The Orioles are considering activating first baseman Travis Ishikawa to the 25-man roster by midnight tonight to avoid losing him to free agency. Ishikawa had a June 15th opt-out clause if not on the 25-man roster, which he chose to exercise this weekend. The arrangement gives the Orioles 48 hours (until midnight tonight) to either trade, grant free agency to, or activate the first baseman.
Ishikawa, 29, is a slick-fielder who is hitting .316/.413/.525 for the Tides and has a career major league line of .264/.328/.405 in parts of five major league seasons with the Giants and Brewers.
The O’s do not want to lose Ishikawa for nothing and likely do not want to lose him at all. The problem is he is a left-handed hitter that can only play 1B and well . . . the O’s already have one of those.
The Orioles would add Travis to the 25-man roster in place of Miguel Gonzalez who could be placed on paternity leave with the birth of his daughter coming last night. Gonzalez’s next start could come as late as Sunday in Toronto. A stay on the MLB paternity list can last a maximum of three games. The Orioles could add Gonzalez to that list after tonight’s game and activate him before Sunday’s game. In the meantime, they would buy themselves four days (three games) to take a look at Ishikawa or potentially continue to attempt to trade him.
Personally, I think Ishikawa might have some value as left-handed designated hitter who can spell Davis at 1B from time to time. He owns a career .333 OBP versus RHP which would make him an effective platoon player until Wilson Betemit returns. Chris Dickerson is receiving many of the designated hitter at bats versus RHP these days and has been struggling a bit at the plate recently. If Ishikawa stays on the roster long-term, it is likely at Dickerson’s expense. The Orioles are less likely to jettison Steve Pearce since he bats from the right side and is needed to spell Nate McLouth against RHP, at least until the return of Nolan Reimold from the DL.
If Dickerson were to be assigned to waivers, he almost certainly would be claimed. While the Orioles would like to keep as much of their surplus depth as possible, an argument could be made that Dickerson is more expendable at this juncture than Ishikawa. If (god forbid) Chris Davis were to land on the DL or need to DH to rest nagging injuries, Ishikawa is clearly the best backup 1B option in the organization. Meanwhile at Norfolk, Jason Pridie is batting .308/.359/.530 and brings virtually the same skill set (left-handed hitting outfielder who can play CF) that Dickerson does. If Ishikawa goes and the O’s need a first baseman, there is no logical “next man up”. If Chris Dickerson goes and the O’s need a left-handed hitting outfielder, they do have Jason Pridie.
In any event, Dan Duquette will be faced with a tough decision coming up very shortly – if not in a few hours, then in a few days.