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Baltimore Orioles Rumors
Front office controversy generated more headlines in Baltimore than any of the Orioles’ winter moves, as the team had one of the quieter offseasons of any contending team. The O’s will rely on some lower-profile transactions and a return to form from injured stars as they look to defend their AL East crown.
Major League Signings
- Wei-Yin Chen, SP: One year, $4.75MM (club option exercised)
- Darren O’Day, RP: One year, $4.25MM (club option exercised)
- Everth Cabrera, SS: One year, $2.4MM
- Delmon Young, OF/DH: One year, $2.25MM
- Wesley Wright, RP: One year, $1.7MM
- Rey Navarro, MI: One year, $550K (split contract)
- Eddie Gamboa, RP: One year, $525K (split contract)
- Oliver Drake, RP: One year, $508K (split contract)
- Total spend: $17.68MM (counting the three split deals)
Notable Minor League Signings
- J.P. Arencibia, Pedro Beato, Julio Borbon, Cesar Cabral, Dane De La Rosa, Mark Hendrickson, Paul Janish, Steve Johnson, Jayson Nix, Chris Parmelee, Nolan Reimold, Chaz Roe, Matt Tuiasosopo
Trades And Claims
- Acquired OF Travis Snider from Pirates for P Stephen Tarpley and P Steven Brault
- Acquired cash considerations from Pirates for IF Steve Lombardozzi
- Acquired cash considerations from Cardinals for C Michael Ohlman
- Claimed C Ryan Lavarnway from Cubs
- Claimed SP Logan Verrett from Mets in the Rule 5 draft
- Acquired SP Jason Garcia from Astros for cash considerations
- Acquired RP Scott Barnes from Indians for cash considerations (Barnes was then claimed off waivers by the Rangers in December)
- Claimed OF Alex Hassan from Athletics (Hassan was designated for assignment and claimed back by A’s in February)
- Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, Andrew Miller, Nick Hundley, Joe Saunders, Lombardozzi, Quintin Berry, Johan Santana
Several of the Orioles’ most notable offseason moves were completed before October was even finished. Exercising 2015 options for Wei-Yin Chen and Darren O’Day were virtual no-brainers given how well both men pitched last year, and the O’s kept J.J. Hardy off the free agent market by signing him to a three-year extension before their postseason run was even over.
The outfield and DH spots became major needs for the O’s once Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis signed elsewhere. The team explored signing or trading for several candidates to fill those spots, ranging from big-name everyday options as Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Marlon Byrd, Michael Morse and Colby Rasmus, to players better suited for a platoon role, i.e. Jonny Gomes or Chris Denorfia.
In the end, the Orioles brought back a familiar face in Delmon Young and acquired an intriguing piece in ex-Pirates outfielder Travis Snider. Young hit well (.302/.337/.442 over 255 plate appearances) in a part-time role for the O’s last season and he can play either corner outfield spot, though defensive metrics suggest he’s a better fit for a DH spot. Snider was rated as one of baseball’s top-10 prospects in his days as a Blue Jays minor leaguer, though he never gained a solid foothold in the majors until he posted a .776 OPS over 359 PA for the Pirates last season. Snider is still just 27 and comes with two years of team control, so a breakout isn’t out of the question, and at worst the O’s should have a solid lefty bat.
Overall, manager Buck Showalter has lots of opportunity to mix and match his lineup when it comes to his corner outfield and DH positions. He has Snider, David Lough and Alejandro De Aza as left-handed bats and Young and Steve Pearce hitting from the right side. Pearce is the best bet for regular playing time given his huge 2014 numbers, though the O’s have given themselves some depth should Pearce come back down to earth.
Though Wesley Wright is much more of a lefty specialist than a dominant bullpen southpaw like Andrew Miller, Wright’s signing will help fill the left-handed hole left by Miller in the Orioles’ bullpen. There was speculation that Wright’s signing could have also been made to account for a possible trade of Brian Matusz, though since no move materialized, Baltimore will go into the year with significant left-handed relief depth in Wright, Matusz, T.J. McFarland and closer Zach Britton. Before landing Wright, the O’s also looked into acquiring Antonio Bastardo from the Phillies before he was traded to the Pirates.
