- J.J. Hardy fouled a ball off his left foot today, leaving behind an injury that is being termed as just a contusion for now since x-rays were negative. The Orioles shortstop will undergo a CT scan on Monday to check for any further damage, manager Buck Showalter told reporters (including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko). Hardy was plagued by injuries last season and already missed some time this season with calf and shoulder issues. Hardy is hitting .244/.291/.410 with two homers in 86 plate appearances.
- In other Orioles injury news, closer Zach Britton will undergo an MRI on his left ankle on Monday. X-rays were negative on Britton’s ankle, which he sprained during Saturday’s game. Showalter hinted that the O’s will use a closer-by-committee based on situations, though if Britton has to miss a significant amount of a time, you would think ideally a single reliever may emerge as the top replacement closer. Be sure to follow @CloserNews (MLBTR’s sister Twitter site) for more on Britton’s status and news about all ninth-inning situations around baseball.
Tim Lincecum will hold a long-awaited throwing showcase for scouts on Friday in Scottsdale, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports (Twitter links). As many as 20 teams are expected to attend, including representatives from the Orioles, Padres and the Giants, Lincecum’s former team.
As of February, a return to the Giants was still Lincecum’s preference, as the right-hander told at least one person while visiting his old teammates during Spring Training, CSNBayArea.com’s Alex Pavlovic reports. The Giants have long said that they would be interested in a reunion with Lincecum if “the Freak” was willing to take on a bullpen role, and Pavlovic reports that this relief-only stance hasn’t necessarily changed even though the club’s rotation has had some early struggles.
Lincecum, for his part, wants to return as a starter and has been working out all winter in order to rebuild his durability and velocity following hip surgery that shortened his 2015 season. He reportedly wanted to be in top form before officially throwing for scouts, which is why the showcase (rumored to be imminent for four months) is only taking place this week. There is no small amount of mystery surrounding Lincecum’s condition as scouts have been kept away from his workouts, though recent reports have him throwing 70 pitches on an every-five-days basis and throwing in the 90 mph range off of flat ground.
If Lincecum looks good in his showcase, he would likely be able to find a starting job with one of the many interested teams, though it might be on a minor league contract given his health history. San Diego and Baltimore have both been connected to Lincecum all offseason, with both clubs perhaps in more need of starting pitching depth now due to injuries and ineffectiveness within their current rotations. The Orioles just added some veteran depth earlier this week by signing Wandy Rodriguez to a minors deal.
- 2013 Orioles first-round pick Hunter Harvey will see a specialist next week after having a setback in his recovery from a groin injury, according to reporters, including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. The injury isn’t healing as expected, and the team is concerned that there’s more going on than just groin discomfort — according to Dan Connolly of Baltimore Baseball, the specialist will try to determine whether Harvey actually has a sports hernia, in which case he will miss four to six weeks. Manager Buck Showalter does express optimism that Harvey will pitch this season. The 21-year-old Harvey hasn’t pitched since the middle of the 2014 campaign, when he was sidetracked by a strained flexor mass and then a fractured fibula. His pro career had previously been off to a terrific start, with a 2.87 ERA, 11.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in his first 113 innings in the low minors.
- Even after adding veteran Wandy Rodriguez, the Orioles continue to stay in touch with righty Kyle Lohse, Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com reports. As we’ve heard previously, Baltimore has made an offer to Lohse but, obviously, has yet to reach agreement. It’s still not clear what the 37-year-old is prioritizing in deciding upon a club with which to attempt a bounceback, but the O’s rotation certainly seems to offer a reasonable likelihood of opportunity over the coming months.
The Orioles have agreed to a minor league contract with veteran left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com first reported (links to Connolly on Twitter). The 37-year-old Wasserman Media Group client will head to the extended Spring Training at the Orioles’ facility in Sarasota, Fla., according to Connolly. The O’s announced the deal minutes later.
