2:10pm: The Orioles announced that Jones has been recalled, Greene has been claimed, Martin has been optioned and Franco has been designated for assignment. Kubatko now tweets that the Gutierrez move won’t become official until tomorrow, so it seems there’s some additional roster tweaking on the horizon.
1:30pm: The Orioles have also reclaimed right-hander Conner Greene off waivers from the Dodgers, tweets Dan Connolly of The Athletic. The O’s lost him to the Dodgers on waivers earlier this month but have now claimed him back after the Dodgers designated him for assignment themselves.
12:38pm: The Orioles will announce multiple roster moves today, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (Twitter link). Baltimore is set to designate third baseman Maikel Franco for assignment and option infielder Richie Martin to Triple-A Norfolk, per Kubatko. They’ll recall second baseman Jahmai Jones and third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez in their place.
Franco, who’ll turn 29 this week, has never really found his footing with the O’s after signing well into Spring Training. He’s been Baltimore’s primary third baseman this season, appearing in 104 games and totaling 403 plate appearances, but he’s mustered only a .210/.253/.355 slash with 11 home runs and 22 doubles in that time.
The O’s were surely hoping for something closer to Franco’s 2020 production, when he appeared in all 60 games for the Royals and batted .278/.321/.457 with eight homers and 16 doubles in 243 plate appearances. Kansas City still non-tendered Franco last winter rather than pay him a raise in arbitration — his second non-tender in as many years — and he lingered in free agency into Spring Training before finally settling on a one-year, $800K deal with Baltimore.
In an ideal setting, the Orioles probably would’ve enjoyed a few reasonably productive months out of Franco and subsequently flipped him at the deadline for whatever return they could get. His minimal salary would’ve made him an affordable addition even as a bench bat with a contending club. His general lack of production this season understandably dried up any real interest on the trade market.
The Orioles will now place Franco on either outright waivers or release waivers in the coming days. He’s unlikely to be claimed, as doing so would mean picking up the remainder of his salary, which recently jumped from $800K to $1MM when he recorded his 400th plate appearance of the season. Once he clears waivers, he can become a free agent and sign with any club for the prorated portion of the league minimum from that point through season’s end.
Jones, 24, was acquired in the offseason trade that sent righty Alex Cobb and cash to the Angels. The former second-round pick was once considered one of the best prospects in the Halos’ system and one of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball, but his stock had dipped in recent seasons.
After a hot start to the 2021 campaign, Jones has seen his bat tail off considerably in Norfolk. He posted a .311/.435/.516 line through his first 30 games with the Tides but has batted just .201/.257/.370 in 42 games since that time. Jones posted a .349 average on balls in play during the 30-game stretch to open the year and saw that mark fall to .242 over his next 42 games, but a climbing strikeout rate has also been a primary reason for his downturn in performance. Jones walked 22 times (16.8 percent) against 20 strikeouts (15.3 percent) over those first 30 games, but in his past 42 contests he’s fanned at a 29.2 percent rate against a greatly diminished 6.5 percent walk rate.
Recent slump notwithstanding, Jones ranks in the middle tier of the Orioles’ top prospects and will use the remainder of the 2021 campaign as an addition for a larger role next season. The Orioles’ infield is largely unsettled beyond first baseman Trey Mancini, so there should be plenty of opportunity for younger players to stake a claim to some more playing time. Jones does have some experience in center and in left as well. However, the O’s have used him primarily as a second baseman in 2021 and have a much more settled group on the outfield grass than the infield dirt.