- Orioles righty Brad Brach recently underwent knee surgery, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. It seems there’s little reason for concern, though, as the brief procedure simply repaired a minor tear to his meniscus. Brach said he pitched through the injury late in the season, and it certainly didn’t tarnish an outstanding campaign. Over 79 frames, Brach recorded a 2.05 ERA with 10.5 K/9 against just 2.8 BB/9, finally putting it all together in time for his second season of arbitration eligibility. MLBTR projects his upcoming salary at $2.9MM.
- Orioles closer Zach Britton is very cognizant of the fact that the team traded former closer Jim Johnson when Johnson’s salary reached a level that Britton is projected to surpass this winter, he tells Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com. “You saw it with Jim Johnson, once the salary got up to a certain point, he got traded,” said Britton. “I think I’m kind of approaching there. So I don’t know how long I’m going to be here. You see how many relievers are on the move nowadays. But it’d be nice to stay here.” Britton says he’s open to a contract extension and has enjoyed his time in Baltimore since being drafted as an 18-year-old but added that much of the onus to bring those talks about lies on the team. As Connolly writes, the O’s have been reluctant in the past to negotiate with players on the heels of career years, and Britton’s 2016 season was not only the best of his career but one of the best of any reliever in recent history. In 67 innings, Britton posted an unthinkable 0.54 ERA, averaging 9.9 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 and recording a ridiculous 80 percent ground-ball rate along the way.
We’re just a few months away from this winter’s Rule 5 draft, so it makes sense to take a look back and see how things shook out from the 2015 selections. Several organizations found useful players, even if the most recent class didn’t include an Odubel Herrera-esque breakout sensation. Some of the most recent draftees have probably locked up MLB jobs again for 2017, though others who stuck on a major league roster all year may head back to the minors for further development. (Once a player’s permanent control rights have been secured, his new organization is free to utilize optional assignments as usual for future years.)
Here’s a roundup of the 2015 draft class with the 2016 season in the books:
- Tyler Goeddel, OF, kept by Phillies from Rays: The 23-year-old struggled with the aggressive move to the big leagues, carrying a .192/.258/.291 batting line in 234 trips to the plate, but showed enough for the rebuilding Phillies to hold onto him all year long.
- Luis Perdomo, RHP, kept by Padres (via Rockies) from Cardinals: It didn’t look good early for Perdomo, but he showed better after moving to the rotation and ended with a rather promising 4.85 ERA over twenty starts. Though he struggled to contain the long ball, and only struck out 6.4 per nine, Perdomo sported a nifty 59.0% groundball rate on the year.
- Joey Rickard, OF, kept by Orioles from Rays: After opening the year with a bang, Rickard faded to a .268/.319/.377 batting line on the year but held his roster spot in Baltimore. He ended the season on the DL with a thumb injury, though, and may end up at Triple-A for some added seasoning.
- Joe Biagini, RHP, kept by Blue Jays from Giants: The only Rule 5 pick to appear in the postseason, Biagini was a great find for Toronto. He ended with 67 2/3 innings of 3.06 ERA pitching, with 8.2 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9, and now looks like a potential fixture in the Jays’ relief corps.
- Matthew Bowman, RHP, kept by Cardinals from Mets: Bowman rounds out a trio of impressive relievers. He contributed 67 2/3 innings with a 3.46 ERA and 6.9 BB/9 against 2.7 BB/9 to go with a monster 61.7% groundball rate.
Retained By Other Means
- Deolis Guerra, RHP, re-signed by Angels (who selected him from Pirates) after being outrighted: Guerra was in an unusual spot since he had previously been outrighted off of the Bucs’ 40-man roster when he was selected, meaning he didn’t need to be offered back. Los Angeles removed him from the major league roster and then brought him back on a minor league deal, ultimately selecting his contract. Though he was later designated and outrighted by the Halos, Guerra again returned and largely thrived at the major league level, contributing 53 1/3 much-needed pen frames with a 3.21 ERA on the back of 6.1 K/9 against just 1.2 BB/9.
- Jabari Blash, OF, acquired by Padres (who acquired Rule 5 rights from Athletics) from Mariners: Blash’s intriguing tools weren’t quite ready for the majors, but San Diego struck a deal to hold onto him and was surely impressed with his showing at Triple-A. In his 229 plate appearances there, Blash swatted 11 home runs but — more importantly — carried a .415 OBP with a much-improved 66:41 K/BB ratio.
