If Ryan Flaherty and J.J. Hardy are both activated by Friday’s game in New York (Flaherty is not eligible to come off the disabled list until then), I am more and more convinced that Everth Cabrera should be and will be the player joining Rey Navarro on the bus to Norfolk.
Cabrera has not hit at all this season, entering Wednesday evening’s game with an unsightly .213/.226/.238 line. He has been – at best – “okay” defensively if you average all of the defensive metrics together. His -3 defensive runs saved is not good, but his 5.2 UZR/150 paints a slightly rosier picture. Inside Edge Fielding shows he has done an adequate job of making plays that have a 60% or more likelihood of being made (save for one booted ball on a routine play) but hasn’t gotten to anything out of the ordinary so far. The only reason to keep Cabrera around with Flaherty and Hardy return is to have a backup middle infielder on the bench. With each passing day, that is becoming less of a concern now that both Jimmy Parades and Steve Pearce have been afforded playing time at second base. If Buck feels reasonably comfortable with playing those two at second from time to time, Cabrera’s one possible saving grace – his ability to play the middle infield positions – no longer means as much. The team can more than get by with a rotation of Pearce/Flaherty/Parades at second, with Flaherty serving as Hardy’s backup at short.
Cabrera can be optioned to the minors and based on his season-to-date performance, a demotion would hardly be unwarranted.
Another option floated around is the possibility of cutting ties with Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia by returning him to the Red Sox (assuming he passes through waivers). At the moment, Garcia does not look like a pitcher who can be a contributing member for a seven man bullpen for an entire season. His fastball is not where it was in the spring and Buck is clearly doing his best to limit Garcia’s appearances to low leverage situations. At some point, the team is going to have to get valuable innings out of Garcia or move on.
Where things get sticky is that the O’s have already spent significant time and resources into keeping him. In order to maintain a Rule 5 pick the following season, he has to be on the active roster for at least 90 days. Garcia has already logged 32 days on the active roster. There are 34 days in September and October where rosters will expand and it will be far easier to “hide” Garcia in the bullpen. That’s 66 days in total, which means the O’s “only” need to get 24 additional days (actual days, not games) out of Garcia between now and August 31st. I am not suggesting that the Orioles will fake an injury to remove Garcia from the 25-man but they can certainly bend things in that direction. This is Garcia’s first full season back after Tommy John and with his velocity down, general shoulder or arm fatigue would not be a difficult sell. Given how close the Orioles might be to retaining Garcia for next year free of restrictions, I would hate to see them lose him now unless it is absolutely necessary.
Also, dropping Garcia for Flaherty would only be a temporary solution. At some point, the O’s would have to revert back to a seven man bullpen. I don’t think it’s a great idea to lose Garcia for something that amounts to a temporary solution.
The Orioles signed Cabrera in part because of the way his minor league option provided them with flexibility. Given how Cabrera is currently performing, I would be surprised if they did not take advantage of that flexibility right now.