Last season, the Orioles encountered probably the strangest out-of-options situation in recent memory.
Because of his tortured injury history, Dylan Bundy, the one-time fourth overall MLB Draft pick, entered camp with just 1 2/3 big league innings and just 111 1/3 Minor League innings to his name. He was, by any reasonable standard, not physically or developmentally ready for a rotation spot, but because all of his Minor League options had been exhausted, the Orioles had to keep him on the big league club or expose him to waivers. So to the bullpen he went, to learn and lengthen on the fly.
Even stranger? It worked! Bundy was thrust into the rotation in the second half and was a key reason the O's stayed alive in the American League Wild Card race.
We don't have any situations quite so extreme this year, but there are always interesting out-of-options situations in spring camps. And with the roster crunches down to the final two weeks before Opening Day, here are some of the intriguing players who are out of options and on the bubble.
Clint Robinson and Enny Romero, Washington Nationals
Robinson was an important player for the Nats in 2015, when he got plenty of playing time in place of an injured Ryan Zimmerman and hit 10 homers and 15 doubles in 309 at-bats. Last year, however, his performance and playing time both diminished. Robinson had a lowly .235 average and .637 OPS in 196 at-bats. Recognizing that Zimmerman's health is not and likely never will again be a sure thing, the Nats reacted early in Spring Training with the addition of Adam Lind, who, like Robinson, is a lefty power bat who can fill in at first and the outfield. He was given a big league deal that pays him $1 million, so it's fairly likely Robinson will be exposed to waivers.
Romero, meanwhile, is a recent, low-profile trade acquisition for a Nats club that stockpiled relief options in February. He's a lefty with, as Dusty Baker put it earlier this spring, "an electric arm," who, unfortunately and puzzlingly, has struggled against lefties. He's also missed time in Nats camp while playing for the Dominican Republic in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. But Romero flashed his potential within that tournament (in his first outing, his fastball topped out at 100.1 mph), so it will be interesting to see if he can win a spot in a Nats bullpen in which fellow lefties Sammy Solis and Oliver Perez are in the mix. If not, a lefty with that kind of stuff could attract interest on the waiver wire.
Jarrett Parker and Gorkys Hernandez, San Francisco Giants
There are other Giants players out of options, but the outfield situation is of particular interest. Parker has been battling Mac Williamson for the starting job in left field appears to have all but won the job. The fact that Williamson has options and Parker doesn't worked in Parker's favor from the beginning, but he's also encouraged the club with a shortened swing that hasn't cost him his power.
Hernandez, meanwhile, entered as the favorite to back up Denard Span in center, but he has competition in camp from Justin Ruggiano and Orlando Calixte.
Matt Szczur, Chicago Cubs
In recent days, we've learned that the magic bat Szczur lent Anthony Rizzo last year was not magical at all. Rather, a fatigued Rizzo simply benefited from a lighter stick.
But Szczur, despite not making the Cubs' postseason roster, was solid himself last season as a reserve outfielder and pinch-hitter, contributing a .259/.312/.400 slash and some speed.
It's hard to imagine the Cubs rostering Tommy La Stella (especially after La Stella's antics last year) or Munenori Kawasaki over the versatile Szczur with their 25th spot. But if they do, there would be takers.
Greg Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals
He can play all over the infield and is coming off a strong season at the plate with a .276/.393/.369 slash in 257 at-bats. But with Jedd Gyorko (or Jhonny Peralta, depending on what's happening at third on a given day) and Eric Fryer occupying two of five bench spots and Tommy Pham, Matt Adams and Jose Martinez all in the mix, nothing is promised to Garcia. That said, one would assume his availability at shortstop, in particular, helps his cause.
Jose Urena, Miami Marlins
Urena averages 96 mph with his fastball and, unfortunately, that's the best we can say about him. His fastball is straight and his secondary stuff isn't all that refined. He hasn't translated that impressive ability to throw a baseball really, really hard into impressive stats. He has a 5.76 ERA and 1.5 WHIP in 145 1/3 big-league innings.
Will the Fish keep giving him chances or cut bait? If they expose him to waivers, some team might be enamored enough with the velocity to be convinced they can straighten him out -- or, more accurately, un-straighten him out.
Josh Edgin, New York Mets
Three years ago, the left-handed Edgin was a key member of the Mets' bullpen, with a 1.32 ERA in 47 games. But Tommy John surgery, which wiped out his 2015, diminished his velocity, and he had a 5.32 ERA in 16 appearances last season. The Mets tendered him a contract over the winter to give him an opportunity try to win an Opening Day spot. He had some early struggles in spring camp but ironed those out, so there's a good chance he's "edgin" out the competition. The Mets might wind up keeping three lefties in their 'pen.
JC Ramirez, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels claimed the right-handed reliever off waivers from the Reds last June, and Ramirez, who had a 6.41 ERA at the time, responded well with a 2.91 ERA in 43 appearances. The Angels tried to stretch him out a bit as a starter this spring, and he's been working on his curveball to deepen his arsenal. In an ideal scenario, Ramirez would go to Triple-A to continue the starting experiment and perhaps establish himself as a viable starting depth option on a club that needs them. But because Ramirez is out of options, he'll probably head back to the big league bullpen, where they hope he can provide multi-inning relief.
Alen Hanson, Pirates
Four years ago, this guy was No. 54 on MLB.com's Top 100 prospects list, billed as the club's potential shortstop of the future with an impressive power-speed portfolio. But now, after an offensive decline as he moved up the Minors, a shift to second base and a couple attitude-related benchings along the way, he's just trying to hang on in a reserve role. With Adam Frazier already assured of a utility spot, Hanson has competition for the final bench spot from Phil Gosselin. Hanson still has value via his athleticism and speed, and, for whatever it's worth, he's hit well this spring.
Christian Colon and Cheslor Cuthbert, Royals
What makes this complicated is that Raul Mondesi, aside from a brief back issue, has had a great camp, which means Whit Merrifield, who has Minor League options, is not necessarily a sure thing to retain the starting second-base job, which means Cuthbert and Colon aren't necessarily both sure things to stay aboard in a bench role. Colon, the former first-rounder who surprisingly drove in the winning run in the Royals' 2015 World Series clincher, has played all over the place this spring. Cuthbert, who filled in admirably at third base last year when Mike Moustakas had season-ending surgery, has shown the versatility to play some second base.
Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor, MLB Network contributor and MLB.com columnist. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.