With less than a week to go before Opening Day, teams are paring their rosters, which has led to an influx of free agents on the market.
For the Orioles, who will already have a challenge in whittling down their roster from 41 players down to their 25 by Sunday, there are a few players who could fill a need.
The Orioles had interest in the left-handed hitting Murphy during the offseason, especially early on when they had a righty-heavy lineup, as a platoon possibility before he signed a minor league deal with Boston. Now that the 34-year-old is a free agent again, the Orioles are interested again.
But the Orioles already have an outfield roster crunch on their hands. South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim’s future with the club is unclear and Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard and veteran Nolan Reimold are battling for the final roster spots.
Murphy wants a major league deal and he has told reporters that he’d rather retire than play in the minors this season. So unless the Orioles find a way to unload Kim, I don’t see how Murphy fits in an already crowded outfield.
While on the subject of outfielders, the Orioles reportedly have interest in Pirates outfielder Matt Joyce, who is a non-roster invite who had to be guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster or released or given a $100,000 retention bonus to go to the minors.
The Orioles inquired about Joyce, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette attended Sunday’s night game against the Pirates in Bradenton, sitting right behind home plate as Joyce batted third.
Joyce, another lefty who hits right-handed pitching well, played most of his career in the American League East with the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s struggled against lefties over his career, but he’s had success against the Orioles (.277/.373/.502) and he rakes at Camden Yards (.322/.407/.587). His 21 career RBIs in 47 games at Camden Yards are his most in any opposing ballpark.
For the same reasons as Murphy, I’m not sure he fits.
A couple of other notable names:
-- Left-handed reliever Wesley Wright, who opened last season on the DL with the Orioles, was released by the Diamondbacks. The Orioles definitely could use some left-handed relief help with Brian Matusz likely to open the season on the DL, but Wright is out of minor league options, so adding him wouldn’t create some necessary bullpen roster flexibility. The team already signed lefty Zach Phillips after Matusz had a setback from his lower back injury, but Phillips doesn’t have options either.
-- Outfielder Will Venable, another longtime Orioles target, signed a minor league deal with the Phillies that included a big league camp invite. Venable was signed by the Indians this offseason, but was released by Cleveland on Sunday. He’s a left-handed platoon bat who can play all three outfield position. Venable will enter the mix for a reserve outfield spot. His primary competition for that job will be former Orioles outfielder David Lough.
-- The Rangers released former Oriole Jeremy Guthrie after the right-hander exercised an opt-out in his deal. Guthrie sat on the free-agent market late into the offseason and the Orioles briefly discussed a possible reunion, but decided against bringing back Guthrie.