BY DILLON ATKINSON, @DAtkinsonOU
Major League Baseball players and owners are currently discussing new roster rules for the 2017 season, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXsports.com. If agreed upon, major-league rosters will expand from 25 to 26. However, instead of September rosters being expanded to the entire 40-man roster, it will be condensed to just 28. The current CBA expires on December 1, which is about a week away.
If the owners and players come to an agreement to this new roster expansion rules, how could a 26-man roster affect the Orioles?
One route manager Buck Showalter could go is to have an extra position player off the bench. Showalter enjoys using matchups to his advantage (even if everybody else disagrees with his matchups), so we know he'd like to have another platoon option to use for left field, right field, designated hitter, or even catcher. Another bench option could be a one-dimensional type player. Possibly one who is a good, fast baserunner who will be limited to just pinch-running duties.
Another way Showalter could utilize the 26th roster spot would be to add another relief pitcher. According to CBSsports.com, starting pitchers are throwing less innings on average per start than they have in the past (6.03 in 2011, 5.88 in 2012, 5.90 in 2013, 5.97 in 2014, 5.81 in 2015, and 5.65 in 2016). Also worth noting, Orioles starters averaged 5.47 innings per start in 2016, below league average. With that in mind, an extra reliable bullpen arm could be very necessary, whether it be an extra long reliever, right-handed middle reliever, or left-handed specialist. Also, with an eight-man bullpen, managers may have starters throw even less innings per start in 2017, with a plan to "shorten the game."
The final option for Showalter, which may be frowned upon by most fans, is using a six-man starting rotation. The Orioles have six starters for five spots at the moment: Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley, and Yovani Gallardo. The popular opinion throughout the fanbase is the O's should try their best to trade one of Jimenez, Miley, and Gallardo to another team, while keeping the other two at the backend of the rotation and praying for the best. If the Birds are unable to find a team willing to take one of the three, we're probably going to see one of two things:
- A six-man rotation, or
- Bundy in the bullpen to start the season.
I'd like to think the second option is unlikely, but Showalter used Gausman out of the bullpen at the start of 2015, even though he proved to be a pretty impressive starter in 2014. Each of the two options listed above would provide extra rest for Bundy, who will surely be placed on an innings limit in 2017, just his second season in the big leagues. A six-man rotation would also help all of the starters get some extra rest in between starts, and could help Showalter decide who may be the odd-man out between Miley, Jimenez, and Gallardo in May or June.
Showalter may already have a preference of which route he'll take if he is given the luxury of a 26th player, and I think he'll be leaning toward carrying an extra pitcher — whether it be for the rotation or the bullpen. Still, with how much the O's skipper enjoys taking advantage of players with minor-league options and flexibility, he could very well give lifetime Uber memberships to a group of position players and pitchers, who he'll use in a 26th roster spot rotation throughout the season, with how often he'll switch them between Double-A Bowie, Triple-A Norfolk, and Baltimore.