While Matt Wieters is expected to be recovered from the Tommy John surgery that cost him all but 26 games of the 2014 season, Baltimore added to its catching depth beyond Steve Clevenger and Caleb Joseph by signing J.P. Arencibia and Ryan Lavarnway to minor league deals. (Michael Ohlman was also in the mix before being dealt to the Cardinals.) Wieters is an important name to watch; not only will his health be a key factor in the Orioles’ success, but he’s also entering the final year of his contract. A big year will make Wieters one of the top names in the 2015-16 free agent class, so his future in Baltimore will be one of the team’s major ongoing storylines.
MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected that the Orioles would spend $56.9MM to cover the contracts for their whopping 11-player arbitration class. The total ended up being $57.515MM, which included winning a hearing against Alejandro De Aza.
The general feeling going into the offseason was that of the Orioles’ three biggest free agents, Miller was sure to leave, Cruz was 50-50 and Markakis was leaning towards re-signing. As it turned out, all three players departed, leaving the O’s with a particular need for lineup reinforcements.
As ESPN’s Jayson Stark recently pointed out, those reinforcements could already be on the roster if Wieters, Manny Machado and Chris Davis are all healthy and productive. Relying on those three, however, is no sure thing. Wieters was already in need of a rebound after a sub-par 2013 season, Machado has now undergone two knee surgeries in as many years and it’s hard to know what to expect from Davis, who went from a 53-homer year in 2013 to being barely above replacement level (0.5 fWAR) in a 2014 season plagued by injuries and a suspension for using Adderall.
It remains to be seen if the platooning rotation at LF/RF/DH can work, as a lot rides on whether Pearce, Young and Snider can continue to hit as well as they did in 2014 rather than struggle as they have in previous seasons. An everyday option like Upton or Byrd would’ve provided more stability, though the Orioles were leery of parting with any significant minor leaguers. In my opinion, this is where you can second-guess Baltimore’s decision to deal Eduardo Rodriguez for Miller at the trade deadline. While Miller undoubtedly helped the O’s win the East, a top-60 prospect was a stiff price to pay for two-plus months of a relief pitcher, and Rodriguez could’ve perhaps been better served as trade bait for a bigger roster piece this offseason.
It seemed as if the Orioles were constantly on the verge of a major move this winter, as in addition to being linked to those notable outfielders and Bastardo, there were also rumors of a Chen-for-Howie Kendrick trade with the Angels. Chen and Bud Norris drew some trade interest, though the Orioles decided to hang onto their starting pitching depth; a wise move in my view given how Ubaldo Jimenez struggled last year.
The biggest development of the Orioles’ offseason (and one that could have ramifications for seasons to come) was the Blue Jays’ pursuit of Dan Duquette to be their new team president and CEO. After roughly six weeks of speculation and negotiations between the two clubs, talks finally ended with the Jays walking away due to Baltimore’s demand for multiple top prospects as compensation for Duquette’s services.
The relationship between Duquette and the Orioles was thought to be as solid as could be, given the team’s two postseason appearances in Duquette’s three seasons as the executive VP of baseball operations and the fact that Duquette had signed an extension that keeps him with the O’s through the 2018 campaign. After this winter, however, questions have to be asked about Duquette’s long-term future in Baltimore, especially given how owner Peter Angelos was reportedly very upset about the situation. For now, it’s a situation to keep an eye on.
Deal Of Note
Since being named to the 2013 All-Star team, Everth Cabrera’s career has taken a turn for the worse both on and off the field. Cabrera served a 50-game suspension for PED use, posted only a .572 OPS over 391 PA last season and is facing charges for resisting arrest stemming from a suspected DUI last September.
