The Orioles have reinstated right-hander Austin Voth from the 60-day injured list and optioned righty Mike Baumann to Triple-A Norfolk, per a team announcement. Left-hander Keegan Akin, who’s been out since late June due to a back injury, was moved from the 15-day IL to the 60-day IL to create 40-man space for Voth’s return.
Voth, 31, has been out since mid-June due to an elbow issue but recently wrapped up a minor league rehab assignment, pitching 11 1/3 frames of 3.97 ERA ball across three minor league levels. Prior to hitting the injured list, Voth had pitched to a 4.94 ERA in 31 innings out of the Baltimore bullpen, punching out 21.5% of his opponents against a 9.7% walk rate along the way.
The O’s claimed Voth off waivers from the Nationals on June 7, 2022, and immediately received improved results from the longtime Nats prospect. He’d allowed 21 runs in 18 2/3 innings with Washington in 2022 and posted an overall 5.70 ERA in 189 2/3 innings as a member of that organization. Voth, however, tossed 83 innings of 3.04 ERA ball down the stretch in Baltimore, making 22 appearances — 17 of them starts. Voth and the O’s agreed to a one-year, $1.85MM deal with a club option over the winter, avoiding arbitration in the process.
Given the way the 2023 season has played out, the O’s might not be keen on picking up that $2.45MM club option. Even if the team declines, however, Voth would remain under club control as an arbitration-eligible player. The O’s could decline that $2.45MM salary and still try to work out a deal with Voth at a lower rate — somewhere between this year’s salary and that would-be club option price. Of course, Baltimore could also consider non-tendering Voth and moving on entirely. His performance down the stretch will go a long way in determining that outcome.
Akin, 28, finds himself in a relatively similar situation. The southpaw had a strong 2022 season with the O’s, compiling 81 2/3 innings with a 3.20 ERA, 23.4% strikeout rate, 6.1% walk rate, 49.3% grounder rate and 1.10 HR/9. He’s had a rough go of it in ’23, however, pitching to a 6.85 ERA in 23 2/3 innings. Akin has actually slightly improved his strikeout rate, maintained his walk rate and cut back on the home runs he’s yielded. However, his grounder rate has also tanked, and opponents are clobbering his pitches (90.7 mph average exit velocity) after struggling to make hard contact in 2022 (87.8 mph). A .434 average on balls in play is surely due for some regression, but the uptick in hard contact and a line-drive rate that’s jumped from 18.1% to 28.6% underlines the fact that Akin’s struggles can’t be chalked up to poor luck alone.
Like Voth, Akin will be eligible for arbitration this winter. He’s going through that process for the first time, so he’ll be looking for his first raise of note over the league minimum. Akin’s success out of the ’pen in 2022 could well be enough to convince the Orioles to tender him despite this year’s poor results, but it’s not a lock they’ll choose to do so. Akin has already been out since late June, so the move to the 60-day IL is largely procedural. He’s already missed nearly 60 days, so this move won’t materially alter his path to a return. Akin began a minor league rehab assignment in late July but had a setback after two appearances and has yet to get back into a game.