TODAY: Sanchez has cleared waivers and been granted a release, the Orioles announced.
MARCH 27: The Orioles have acquired right-hander Adam Plutko in a trade with the Indians, The Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli reports (Twitter link). The O’s have officially announced the deal, noting that Plutko was acquired for cash considerations. Infielder Yolmer Sanchez has been designated for assignment in a corresponding move to open a spot on Baltimore’s 40-man roster.
Plutko is out of minor league options, so the trade allows Cleveland to receive at least a modest return for a player who wasn’t likely to make their Opening Day roster, rather than lose Plutko for nothing on the waiver wire. Plutko’s 40-man roster space can now be filled by Bryan Shaw, who was in camp on a minor league contract and had already been told that he will make the team.
Originally an 11th-round pick for the Tribe in the 2013 draft, Plutko has a 5.05 ERA/5.71 SIERA over 217 1/3 big league innings, starting 36 of his 50 career games. Plutko doesn’t miss many bats (only a 16.9% career strikeout rate) and he’s had a lot of trouble keeping the ball in the park, with a 2.03 HR/9 over his four MLB seasons. On the plus side, he doesn’t issue many walks, and he has displayed some elite spin on his curveball.
Plutko is already 29 years old but still controllable through the 2024 season, which is undoubtedly of interest to the Orioles. Plutko wasn’t consistent enough to lock down a regular starting job with the pitching-rich Indians, but he’ll immediately become a candidate for the fifth spot in a Baltimore rotation that includes John Means, Matt Harvey, Dean Kremer, and Wade LeBlanc. Alternatively, Plutko could also be deployed out of the bullpen as a long reliever or swingman.
The Plutko trade is a logical pickup for the Orioles, but the follow-up transaction is unusual, as Sanchez was projected to be the team’s starting second baseman. The O’s claimed Sanchez off waivers from the White Sox in October, and while Baltimore could simply be taking a calculated risk that another team won’t claim the former Gold Glover, the DFA would seem to indicate that Sanchez isn’t seen as a big factor in the Orioles’ plans.
Sanchez avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $1MM deal for the 2021 season, but since arb contracts are only guaranteed once the player makes the Opening Day roster, the Orioles will only owe Sanchez 45 days of termination pay (roughly $250K) for being cut in the last half of Spring Training. While not a huge savings, the financial aspect of the Sanchez DFA can’t be overlooked as a notable factor, considering how the Orioles have been looking to save money whenever possible this offseason.
If Sanchez ends up elsewhere, Pat Valaika, Ramon Urias, Jahmai Jones, and non-roster invite Stevie Wilkerson are on hand as second base options. The Orioles could juggle playing time between multiple members of this group rather than stick with a true everyday second baseman.