- Ji-Man Choi, 1B, outrighted by Angels after Orioles declined return: The 25-year-old scuffled in the bigs but was rather impressive at the highest level of the minors, where he walked nearly as often as he struck out and put up a .346/.434/.527 slash with five home runs in 227 plate appearances.
- Jake Cave, OF, returned from Reds to Yankees: After failing to crack Cinci’s roster out of camp, Cave impressed at Double-A but slowed at the highest level of the minors (.261/.323/.401 in 354 plate appearances) upon his return to the New York organization.
- Evan Rutckyj, LHP, returned from Braves to Yankees: Sent back late in camp, the 24-year-old struggled in limited action on the Yanks’ farm after missing most of the season with elbow issues.
- Josh Martin, RHP, returned from Padres to Indians: In his first attempt at Triple-A, Martin posted 66 frames of 3.55 ERA pitching with 8.2 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9.
- Daniel Stumpf, LHP, returned from Phillies to Royals: Slowed by a PED suspension, Stumpf was bombed in a brief MLB stint with the Phils but dominated at Double-A upon his return to K.C., posting a 2.11 ERA with 11.0 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 21 1/3 innings.
- Chris O’Grady, LHP, returned from Reds to Angels: Sent back in late March, O’Grady compiled a 3.48 ERA over 95 2/3 innings in the upper minors, though he performed much better as a Double-A starter than he did as a Triple-A reliever.
- Zack Jones, RHP, returned from Brewers to Twins: The 25-year-old was out with a shoulder injury for most of the year, and ended up being sent back to Minnesota in late June, but has shown swing-and-miss stuff when healthy.
- Blake Smith, RHP, returned from Padres to White Sox: Smith ended up making a brief MLB debut upon his return to Chicago, but spend most of the year pitching well at Triple-A Charlotte, where he ran up a 3.53 ERA in 71 1/3 innings with 9.5 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9.
- Colin Walsh, INF, returned from Brewers to Athletics: After struggling badly in his major league stint with the Brewers, Walsh went to Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate and put up a .259/.384/.388 bating line over 245 plate appearances.
- The Orioles should issue a qualifying offer to Matt Wieters, CSNmidatlantic.com’s Rich Dubroff opines. Though Wieters had another below-average offensive year, Dubroff figures that he will still look to land a multi-year deal in free agency, especially now that Wilson Ramos’ injury has made Wieters the top catcher on the open market. There’s a chance Wieters could again accept the QO, and while $17.2MM is a high price tag for a catcher who has produced as little as Wieters has in recent years, Dubroff could see Wieters and Caleb Joseph providing a one-year bridge until prospect Chance Sisco develops as the longer-term answer behind the plate. If Wieters leaves, Dubroff suggests that the club could sign former Oriole Nick Hundley to team with Joseph.
- The Orioles should pursue an extension with Zach Britton rather than consider a trade, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko writes. Britton’s price tag will continue to rise through his final two arbitration years so there is some logic in dealing him now to both save money and sell high in the wake of Britton’s excellent season. On the flip side, Britton has been so tremendous as Baltimore’s closer that he could lock down ninth innings for the O’s for years to come.
- The Orioles have outrighted infielder Paul Janish, who has elected free agency, per a club announcement. Baltimore designated the 34-year-old defensive specialist for assignment last week after he logged 35 plate appearances with the club this season. Most of Janish’s time this year was spent at Triple-A Norfolk, where he hit .248/.333/.280 in 283 trips to the plate. In his 1,277-PA big league career, Janish – previously with the Reds and Braves – has batted .216/.284/.289.
In addition to speaking with Orioles manager Buck Showalter about his decision not to deploy ace reliever Zach Britton in the Wild Card game, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag covers a number of notable topics in his most recent column. Among the highlights with a transactional component:
- Unsurprisingly, the Royals will exercise a club option over shortstop Alcides Escobar. It’s just $6.5MM (with a $500K buyout otherwise), and the club doesn’t seem willing yet to trust the job to prospect Raul Mondesi. Still the 29-year-old owns an anemic .259/.293/.335 batting line over the last two seasons; even with his typically strong defense and baserunning included, he has been a below-average regular. Escobar will have plenty to play for with free agency looming.
- It’s even less surprising to hear that the Rangers intend to make a qualifying offer to Ian Desmond, the shortstop-turned-center fielder. Texas remains very high on Desmond despite his fall-off down the stretch, says Heyman, and it seems plausible to imagine a reunion. The $17.2MM QO also appears to be the right move from a market perspective, as Desmond ought to be able to command a strong multi-year deal even after turning it down.