Given all of these recent troubles, it’s no surprise that the Padres non-tendered Cabrera last December. That said, if Cabrera can put his troubles behind him, then he could be yet another unheralded Duquette signing that pays big dividends for the Orioles. Cabrera is controllable through the 2016 season and he still has a minor league option remaining, making his one-year, $2.4MM contract even less of a risk for the team. He’s seen time all around the diamond during Spring Training camp, so the O’s could employ him as a switch-hitting supersub, or they could focus on him as a backup or even a platoon mate for Jonathan Schoop at second base.
While some fans and pundits think the Orioles’ quiet offseason will lead to a step back in the AL East, it’s worth noting that Duquette’s three previous offseasons running the Orioles were also not particularly newsworthy on paper. It was only in hindsight that some of those under-the-radar moves stood out, ranging from claiming O’Day off waivers or getting good contributions from Jason Hammel or Nate McLouth, to the admittedly more notable steal of Cruz’s 40-homer season on only a one-year, $8MM contract.
In those past offseasons, however, Duquette’s strategy was to tinker around an already-solid core of players. This is the first time Orioles have had to deal with some major losses to that core, as Cruz immediately became a key part of the lineup and Markakis had been a staple for years. That said, the club still has Jones, Hardy, the returning trio of injured stars, an underrated bullpen led by Britton and a solid starting rotation that could get a boost if Kevin Gausman takes a step forward.
While winning the division by 12 games again may be a stretch, it isn’t hard to see the Orioles in playoff contention again. The pressure is on, however — with a whopping 12 players set to hit free agency next winter, this may be this roster’s last chance at a pennant before some inevitable reshuffling for 2016.
Photo courtesy of Joy R. Absalon/USA Today Sports Images
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- The Orioles have agreed to a minor league deal with righty Pedro Beato, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com reports (Twitter links). Beato will not receive an invitation to big league camp. The 28-year-old looks to be another depth piece for a Baltimore organization that is fond of drawing from its entire system at the major league level. Originally a first-round pick of the O’s back in 2006, Beato has thrown 93 1/3 MLB innings over four seasons, working to a 4.34 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. He saw only scant MLB action last year wit the Braves, but did throw 48 1/3 Triple-A frames of 4.10 ERA ball.
The White Sox announced today that they have promoted Jeremy Haber, who was previously assistant to general manager Rick Hahn and will now bear the title of assistant GM. The 31-year-old Haber led negotiations on the team’s five-year, $21MM extension with Jose Quintana last offseason, says Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter), and he also leads salary arbitration negotiations. CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes profiled Haber last offseason, noting an impressive educational background but little experience in the baseball world. Haber has a B.A. in political science from Brown as well as an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Haber was initially hired as an intern with the Red Sox after a series of blind emails to teams in search of a front office opportunity, and he’s since helped in the White Sox’ hiring of hitting coach Todd Steverson in addition to making player acquisition recommendations for Hahn and the rest of the Chicago front office.
More from the American League:
- Huston Street tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register that he and Angels GM Jerry Dipoto have begun swapping text messages to figure out a time when they can have more serious extension discussions in the near future. Street, who acts as his own agent, has said he wants to get a new contract worked out in Spring Training and made no attempt to hide the fact that he’s eyeing something between the four-year, $36MM deal inked by Andrew Miller and the four-year, $46MM contract signed by David Robertson. He did say he envisions a new contract overriding his current one-year deal, so he’s essentially looking for three new years.
- Ryan Ludwick told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com that multiple teams for which he had played in the past expressed interest in bringing him back this offseason, though he declined to specify which teams. The Rangers are clearly one, as the now-36-year-old signed a minor league pact to return to Texas, where he made his big league debut 13 years ago. “It’s cool knowing that teams are willing to take you on,” Ludwick said Sunday. “I guess that means I’m somewhat of a decent guy.” The Rangers will hope that in addition to being a “somewhat decent guy,” Ludwick will bring the offense he showed as recently as 2012, when he hit .275/.346/.531 with 26 homers in just 472 plate appearances for the Reds. He’s also played for the Cardinals, Indians, Padres and Pirates.
