orioles chose to protect Jonathan Schoop, Mike Belfiore and Zach Clark. Both played at the major league level this year and will compete for roster spots next spring. Those decisions have to be made by Nov. 20.

The decisions on who to protect this year will be more difficult, which is a good thing. It shows the Orioles' farm system is getting better.

The Orioles take the Rule 5 draft seriously. They've made picks the past two years – Ryan Flaherty and T.J. McFarland – who they've successfully been able to protect.

They also don't want to lose a player who could possibly help them, especially considering the Orioles are dedicated to sustaining success through player development. You'd rather find out if a guy is a major leaguer yourself than allowing another team to find out that he actually is.

They may not seem like it on the surface, but serious decisions loom ahead.

Next week, free agency becomes a free-for-all.

I noticed Thursday that the Dodgers declined their 2014 option on veteran second baseman Mark Ellis, who could be an intriguing free-agent candidate for the Orioles.


The Orioles are interested in bringing back second baseman Brian Roberts, and Roberts has said he wants to return. Both Ellis and Roberts are 36, but Ellis is coming off a season in which he was a Gold Glove finalist and was fourth in fielding percentage among National League second baseman (.989).

The Dodgers owned a $5.75-million option on Ellis for 2014. They can still negotiate with Ellis exclusively until Monday.

Speaking of Gold Gloves, they were announced earlier this week – Orioles Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado won at their respective positions – but there are still on more fielding honors to be awarded.

The nine Gold Glove winners in each league are finalists for the three-year-old Platinum Glove Award, which will go to the top fielder overall in each league.

A fan vote will play a part in deciding the winners. Fans can vote at until Monday at noon.

The newly incorporated SABR Defensive Index will also account into the voting, which mean Machado has to be considered one of the favorites. Machado led all American League fielders in defensive runs saved (35), total zone rating (32) and ultimate zone rating (31.2), the three publicly available components that make up the SDI.


Machado has also quickly become a fan favorite – his jersey was the fourth-most popular in MLB in the second half of the season – so he should fare well in the fan vote as well.

Machado already beat out Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre, who won the AL Platinum Glove award the past two years, for the Gold Glove.

You heard it here first. I think Machado wins the AL Platinum Glove award, which will be announced Nov. 8.