The Orioles have selected the contract of infielder Pat Valaika, per a club announcement. He’ll join the 40-man and active rosters to open the season. Baltimore also placed lefty John Means on the injured list alongside righties Hunter Harvey and Dillon Tate.
A career .214/.256/.400 hitter who has shown plenty of pop from the right side of the dish, Valaika has experience at each of second base, shortstop and third base. However, he’s also punched out in nearly 29 percent of his trips to the plate in the big leagues, which has contributed significantly to his inability to reach base at a passable rate. Valaika does have a minor league option remaining and a career .275/.315/.498 slash 695 Triple-A plate appearances, making him a reasonable depth option for the rebuilding Orioles to carry on the roster even if he doesn’t break camp with the club this spring.
Means, last year’s AL Rookie of the Year runner-up, would’ve been Baltimore’s Opening Day starter but has been slowed recently by some arm fatigue. The organization has downplayed its severity and noted that Means had a similar issue last year that caused him to miss only one start. For the time being, there’s no indication that they expect the absence to be lengthy, but it’s nonetheless a tough blow to the young lefty, who enjoyed an out-of-the-blue breakout last season and was surely honored by the Opening Day nod. That start will go to journeyman left-hander Tommy Milone instead.
Harvey, once one of MLB’s top prospects, has seen his career decimated by injury but has worked his way back into Baltimore’s bullpen mix after several lost seasons. He could very well be in the team’s closer mix at some point this year or next, assuming he’s healthy. Tate, too, is another former high-end prospect and was a top-five overall draft pick that simply hasn’t developed as hoped. The Orioles are his third club — he went from the Rangers to the Yankees in the Carlos Beltran swap and then the Yankees to the O’s in the Zack Britton trade. At this point, the hope is that Tate, like Harvey, can emerge as a late-inning bullpen piece.