Orioles cut ties with Gibbons
Team opts to put Moore in final Opening Day roster spot
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles made a dramatic roster move on Sunday, when they released designated hitter Jay Gibbons one day before the start of the regular season. Baltimore opted for Scott Moore in the final roster spot and is still responsible for two seasons and nearly $12 million in salary for Gibbons, who will be a free agent for the first time in his career.
Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, said the move made sense on a number of levels.
"The decision was essentially down to two players and we made a baseball decision," he said. "I just didn't see where this was going to be productive, or in anyone's best interests going forward the way we're stacked up now.
"It just didn't make sense to me and I did put a real value in the flexibility of the roster, going forward. In the end of the day, that's kind of what pushed me to the decision we made."
The decision to release Gibbons was sped up by a quirk of fate. The former Rule 5 Draft pick had originally been scheduled to serve a 15-game suspension at the start of the year for the purchase of performance-enhancing drugs, but ongoing negotiations between the league owners and the players association resulted in a 10-day stay regarding any discipline.
That, in turn, sped up the timetable for the Orioles. Ultimately, they decided to break camp with Moore, who can play a bench role at both infield and outfield corners. That versatility presented more of a draw than Gibbons, a one-dimensional slugger who has lost playing time in right field to Nick Markakis and at DH to Aubrey Huff in recent seasons.
As for the money, MacPhail said that team owner Peter Angelos gave him some simple advice. He said that he reached out to Angelos as part of his routine decision-making process and quickly learned where to set his priorities.
"I hadn't reached any conclusions myself. I was wrestling with this one," said MacPhail, relaying an anecdote. "I was really, more than anything, to be honest with you, looking for advice. His advice was, 'You've got to do what you've got to do.' Those were the last words he left me with, and I took the position that this was what I think we have to do."
Gibbons, one of the longest-serving members of the team, arrived in Baltimore in 2001. The 31-year-old grew up as an Oriole and batted .260 with 121 home runs, but he played in 100 games or less four times in seven seasons, due to various injuries. Gibbons was shut down early last year, because of a shoulder tear that required corrective surgery.
The left-handed hitter slugged more than 20 home runs three times for the Orioles and topped out at 100 RBIs in 2003. Gibbons batted just .230 with six home runs last season and has claimed that his shoulder ailment doesn't affect his hitting, which spurs questions as to whether he'll ever be able to return to his peak value.
"I don't know [if he could]," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "But I know in order for him to have any opportunity to do that, he'd have to play on a regular basis. I just wasn't able to do that here for him."
Moore, who was acquired from the Cubs last August as part of a trade for Steve Trachsel, will likely play at a variety of positions. The former first-round Draft pick's best position is third base, but he worked at second base in Spring Training and has showed an ability to play in the outfield. For now, Moore will play wherever the Orioles need him.
"Every Spring Training," said Moore, "Even if you know the odds are against you, you hope to go out there and show them you can play. You always hope there's a chance to be on the Opening Day roster. ... I'm excited."
"The direction that we're going I think is pretty clear," added Trembley. "We're going to be very patient, very positive, very persistent in how we want things to get done here, but we need to allow our guys to play."
Excising Gibbons from the roster means a little more of a clear substitution pattern for Trembley. Huff and Kevin Millar will rotate at first base and designated hitter, and Moore will pick up playing time from them and from third baseman Melvin Mora. Gibbons will likely end up elsewhere within the next few weeks, but his former teammates will keep him in mind.
"When you hear something like that, its always emotional," said Millar. "It's like one of your family members, [but] you understand where it's coming from. You understand when you look around at the roster and there's a lot of left-handed hitters. ... It was going to be tough for Jay to get at-bats, and obviously, it's been a dogfight for the last couple years for him."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.