Rodriguez was in Spring Training with the Astros this season but didn’t make the club. He had an offer to pitch for Houston’s Triple-A affiliate but elected to once again enter the open market, where he’s now found a new home with the O’s. Rodriguez spent half the season with the Rangers in 2015, pitching quite well from April through June after winning the fifth spot in Texas’ injury-depleted rotation. Rodriguez turned in a 3.20 ERA with a 50-to-23 K/BB ratio through his first 11 starts as a Ranger before melting down and yielding 24 runs over his next 21 2/3 innings. That dismal stretch led to a DFA and a subsequent release.
Rodriguez will presumably provide Baltimore with some rotation depth at the Triple-A level once he gets up to speed in extended Spring Training. Yovani Gallardo has already landed on the DL with a shoulder problem, and Kevin Gausman spent the early portion of the season on the disabled list as well. It’s also worth noting that Baltimore’s rotation depth took a hit when the club released Miguel Gonzalez late in March. In addition to the injured Gallardo and the aforementioned Gausman, the O’s have Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Mike Wright in their rotation, as well as right-handers Tyler Wilson and Vance Worley in the bullpen, each of whom has starting experience. The O’s also have Odrisamer Despaigne and David Hale at the Triple-A level, so Rodriguez is a ways down the depth chart for the time being. In parts of 11 big league seasons, Rodriguez has a career 4.10 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 1557 1/3 innings.
Fantex, Inc. announced today that it has entered into brand contracts with five Major Leaguers: Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, Astros right-hander Collin McHugh, Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop, Twins right-hander Tyler Duffey and Padres third baseman Yangervis Solarte (as noted on BusinessWire.com).
Fantex offers professional athletes an up-front, one-time payment in exchange for a portion of that player’s future earnings both on and off the field. Fantex then sells “shares” of that player to public investors for a set price (thus covering the up-front payment to the player), allowing those investors to turn a profit if said player crosses a certain threshold in his career earnings. Obviously, that creates risk for the investors, who stand to take a financial loss if the player fails to earn enough money in his career to justify the shareholders’ investment. Angels left-hander Andrew Heaney became the first player to enter into an agreement with Fantex last September, taking a $3.34MM up-front payment in exchange for 10 percent of his future earnings. (Notably, the league and the MLBPA each approved that agreement, and Fantex’s announcement seemingly suggests that the same is true of these five agreements.)
As for the new wave of Fantex additions, Schoop secured the largest sum, agreeing to an up-front payment of $4.91MM. Franco, meanwhile, will earn $4.35MM, while McHugh will take home $3.96MM, Solarte will take home $3.15MM and Duffey will earn $2.23MM. Notably, Solarte’s agreement is for 11 percent of his “brand,” while the other four (and Heaney) signed away 10 percent.
With six big leaguers now on board in addition to 14 athletes from other sports, it stands to reason that the number of professional baseball players willing to enter into such agreements will increase. It’s an interesting proposition for Major Leaguers — not entirely dissimilar from agreeing to an early contract extension; in essence, the players in question are taking a life-changing sum of money early in their career in exchange for limiting their earning capacity once they’ve navigated through their arbitration years and entered their free-agent seasons. Those same principles are all true of players that sign contract extensions, though the extent of the up-front sum and the long-term risk obviously vary.
Beyond the long-term impact on a player’s earnings, it also seems plausible that players who enter into agreements with Fantex could be less likely to sign long-term extensions with their current club. Extensions, after all, are most often signed to provide a player with his first fortune in exchange for giving the club a discount rate on would-be free-agent or arbitration seasons. Heaney, Franco, McHugh, Schoop, Duffey and Solarte, though, have each secured a sizable sum without altering their free agency timelines, thereby creating less urgency to sign an extension. (It should be noted, too, that players like Duffey and Solarte aren’t necessarily obvious extension candidates in the first place.) It seems reasonable to expect that some players and agents will view Fantex as a means of locking in that first payday while preserving the right to get to free agency at a younger age. In a market that places a premium on youth — as evidenced by contracts signed by Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Mike Leake and others — that comes with significant benefit.