- We’ve heard chatter in the past about prior talks between the Blue Jays and Reds regarding first baseman Joey Votto, and Heyman discusses it further in a separate piece. There’s nothing brewing at present, but Toronto has made clear they’d like to be involved if Cincinnati undertakes any chatter on a player who may be the best hitter in the National League. Reds GM Dick Williams tells Heyman that he’s not looking to shop the superstar and also hasn’t been told that Votto (who possesses full no-trade rights) wants to depart. Even if there is mutual interest, of course, there’s the matter of sorting out the cash and prospects — which will likely be a tall order.
- Williams also tells Heyman that he believes the Reds took positive steps at the major league level in 2016, suggesting that the organization is happy to hang onto a highly popular and productive player despite his massive salary. The situation may be somewhat different with regard to second baseman Brandon Phillips, though, with Heyman writing that the team intends to find a way to get Jose Peraza into the lineup quite a bit. They’ll “make this clear” to Phillips, he says, though it isn’t known whether the veteran will be amenable to waiving his own no-trade protection after demanding an extension to do so in the past. The 35-year-old is down to the final year of his deal, though, after turning in a solid-but-unspectacular .291/.320/.416 batting line. Though metrics soured a bit on his glove, Phillips has a long history of strong defensive work. A $14MM tab on a one-year commitment is hardly unworkable, though hypothetically interested organizations may ask Cinci to kick in some cash.
- Heyman also tackled the Diamondbacks’ front office search. Reported interest in Nationals president and GM Mike Rizzo seems likely to be a non-starter. “I don’t think there’s anything to it,” said Washington owner Mark Lerner, who called it “a totally fabricated story.” The floating of interest in Rizzo could hint that Arizona has its eyes on an exec with experience running a baseball operations department, Heyman suggests, with the team perhaps hoping to return immediately to competitiveness rather than undertaking a rebuild. A general manager with another team suggests that he thinks the D-Backs will need to guarantee a five-year term to draw a strong candidate, given the frequency of front-office turnover in Arizona.
- Orioles GM Dan Duquette tells MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko that top prospect Chance Sisco was in high demand at the non-waiver deadline, and Duquette also sounded open-minded about trade talks this coming winter. “A lot of teams like (Chance) Sisco other than our club,” said Duquette, who added that he feels the organization has some depth behind the plate. “We know that from our trade discussions at the end of July. Whether they can do that job or not, that remains to be seen, but we do have pretty good depth in the organization at the catching position.” Sisco is the presumptive heir apparent behind the plate in Baltimore, but he’s also played just four games at Triple-A and remains a work in progress from a defensive standpoint. Sisco did hit .317/.403/.430 as a 21-year-old at Double-A this season, demonstrating his offensive upside, but he’s probably not yet ready to open the year in the Majors, and he’d be an appealing piece in the event that the O’s pursue rotation help on the trade market this winter. However, Kubatko writes that the O’s are more determined to keep Sisco now that they traded fellow catcher Jonah Heim to Tampa Bay. Even still, though, he notes that they’ll need a short-term bridge to Sisco if they keep him.
- MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko examined the Orioles’ arbitration-eligible players following the release of MLBTR’s arbitration projections earlier this week. While Kubatko notes that the likes of Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman will obviously be tendered contracts, things are less certain for utilityman Ryan Flaherty, left-hander T.J. McFarland and right-hander Vance Worley — each of whom could be deemed to expensive and could be a non-tender candidate. Caleb Joseph figures to be the backup catcher next season based on his modest $1MM projection, even though he struggled tremendously in 2016. (Joseph did not hit a home run all season and, somewhat amazingly, did not collect a single RBI.) Of course, it remains to be seen exactly who will be the primary backstop for the Orioles in 2017.
- The Orioles may face a call on young first baseman Trey Mancini, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com explains. He had a solid season in the upper minors, but swatted three long balls in just five games of major league action late in the year. Some might suggest that the O’s shift Chris Davis to right field, but Kubatko suggests that’s not a likely outcome. And while Mancini could get a look there, the club hasn’t seemed optimistic about such a move. Instead, perhaps, he’ll more likely push for a spot in the DH mix — but could end up back at Triple-A, at least to start the year.
- While Manfred expressed confidence in July that the league would ultimately decide the long-running dispute between the Nationals and Orioles centering on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, that’s no longer the case. “I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that that situation is going to play out in the courts, and there’s not a lot that I can do to move that process along,” said Manfred. The Orioles own 90 percent of MASN compared to the Nationals’ 10 percent, and the teams are fighting over how much in broadcast fees the Nats should receive.