- Replacing Nelson Cruz‘s production will not be straightforward but may yet be possible for the Orioles, as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com writes. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette explains that the current roster not only has power across the board but does so with generally well-rounded players. And, as he notes, the team will never “grab a lot of headlines in the offseason,” as would have been needed to bring Cruz back or replace him with a single player. “We pick up players year round,” said Duquette. “We don’t do it all in the offseason.”
John Hart had to be persuaded to take over the Braves GM job, but team president John Schuerholz is excited about the work Hart and likely successor John Coppolella have done so far, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. “The combination of John Hart and John Coppolella has been dynamic, absolutely dynamic,” says Schuerholz. “The work those two have done, in tandem, has been sensational.” This offseason, Hart and Coppolella have traded Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis in an attempt to add young talent. The timing was right for the Braves to re-tool, Hart says. “The Nationals are in their perfect window right now. The Marlins are getting better. If you’re going to take, if you will, sort of a regroup year, this would be a good one.”
- When J.J. Hardy traded power to remain in the everyday lineup last season, he may have hurt his earning potential. Hardy is unsure if he would have re-signed with the Orioles had he not dealt with a painful back injury last season, writes Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun. Baltimore inked Hardy to a three-year, $40MM extension during the playoffs last year. Hardy was aware of the trials suffered by Stephen Drew and former teammate Nelson Cruz in the previous offseason. Qualifying offers to both players left clubs wary about signing them. Hardy opted to forgo the experience entirely, although he also says he’s happy in Baltimore.
- Rays non-roster invitee Ronald Belisario injured himself climbing out of a pool earlier in the winter, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The reliever fractured his non-throwing shoulder prior to signing with the Rays a month ago. He didn’t have the injury checked out until he reported to camp. Belisario is on a split contract that would pay $1.5MM if he makes the team. Since he won’t be on the field for at least two weeks, his chances of breaking camp with the team look small. This injury probably explains why his deal with the Blue Jays fell through.
The $31.5MM bonus the Red Sox will reportedly pay Yoan Moncada has generated a variety of reactions from players around the league, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe writes. Moncada’s bonus is well beyond what most other 19-year-old prospects might be able to make, since he was able to negotiate with all 30 teams. “It’s not right that a Cuban 19-year-old gets paid [$31.5 million] and the best 19-year-old in the entire USA gets probably 1/6 of that,” wrote Rays pitcher Drew Smyly. “Everyone should have to go through the same process.” An international draft would help standardize the system by which amateurs sign with teams, and new commissioner Rob Manfred seems to favor discussing it in the next round of CBA negotiations. Abraham polls Red Sox players about an international draft, leading to a large range of answers. Here’s Jackie Bradley Jr.’s: “I would have loved to be a free agent in college and made the best deal I could. Maybe I should have moved out of the country. If everybody was a free agent, you’d get what your real value is.” Here are more notes from the AL East.
- More than six years after being selected first overall in the 2008 draft, shortstop Tim Beckham is competing for a big-league job in Rays camp for the first time, Marc Topkin writes for Baseball America (subscription-only). With Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar now gone, the Rays now have more space in their middle infield. Asdrubal Cabrera will take one of the middle infield starting jobs, but Topkin suggests Beckham could be a reserve infielder or even a starter, particularly if the team decides it would be best if Cabrera played second base. Beckham, now 25, moved slowly through the minors and finally made his big-league debut in 2013 before missing most of last season due to a knee injury.
- The Blue Jays‘ pursuit of executive Dan Duquette was serious, but Duquette is back to work with the Orioles, writes MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom. Duquette confirms that he could not leave the Orioles for Toronto because the two teams could not agree on a compensation package for him. This offseason, the Orioles made few big moves of their own and lost Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller and Nick Markakis, although Duquette points out that the O’s should benefit from full seasons from Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis.
The teams involved have announced that the Athletics have claimed outfielder Alex Hassan from the Orioles. The Orioles had designated Hassan for assignment earlier this week. To clear space on their 40-man roster, the Athletics have placed pitcher A.J. Griffin on the 60-day disabled list.