The payments from Fantex, of course, are smaller than the sums that we’ve seen players haul in via contract extensions, but the trade-off that Fantex players face early in free agency figures to be more minimal than the trade-off of their peers that sign extensions. For instance, Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner will reach six years of Major League service time this season, but he remains under control for three more seasons; he’s guaranteed $11.5MM in 2017 and has a pair of $12MM club options on each of the two subsequent seasons. Bumgarner’s contract guaranteed him $35MM ($57.5MM if each of those options is exercised), but he’ll earn a maximum of $35.5MM over what would have been his first three free-agent seasons — a fraction of what he could earn were all 30 teams allowed to bid on him. Bumgarner’s open-market annual value could be $25MM or more over the life of a six- or seven-year term. Ten percent of a theoretical $150-175MM contract is a smaller loss for the player than the difference between the free-agent seasons on an extension and the aforementioned market value.
I should note that this isn’t a knock on Bumgarner’s contract by any means — it was a record-setting deal for a pitcher in his service class and comes with the same potential risk/reward that many early extensions carry. Conversely, Jon Singleton locked in $10MM and has yet to see his big league career get off the ground. If Singleton never develops into an MLB-caliber hitter, he’ll receive significantly more than he would have by entering into a Fantex deal. Balancing that risk and reward is likely something with which players and their agents will wrestle if Fantex agreements continue to increase in popularity.
From a more general standpoint, there’s quite a bit we don’t know about the finer details of Fantex. The method by which each player’s up-front valuation is determined, for instance, isn’t known. Accurate reporting of off-field income (e.g. endorsements) would be paramount (and is presumably mandated within the contract agreements), and the unproven model in question seemingly only works if Fantex is able to raise enough investor funding to finance the initial payment to the player. This is all relatively new territory, though, and additional information pertaining to the new opportunity for pro athletes should become increasingly available in the months to come.
- The Orioles have released right-hander Todd Redmond, who most recently enjoyed a three-year run in the Jays’ organization. He received only 16 major league innings there last year, however, after functioning as a useful swingman in the prior two seasons. Redmond, 30, had been added by the O’s on a minor league deal, but was hammered (18 hits & 15 runs in five innings) in his first two outings for Triple-A Norfolk.
- Another MRI on Yovani Gallardo’s ailing right shoulder has left the Orioles feeling fairly upbeat about his prognosis, MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli tweets. He only appears to be experiencing tendinitis, which seems to bode well for his chances of returning in relatively short order. Of course, the 30-year-old still faces plenty of questions after a rough start. Among other things, he’s lost over two miles per hour on his average fastball even after showing declines in recent years. And his already-falling swinging strike rate is down to 5.1%.
- Yahoo’s Jeff Passan chatted with Orioles closer Zach Britton about the struggles of Baltimore’s four once-vaunted pitching prospects under now-former pitching coach Rick Adair. Britton — along with Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz — was at one point looked as a building block for the rotation in Baltimore. Instead, only Tillman has experienced success in the Orioles’ rotation (and probably not to the extent which many had hoped), though Matusz and especially Britton have been productive in relief roles. In Britton’s view, the Orioles’ pitching philosophies between the minors and Majors were contradictory. “They took away the individual approach to everything,” he explained to Passan. “Things we did extremely well in the minor leagues to get to the big leagues – we were told that just doesn’t work here.” Britton feels that Arrieta could have flourished in Baltimore under new pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti but says his former teammate may have lost confidence in his abilities toward the end of his Baltimore tenure.
The Orioles have claimed righty David Hale off waivers from the Rockies, Baltimore announced. Hale was exposed to waivers after being designated for assignment recently.
With the move, the O’s have added yet another piece of pitching depth. Hale will head right to Triple-A on optional assignment, and will provide an option if a need arises in the rotation or the bullpen.
Hale, 28, had a solid run with the Braves in 2014, but hasn’t been very effective in Colorado. Over the last two seasons, he’s carrying a 6.27 ERA with 6.9 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9 over 80 1/3 innings. That’s not terribly promising, but some advanced metrics put a more positive spin on Hale’s work last season, as he carried a 4.04 SIERA and 4.02 xFIP in 2015.