It turns out Steve Pearce is not heading anywhere after all.
The Orioles announced this afternoon that Luis Ayala has been traded to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for minor league pitcher, Chris Jones. The trade restores balance to both the Orioles bullpen and bench, which had been operating at a surplus and deficit, respectively. With Ayala gone, the Orioles are back to the standard (at least in 2013) seven man bullpen and four man bench. Chris Dickerson has been activated (or will be) for tonight’s game against the Boston Red Sox.
An issue with the Orioles’ roster construction coming into the season was that of the eight men in the Opening Day bullpen, only two pitchers – Darren O’Day and Brian Matusz – had a remaining minor league option. Five others were out of options and Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland could not be optioned to the minors without first clearing waivers and being acquired from Cleveland via a trade. It limited the flexibility of the bullpen and the entire team because under that scenario the Orioles were forced to go with a three man bench as long as they wanted Matusz or O’Day on the roster. The Ayala trade allows the Orioles to carry a four man bench even if it does not necessarily solve the issue of a bullpen where only two pitchers have minor league options.
The benefactor of this trade is really T.J. McFarland. The left-hander was extremely good in his first Major League appearance on Saturday. Dan Duquette stated outright that the trade was made largely to make room for McFarland while being able to return to a seven man bullpen. McFarland’s status with the Orioles is now much more secure.
As I wrote earlier this morning, Dickerson is a logical choice as the fourth bench player given the current composition of the roster. Against right-handers, the bench will consist of (more often than not) Taylor Teagarden, Alexi Casilla, Pearce, and Dickerson. Teagarden and Pearce are right-handed hitters. Casilla is a switch hitter but not a big offensive threat either way. Dickerson provides a solid left-handed option off the bench and is also a defensive upgrade over Pearce in leftfield. As long as Reimold is receiving significant at bats at the DH spot, the Orioles could use a solid defensive outfielder on the bench.