The Orioles announced a series of roster moves today, the most notable being John Means getting transferred from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day injured list. That opens a spot on the 40-man roster for right-hander Marcos Diplan, whose contract was selected. To make room for Diplan on the active roster, left-hander Alexander Wells was optioned to Triple-A.
It’s an unfortunate but unsurprising development for the Orioles. Means was initially placed on the IL on Friday with a left elbow strain. Nathan Ruiz of the Baltimore Sun relays that it’s actually a sprain, not a strain, clarifying that the latter involves bone-to-bone tissue as opposed to muscle or muscle-to-bone tissue. Although it was reported that Means would be undergoing further testing, O’s manager Brandon Hyde said that the southpaw would be out for “a while.” Now that he has been moved to the 60-day IL, he will be on the shelf until at least mid-June. Hyde said today that they still plan on getting second opinions, but they’ve obviously accepted that there’s no chance of a quick return.
The performance of Means has been one of the few bright spots for the Orioles over the past few seasons, as the club has spent most of the past five years in the AL East basement. Since his 2018 debut, Means has appeared in 70 games, throwing 356 2/3 innings with a 3.81 ERA. His 21.2% strikeout rate is just below league average, though his 5% walk rate is excellent. The 28-year-old (29 next week) can be controlled through the 2024 season and will be making an affordable 2022 salary in the $3MM range. (His arbitration hearing has yet to occur, due to the lockout pushing all hearings into the season. Means filed at $3.1MM with the team filing at $2.7MM. The arbitration process is backwards-looking and won’t be affected by this injury.)
In the short-term, this will thin out a rotation that was already short on proven options. Offseason signee Jordan Lyles is the most-seasoned arm, followed by less-experienced rotation mates Tyler Wells, Bruce Zimmermann and Spenser Watkins. With Means out, a spot is open for someone like Keegan Akin or Zac Lowther. The club does have two very well regarded prospects in DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez. Both of them are in Triple-A and could be considered for an MLB debut at some point. In the long-term, the club wasn’t likely to be competitive anytime soon, but the injury will certainly take a bite out of Means’ trade value. Due to the fact that he’s been playing well on a poor team, he’s naturally been floated as a speculative trade candidate. Any trade talks will now have to be put on the backburner until he can return to health.
As for Diplan, he made his MLB debut with the Orioles last year, eventually throwing 30 innings of 4.50 ERA ball out of their bullpen. However, his 19.5% strikeout rate and 12.2% walk rate were both a few ticks worse than league average. He was outrighted off the roster at the end of last year but re-signed to a minor league deal in the offseason. The 25-year-old still has an option remaining.