Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper might not be the only $400MM free agent if he reaches the open market in 2018, says FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (video link), who reports that Orioles third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado could also exceed that total. Machado is a more valuable defender at third than Harper is in right, argues Rosenthal, and is just three months older than Harper (both will be 26 in 2018). Machado, who has slashed a videogamelike .323/.397/.634 with 13 home runs in 209 plate appearances this year, has outhit Harper (.243/.423/.537, 12 homers in 201 PAs) and leads all major leaguers in fWAR (3.4).
- Brian Matusz reflected on his time with the Orioles in an interview with MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko and offered nothing but praise for the organization that drafted him back in 2008. Matusz, who was traded to the Braves and promptly designated for assignment by Atlanta earlier this week (the Braves absorbed his contract as a means of persuading Baltimore to part with a Competitive Balance Draft Pick), tells Kubatko that he knew when he got the call informing of the trade that there was a chance he’d be designated quickly. “Obviously, a new team and I was excited,” said Matusz. “But I also realized before the trade happened that a designation was a possibility, so it wasn’t a complete surprise. Just understanding that it’s part of the business, where I was at in terms of how I’ve been throwing the ball.” Kubatko writes that Matusz never wanted to move from the rotation to the ’pen in the first place but played the role of the good soldier when asked to relieve. Asked about the possibility of starting again, he replied: “It’s tough to say right now. … But having the ability to start and be a reliever are two nice assets to have.”
- The Orioles announced that they’ve selected the contract of lefty Ashur Tolliver from Double-A Bowie today. The 28-year-old has seen his career slowed by injuries but has enjoyed a very strong season at Double-A thus far, recording a 2.42 ERA with a 25-to-8 K/BB ratio in 26 innings of work. Tolliver will step into the lefty relief role on the Orioles’ roster that was vacated by yesterday’s trade of Brian Matusz to the Braves.
- The Orioles released infielder Steve Tolleson, David Hall of the Virginian-Pilot tweets. The 32-year-old has spent time with the O’s and Jays in recent years, and owns a .245/.299/.372 slash in his 363 career plate appearances at the major league level. He has dealt with injuries early in 2016 and has only appeared in eight games to date.
TODAY: The signing slots acquired are worth around $700K, per Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com (Twitter link). That would appear to suggest that the Reds have added Baltimore’s first ($538,800) and fourth ($154,500) pool allocations.
YESTERDAY: The Reds have picked up two international signing slots from the Orioles in exchange for minor league righty Franderlyn Romero, according to a Baltimore announcement. Dayton Dragons pitching coach Derrin Ebert had revealed the news that Romero was headed to the O’s earlier today (via Dayton broadcaster Tom Nichols, on Twitter).
This move fits alongside Baltimore’s draft pick deal earlier today. In both instances, the club picked up questionable minor league talent while passing off some of its amateur spending capacity. The other trade also saw the O’s shed just under $3MM in salary, in the form of Brian Matusz’s contract. Only certain draft picks may be dealt, but teams are able to trade individual signing allotments, subject to certain restrictions.
It’s not yet known which slots were sent to Cincinnati, but Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes on Twitter that they are for the current signing season, not the one set to begin on July 2 of this year. What that means for the Reds’ plans remains to be seen, but it’s an important distinction. After all, most of the talent available for the 2015-16 period has already signed, though there are some notable Cuban players who could sign in either period.
Among those players is Cuban shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez, who had a reported deal with the Reds. As Steve Adams of MLBTR explains here, that created some issues and raised some questions. The organization has seemingly sought to push the signing back to this summer so as to avoid incurring a two-year ban on future signings. After all, Cinci enters the coming July 2 period with a total bonus pool of just over $5MM (second-highest in the league), and the club would surely like to utilize that availability to boost its talent pipeline.
In return, Baltimore picks up a 23-year-old hurler who’s yet to advance past the Class A level. Romero opened the year there after previously making just one outing above Rookie ball. He’s off to a solid start for Dayton, at least, with a 2.87 ERA in 47 frames and 8.0 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9.
The Orioles and Braves have struck a deal that sends lefty Brian Matusz and the 76th overall draft pick from Baltimore to Atlanta. Minor league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek are headed to the O’s in the swap.
Ultimately, the move constitutes a draft pick purchase, with the Orioles willing to part with their competitive balance round B selection and its $838,900 assigned pool value in order to offload the commitment to Matusz and add some potentially interesting arms. Of greater consequence than the selection itself, the Braves will boost their bonus pool up to just over $13MM, per the calculations of Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs (Twitter link). They’ll still fall a bit shy of the Phillies to remain in third in total spending capacity this summer.
A 29-year-old southpaw, Matusz is earning $3.9MM this year in his final season of arbitration control. The remaining $3MM or so of that deal will all be assumed by the Braves, who have already designated Matusz for assignment, as MLB.com’s Mark Bowman suggested on Twitter.
Matusz has struggled mightily out of the gates in 2016, allowing eight earned runs in six innings while recording just one strikeout against seven walks. He’s been hurt especially by the long ball, having allowed a three bombs on just ten flyballs.
