With the outlook of their 2021 infield up in the air, the Orioles added another option Friday by claiming Gold Glove second baseman Yolmer Sánchez off waivers from the Chicago White Sox.
Sánchez, 28, earned that fielding distinction with Chicago in 2019, but he also posted a sub-. 700 OPS for the fifth time in six seasons. The White Sox non-tendered Sánchez the subsequent offseason, and although the San Francisco Giants signed him to a minor-league deal, he never appeared for them before he was again released and re-signed with Chicago. In the small sample of 11 games this season for the White Sox, he hit .313/.476/.688, with four of his five hits going for extra bases, while playing second, third and shortstop. In parts of seven seasons, Sánchez, a switch-hitter, is a career .245/.300/.360 batter.
If Sánchez remains on the Orioles' 40-man roster — which features 33 players after his acquisition — he would join Hanser Alberto, Renato Núñez, Pat Valaika and Trey Mancini as the club’s arbitration-eligible infielders. The first three are candidates to be non-tendered, with the salary increases they would otherwise receive possibly sending the club above the financial threshold it’s willing to pay in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Sánchez made $4.625 million in 2019 in his second year of arbitration.
Sánchez has primarily played second and third in his career. With only 16 major league appearances at shortstop, he seems an unlikely candidate to fill in at the position should the Orioles not retain José Iglesias, whose $3.5 million contract option the team must decide on in the next handful of days. If the Orioles decline the option, they will pay Iglesias, who turns 31 in January, $500,000 and send the veteran infielder into free agency.
Already, other organizations have surprisingly declined options that otherwise likely would have been accepted without the impact of the pandemic, though many of those exceeded the $3.5 million that the Orioles would pay Iglesias.
In addition to deciding on Iglesias' option, the Orioles must activate Mancini, who missed the season recovering from colon cancer, and infielder Richie Martin, who suffered a broken wrist weeks before the season began, from the 60-day injured list, with those moves filling two of their open 40-man roster spots.
The Orioles opened several Thursday when right-handers David Hess, Branden Kline and Kohl Stewart and utility player Andrew Velazquez cleared waivers and were outrighted to Triple-A. Friday, the club announced that Kline and Stewart, who had both been outrighted previously, declined their outright assignments and became free agents.
Kline, a 29-year-old Frederick native, was the Orioles' second-round pick in 2012 out of the University of Virginia and, after a series of injuries, made his major league debut in 2019. He posted a 5.48 ERA in 37 appearances over the past two seasons. Stewart, 26, was the Minnesota Twins' fourth overall pick in 2013. He was the lone pitcher who the Orioles signed to a major league free-agent deal last offseason, but as a Type-1 diabetic who was thus considered particularly at-risk to the virus' effect, he opted out of the season and never pitched for Baltimore.
The Orioles might use some of their remaining 40-man roster spots toward waivers claims, similar to the addition of Sánchez. The club also must choose which of their prospects to protect from the Rule 5 draft that normally takes place in early December at the end of the Winter Meetings, which the league announced Friday will be held virtually. Those eligible to be selected by other teams if they aren’t added include outfielder Yusniel Díaz, right-hander Michael Baumann, infielder Rylan Bannon, and left-handers Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells.
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