Orioles Select Burch Smith

The Orioles announced Thursday that they’ve selected the contract of right-hander Burch Smith from Triple-A Norfolk. Fellow righty Dillon Tate was optioned to Norfolk in a corresponding move. Baltimore already had an open spot on the 40-man roster, so a 40-man move wasn’t necessary.

The 34-year-old Smith signed with the O’s on a minor league deal two weeks ago. He’s pitched a pair of shutout innings for the Tides during his brief Triple-A stint in the organization, fanning a pair and only allowing one hit along the way. He also tossed 29 2/3 innings out of the Marlins’ bullpen earlier this season and worked to a solid 4.25 ERA — albeit with a subpar 17% strikeout rate. However, Smith also walked only 6.7% of his opponents and kept the ball on the ground at a hearty 47% clip.

That marked Smith’s first big league work since 2021. He spent the 2022 season with the Seibu Lions of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the 2023 season with the Korea Baseball Organization’s Hanwha Eagles. A former 11th-round pick, Smith has pitched in parts of six big league seasons between the Padres, A’s, Royals, Giants, Brewers and Marlins, logging a combined 5.79 ERA, 20.7% strikeout rate and 9.6% walk rate.

As for Tate, he was a key member of the Baltimore bullpen in 2022, when he pitched 73 2/3 innings of 3.05 ERA ball for manager Brandon Hyde. He opened the 2023 season on the injured list due to a flexor strain, however, and when he’d progressed to the point that he was ready for a rehab assignment, he suffered a stress reaction in his elbow that led to a second shutdown. He wound up missing the entire 2023 season as a result of those two injuries.

Now healthy, Tate was enjoying a strong season up through mid-June before hitting a substantial rough patch. As recently as June 19, Tate was sitting on a sparkling 2.31 ERA. A poor 15.6% strikeout rate suggested he would have a hard time sustaining quite that level of success, but Tate sported an average walk rate and huge 56.3% grounder rate. Regression indeed came — and far more aggressively than anyone could’ve reasonably predicted. He’s been scored upon in three straight appearances and has given up runs in six of his past eight outings. Dating back to June 19, Tate has a 9.90 ERA (11 runs in 10 innings).

The move to option Tate comes not long before he’d have been granted the right to refuse such an assignment. The former No. 4 overall pick entered the season with 4.048 years of MLB service and has run that total up to 4.128 years. With just 44 more days on the active roster or injured list, he’d reach five years of service. At that point, he’d have to consent to being optioned.

So long as Tate gets 44 more days on the active roster or injured list between now and season’s end, he’ll remain on track to become a free agent following the 2025 season. If, however, he’s up for 43 or fewer days, he’ll finish the season with four-plus years instead of five-plus and have his path to free agency pushed back by a year.

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Title: Orioles Select Burch Smith
Author: Steve Adams

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