The Athletics’ latest waiver claim continues what must be a disorienting offseason for Hassan. The Athletics initially claimed him from the Red Sox in November, but lost him three days later when the Orioles claimed him. Now the Athletics have him back. The 26-year-old Hassan isn’t a power hitter, but he’s posted good on-base percentages in the minors. He hit .287/.378/.426 in 474 plate appearances while playing both corner outfield positions and first base for Triple-A Pawtucket in 2014, also going 1-for-8 in his first cup of coffee in the big leagues.
Let’s take a quick look in at the latest out of the AL East, featuring three front office figures:
- Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner disputes the notion that there is anything cheap about the way his club does business, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. As for Yoan Moncada, Steinbrenner explained: “For Moncada, that was just how far I was going to go for a player who is 19 years old and at least two years away from the majors with all the uncertainties that can happen with a prospect even that good. It was a hell of an offer. [The bidding] might have ended up at $35MM if I continued to be in it.”
- Generally, Steinbrenner indicated that he has every expectation of competing this year. “It would be horrible not to make the playoffs three years in a row,” he said. “We’d be embarrassed. So anything [as far as firings or restructuring] would be on the table, yes.” (Bracketed insert via original report.)
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos sat down with Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca and covered a variety of topics. We already touched on some of his comments regarding the bullpen, but Anthopoulos also noted that minor league signee Wilton Lopez has a legitimate chance to earn a pen slot, explaining that he had tried to deal for Lopez in the past. Another minor league free agent expected to get a long look is first baseman Daric Barton.
- The Orioles have dealt away prospects in several notable deals under executive VP Dan Duquette, as Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com writes. Duquette credits the organization’s creation of a deep system for enabling the use of prospects as trade chips when appropriate. Last year’s deal for impact reliever Andrew Miller probably has the highest likelihood of stinging in the long run, with Eduardo Rodriguez trending upwards with the Red Sox. “There is a case of yes, we gave up a really good prospect, but it was required for us to take a shot at the pennant,” said Duquette. “At that point of the season, I think you have to roll the dice and see if you can help your team advance.”
3:30pm: Cabrera’s incentives are tied to plate appearances, and max out with his 500th turn at the dish, Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com tweets.
8:17am: The Orioles on Wednesday announced that they’ve added some infield insurance by agreeing to a one-year, Major League deal with former Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera. The Scott Boras client will reportedly earn $2.4MM and has the opportunity to earn as much as $600K more via incentives.
That guarantee makes Cabrera the largest investment of the offseason for the O’s. He comes in just ahead of those given to the team’s two other major league signings this offseason: Delmon Young ($2.25MM) and Wesley Wright ($1.7MM).
Cabrera, 28, was non-tendered by the Padres earlier in the offseason. He is coming off of an undeniably rough stretch in his personal and professional life. A 50-game PED suspension cut short an otherwise promising 2013 campaign, and Cabrera is still facing possible jail time relating to a charge for resisting arrest. And when he was on the field last year, Cabrera largely disappointed, hitting a meager .232/.272/.300 in his 391 plate appearances and seeing his stolen base tally drop to 18.
Of course, those issues come with undeniable upside. Over the 2012-13 campaigns, the switch-hitter slashed .264/.339/.352 and swiped 84 bags in an even hundred attempts. With solid defense at short thrown into the mix, Cabrera has played at a 3+ WAR clip for the better part of a MLB season.
As MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently noted, one attractive aspect of Cabrera is the fact that he comes with team control for another year. That effectively amounts to a club option, with the value to be determined through the arbitration process. Speaking of options, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com notes on Twitter, Cabrera can be optioned for one more season. That is another nice bit of flexibility, especially for an Orioles club that makes heavy use of the shuttle between the bigs and Triple-A.