Of course, the southpaw was much more effective in years past, though he’s generally outperformed his peripherals to do so. Over 2013-15, he put up 151 2/3 innings of 3.32 ERA ball, with 9.4 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9. Even if he won’t get a chance in Atlanta, Matusz seems to be a worthwhile rebound candidate given his solid track record. His fastball velocity is down by just over one mile per hour, and he’s been missing the zone a bit more than usual, but there’s good reason to believe that he’s also been hit with some poor fortune.
Neither of the pitchers acquired by the Orioles opened the year among the top 30 in a deep system, per Baseball America, but both had impressed thus far in 2016. Barker, 23, was off to a very nice start at the Double-A level, working to a 2.00 ERA in 45 frames with 8.0 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9. The righty was a 16th-round selection in the 2014 draft out of Mercer.
Belicek, meanwhile, is also a 23-year-old former 16th-rounder. The Texas A&M southpaw was taken last year, and just earned a promotion to Double-A after an impressive showing at the High A level. In his 28 1/3 total frames this year, he’s worked to a 2.22 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and a ridiculous 32:1 K/BB ratio.
Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com first reported that Matusz was traded (via Twitter).
The Orioles and left-hander Brian Duensing have agreed to a minor league contract, reports David Hall of the Virginian Pilot (via Twitter). The 33-year-old reliever opted out of a deal with the Royals on May 15. He’ll head to Triple-A Norfolk, per Hall, though he might not be officially activated until later this week.
Duensing, a former third-round pick of the Twins, was a mainstay on the Minnesota pitching staff from 2009-15, but the Twins elected not to re-sign him this season after he hit free agency. Though he made quite a few starts for the Twins early in his career, Duensing eventually settled in as a bullpen piece, logging a 3.84 ERA with 6.2 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 in 164 innings over his final three seasons with the team that originally drafted him. However, Duensing has long carried significant platoon splits — lefties have hit .238/.295/.325 against him compared to a hefty .292/.352/.462 line from righties — and his strikeout rate plummeted in his final two seasons with Minnesota. He was enjoying success with the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate this season, though, having recorded a 3.10 ERA with a 19-to-5 K/BB ratio in 20 1/3 innings.
The Orioles currently have Brian Matusz as the lone non-closing lefty in their bullpen, but Matusz has struggled quite a bit this year, allowing eight runs on 11 hits and seven walks in just six inning of work with only one strikeout. The O’s have a number of other lefty options at the Triple-A level, though, including one with MLB experience in T.J. McFarland that is on the 40-man roster. Other options for the Birds in Norfolk include Andy Oliver, Cesar Cabral and Jeff Beliveau, each of whom comes with some degree of Major League experience.
Yovani Gallardo threw a bullpen session this morning, the first time he has thrown off a mound since hitting the DL a month ago with shoulder tendinitis. Gallardo and Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters (including MLB.com’s Fabian Ardaya) that the righty could toss another bullpen and then a simulated game later this week, though much will depend on how Gallardo is feeling in the wake of today’s session. Here’s more from around the AL East…
- Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth agreed last fall to a new payout structure for his contract, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Under the agreement, Werth has deferred $10MM of his salary this year until 2018, at a 5% interest rate. That continues a pattern of postponed paydays in Washington’s player contracts, which is in some part a reflection of the team’s efforts to deal with an ongoing television-rights dispute with the Orioles and the Baltimore-controlled Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.
- Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed that TV battle today, as Svrluga reports. As things stand, the parties are appealing a lower court’s refusal to enforce a determination by the league’s Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee, putting a hold on the Nationals’ efforts to recoup additional rights fees for past years and increase their future take. Manfred had harsh words for the Orioles’ actions in the matter. “It is important to bear in mind the fundamentals,” he said. “The fundamentals are that the Orioles agreed that the RSDC would set the rights fees for MASN and the Orioles every five years. The Orioles have engaged in a pattern of conduct designed to avoid that agreement being effectuated.” MASN issued a counter-statement saying that Manfred was ignoring “the fundamentals of the case” — namely, the court’s findings of a conflict of interest (based on the law firm that represented the Nationals) — and stating that the RSDC had failed to use an appropriate method for setting the rights fees. If you’re interested in the gory details, you can find a recap of the trial court decision here.
- Orioles minor league outfielder Henry Urrutia was recently demoted from Triple-A to Double-A and wasn’t happy with the move, writes MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. The O’s would listen to trade offers for the 29-year-old, who received a signing bonus of nearly $800K in July 2012 after defecting from Cuba, but their hope is that he can turn his season around. Last season, Urrutia batted .291/.345/.409 with 10 homers in 505 Triple-A plate appearances and saw some brief time in the Majors, but he’s gotten off to a .245/.347/.304 start in 118 PAs at Triple-A this year. Urrutia hadn’t reported to Double-A Bowie as of yesterday, though he was expected to do so by Friday, Kubatko writes.
- The Orioles face a tough call on lefty Brian Matusz, writes Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com. He’s been hit hard after missing time early due to injury, giving up a lethal combination of free passes and home runs, though he says he’s healthy now. Connolly ticks through the options, which include simply placing Matusz on outright waivers. His $3.9MM salary is sure to clear, but the 29-year-old could keep his guarantee and reject an assignment. But unless a DL opportunity presents itself, Baltimore will otherwise be resigned to giving him a chance to pitch through his difficulties.