Baltimore Orioles

Orioles are using light market to protect against injury catastrophe. Where else are they thin?

However macabre it was, when Orioles manager Buck Showalter explained last week's signing of corner infielder-outfielder Danny Valencia by twice using the hypothetical of his present-day third baseman, Tim Beckham, breaking his leg in a freak accident, the rationale was sound.

March is the time of year for baseball teams to run through every hypothetical before the stakes rise dramatically, so Showalter looking at his roster and seeing the need for cover behind Beckham at third base and even Chris Davis at first base makes sense.


But there are more holes than just the one behind Beckham, and even if such a freak hypothetical is outside the realm of possibility, the Orioles have suffered significant injuries in each of the past few seasons that hampered their chances dramatically.

Twice they were left without a true deputy for shortstop J.J. Hardy, and in 2016, they used his heir at the position, Manny Machado, while 2017 was a mixture of several players until the Beckham trade. There was also a month without first baseman Chris Davis in 2017, and a long stretch without Joey Rickard late in 2016.


They've already seemingly activated the backstop for closer Zach Britton, with Brad Brach being handled very carefully and groomed as the closer behind him.

With 10 days of games behind the Orioles and three weeks of the Grapefruit League schedule remaining, here are the "broken leg" contingencies for the Orioles around the diamond.


Behind Caleb Joseph, who is having a steady spring without much fanfare, the Orioles have two rookies — Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns. They'd be more than happy to carry either as a backup, especially with Sisco swinging a good bat this spring and Wynns countering with his steady arm and target behind the plate.

Having either play a primary role at this stage would be a little premature, though. If the Orioles needed to dip into the free-agent catcher market, the biggest names are Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Ruiz, Geovany Soto and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Considering the depth the Orioles do have at the position, springing for any of them at anything below a minimal commitment at the moment might be a tough use of resources. As a result, the Orioles will rely heavily on Joseph and hope whichever of his backups is on the roster comes along quickly.

First base

With Davis nursing a sore elbow for at least this week, the signing of Valencia on Friday makes a little more sense. He hasn't played there yet, and worked out at third base behind Beckham in Sunday's pregame infield drills, leaving Mark Trumbo and Pedro Álvarez at first base.

With Trey Mancini always a fallback there as well, first base could be well set — almost too set, considering how many options there are — as they face this spring's uncertainty with Davis.

Second base/shortstop

These two will get lumped in together because at present, the primary backup for each position is unsettled. With Erick Salcedo and Garabez Rosa sent back to minor league camp on Saturday, Engelb Vielma, Luis Sardiñas and Rubén Tejada are battling for the utility spot vacated by Ryan Flaherty through free agency.


None will be able to do offensively what Machado and Jonathan Schoop can — few could, let alone replacement-level players — but if the Orioles are looking for an offensive fill-in instead of a defensive one, they have the option of moving someone like Beckham back to shortstop and having Valencia play third base, provided he sticks around into the regular season. Beckham could probably do the same at second base, too.

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They might cost a bit more, but there are veterans who can fill in behind Schoop in Neil Walker, Aaron Hill and Stephen Drew on the market still as well. Even as challenged as the Orioles are with their middle-infield depth, they might be content to use Beckham as their contingency instead.

Third base

Considering that Valencia's signing was explained as insurance for Beckham as the crop of utility infield candidates left something to be desired, the Orioles at least have a short-term answer. Absent him, it would be on someone such as Vielma or Sardiñas, with Ryan Mountcastle far from ready to handle the position at the major league level at present.

The top free agent available at the position — and really the top position player on the market — is third baseman Mike Moustakas. His price will have to come down significantly for him to land in the Orioles' range, and the fit seems lessened with Valencia in the fold.

Corner outfield

While Mancini has left field locked down, there's no presumptive starter in right field. It's a race among Colby Rasmus, Austin Hays, Craig Gentry, Rickard and Anthony Santander, and there's really no one to protect against an injury at this point.

The Orioles have used the likes of Gentry and Rickard as useful platoon pieces in the past, but long stretches of playing regularly could expose each a little more at the plate. If Hays doesn't end up on the Opening Day roster, he'll be a fine fill-in for whoever is on it. If there's one spot the Orioles can probably be assured they won't be left lacking in the event of a catastrophe, it's this one.


Center field

Adam Jones has always been without a true deputy in years past, and truthfully, his pride in playing every day made one moot. The likes of David Lough, Rickard and Gentry have spelled him in the past, and nonroster invitee Cedric Mullins has gotten most of the innings in center except for Jones this year.

Mullins is a bit further away than being an immediate insurance policy would require, but there's a ready-made backup (and a contributor at the corners) on the market in former Chicago Cub Jon Jay. As a left-handed hitter who can play center field, he could provide an alternative to Rasmus and a capable defender at all three outfield positions, which would be vital were the Orioles to need to replace Jones for an extended spell.