Given that Baltimore has committed to J.J. Hardy for three more years, Cabrera would figure to provide competition at second base and another utility option. While Jonathan Schoop handled himself well at the position defensively, he struggled mightily at the plate. The two could be deployed in some kind of platoon capacity, of course, though Schoop bats from the right side and Cabrera has traditionally fared better against left-handed pitching. Baltimore also has used the left-handed-hitting Ryan Flaherty quite a bit over the past two years, but could find himself battling with Schoop for a roster spot.
Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun first reported that the deal was close (Twitter links). He also tweeted the financial guarantee. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the deal had been finalized and that it included incentives, via Twitter.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Everth Cabrera‘s one-year deal with the Orioles is now official, but manager Buck Showalter tells Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun that even though the former Padre signed a big league deal, he’ll have to earn a roster spot this spring. Cabrera has a minor league option remaining and could head to Triple-A Norfolk if he doesn’t perform well. Showalter acknowledges that there’s some risk in the signing, given Cabrera’s checkered past, but he’s been told good things from people in the NL West. “There’s some upside there for sure,” said Showalter. “…There’s some unknown for me about him. The one division that I’ve constantly got to lean on people that I really trust is the National League West. … There’s just a lot of unknown for East Coast teams.”
A few more Orioles notes…
- Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has been granted a therapeutic-use exemption for 2015 for Vyvanse, an ADHD medication that works differently than Adderall, which he was suspended for last season, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Vyvanse is an amphetamine like Adderall, but it lasts longer and is less likely to be abused for non-therapeutic reasons. The 28-year-old says he has responded well to it so far and even prefers it to Adderall.
- General manager and executive VP Dan Duquette spoke with Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com about using his farm system to acquire Major League talent — a tactic he’s employed multiple times since joining the Orioles. Among the higher profile examples are his acquisitions of Bud Norris, Francisco Rodriguez, Andrew Miller and now Travis Snider. Duquette says he feels fortunate to have enough depth that they can use their farm system to produce big league players like Manny Machado and Kevin Gausman but still trade players such as Eduardo Rodriguez for midseason upgrades. Regarding that trade specifically, Duquette admits that he did not want to part with Rodriguez to acquire Miller but realized it was a requirement on Boston’s end of the deal. “And Andrew Miller helped the Orioles get to the playoffs,” said Duquette. “I could argue he was the difference in the first playoff series with the Tigers. What if he was on the other side of the field in the Detroit dugout? What if we didn’t have him to get key outs in that series?” Melewski’s piece is full of quotes from Duquette on the O’s trading tactics and philosophies and is well worth a read in its entirety.
- Showalter chatted with Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com and discussed the team’s somewhat curious decision to give reliever Oliver Drake a Major League deal this offseason. The team wasn’t concerned about him signing elsewhere or being taken in the Rule 5 Draft. Rather, said Showalter, “We get to the point where you don’t care what everybody else might think. If you like him and you want to keep him and you think he can impact you, you put him on the roster… Our people in Double-A and everybody who had him said he’s back, physically good, and was as good a relief pitcher as there was in that league.”
Hassan, who turns 27 in April, has already bounced from the Red Sox to the A’s to the Orioles this winter and may yet find himself with a fourth organization if he doesn’t make it through outright waivers (which he’s already failed to do twice, albeit much earlier in the offseason).
The former 20th-round pick made his big league debut in 2014 with the Sox, collecting a hit and a walk in nine plate appearances. In a much larger sample of work with Triple-A Pawtucket in 2014, Hassan hit a solid .287/.378/.426 with eight homers and 31 doubles. That triple-slash line is fairly representative of what one can expect from Hassan based on his entire body of work as a minor leaguer; he’s a career .287/.393/.430 hitter who has only posted a double-digit home run total once (13 at Double-A in 2011) but has never recorded a single-season OBP lower than .375. Hassan has walked in 13.7 percent of his career plate appearances in the minors as opposed to an 18.1 percent strikeout rate.
From a defensive standpoint, Hassan is limited to the outfield corners, though he’s appeared in 28 games at first base over the past two seasons. In that time, the right-handed hitter has batted .328/.424/.525 with six homers in 236 plate appearances against lefties.