Orioles catcher Matt Wieters appears to be headed for the open market, as Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports in his latest notes column. Recent chatter between agent Scott Boras and the club did not really even delve into extension talks, because it wasn’t seen as likely to result in any progress with the sides “believed to be tens of millions of dollars apart.” And Baltimore doesn’t seem to be interested in dangling a $16.7MM qualifying offer after Wieters took the one-year deal last offseason. Whether the O’s will pursue Wieters in free agency remains unclear — the team has chased its own free agents in the recent past, and does have a need behind the dish — but it seems that they’ll let him test interest from other clubs regardless.
- The Orioles have brought back righty Franderlyn Romero, amongs other minor league re-signings. Romero, 23, hasn’t exactly prospered since joining the Baltimore organization in an early-season international signing slot swap. The 23-year-old moved up to the High-A level for the first time with his new team, but gave up 96 hits and posted a 6.16 ERA in his 76 frames there, with 6.4 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9.
Orioles closer Zach Britton has turned in a season to remember, and it’s not all that surprising given his recent excellence. Still, it wasn’t long ago that such a showing seemed highly improbable, as Danny Knobler of Bleacher Report writes. Britton was no lock to make the O’s roster out of camp in 2014, but the refinement of his unbelievable power sinker that year has turned the southpaw into arguably the game’s most dominant reliever. Knobler takes an interesting look at Britton’s transformation as a pitcher, as well as his earlier path toward the majors.
The latest column from Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports focuses on the league-wide home run surge in 2016. MLB is on pace to set a new record for the most homers in a season on a per-plate-appearance basis. Passan profiles players either experiencing shocking levels of power output (e.g. Brian Dozier, Freddy Galvis) or enjoying a significant rebound in the power department, led by Orioles slugger Mark Trumbo. Acquired in a salary dump with the Mariners, Trumbo’s one-dimensional nature created virtually no trade market for him, Passan notes, and while his power spike will improve his stock this offseason, the one-dimensional questions will still exist. Trumbo is one of baseball’s worst defensive outfielders and has a below-average OBP because he walks less than the prototypical slugger. Still, a much older Nelson Cruz parlayed a 40-homer season into a four-year, $57MM contract, Passan notes, and he came with similar defensive question marks. I’d imagine that a team hoping to put Trumbo at first base wouldn’t be as concerned with his glove, but the combination of his defensive reputation, lack of OBP and a the presence of a qualifying offer will all be working against him.
The Mariners weren’t interested in paying Mark Trumbo $9.1MM this year, so they dealt him and left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser to the Orioles last December for backup catcher Steve Clevenger. Almost a year later, it’s fair to say the Orioles made out well in the trade. Trumbo has slashed .250/.312/.526 with a major league-leading 45 home runs in 638 plate appearances, while Clevenger added little to the Mariners before earning a suspension for controversial tweets Friday.
Trumbo’s latest homer came Saturday for the contending Orioles, who picked up a 6-1 victory over the Diamondbacks to improve to 84-71. Baltimore currently holds a half-game lead on the second wild-card spot in the American League, and it’s arguable whether the team would be in a playoff position without Trumbo’s offensive output. For their part, the Orioles are thrilled with what Trumbo has contributed, as Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun writes.
“He’s an excellent veteran player,” general manager Dan Duquette said. “I really like what he’s done for our team. He’s got some really good personal qualities that add to the ballclub.”
Meanwhile, Trumbo – who has also played for the Angels and Diamondbacks – raved about his time with the Orioles.
“It’s been the most enjoyable season I’ve had … from the group of guys in the clubhouse to the winning they’ve done on the field,” Trumbo told Schmuck.
While there’s clearly respect between the two sides, it’s uncertain whether they’ll be able to work out a new deal to prevent Trumbo from leaving Baltimore as a free agent after the season. The Orioles hope Trumbo accepts a $16.7MM qualifying offer to remain with the team in 2017, per Schmuck, who notes that’s probably unrealistic. Odds are Trumbo will land a lucrative multiyear deal, but whether he’s worth one is up in the air. While the 30-year-old ranks 18th in the majors in homers (176) and 30th in ISO (.220) since debuting in 2010, he hasn’t brought much to the table aside from above-average power.
Trumbo’s subpar career walk rate (6.7 percent) has helped produce a .302 on-base percentage, and he hasn’t offered value on the base paths or defensively, having primarily lined up in the outfield and at first base. The lion’s share of Trumbo’s action this year has come in right field, and he currently rates as the majors’ 13th-worst outfielder in Defensive Runs Saved (minus-13) among those who have logged at least 500 innings. He’s also 17th from the bottom in Ultimate Zone Rating (minus-7.7).
Offensively, this season has been a tale of two halves for Trumbo. He batted an outstanding .288/.341/.582 with 28 HRs in 375 PAs before the All-Star break, but he has hit just .187/.263/.430 with a still-impressive 17 long balls in 259 trips to the plate since. In total, the package has been worth a mediocre 1.5 fWAR, though FanGraphs indicates that Trumbo has given the Orioles $12.2MM in value this season, thereby outproducing his salary.
Going forward, it’s questionable whether the career .250/.302/.470 hitter will be able to provide bang for a team’s buck on a more expensive contract. The Orioles already have one well-compensated slugger, first baseman Chris Davis, locked up through 2022 at $23MM per annum. Davis hasn’t performed to expectations in Year 1 of his deal, which could weigh on the Orioles’ minds when considering re-signing Trumbo. At the same time, they’re clearly cognizant of Trumbo’s power.
“His performance in terms of hitting the ball out of the ballpark and driving in runs is certainly worth a significant investment,” Duquette said.
The Orioles and agent Scott Boras discussed impending free agents Matt Wieters and Pedro Alvarez in a meeting last week, but no progress was made toward extensions for either, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. As a result, Wieters and Alvarez look likely to depart Baltimore at season’s end. Wieters, the Orioles’ top catcher since 2009, accepted a qualifying offer from the club for $15.7MM a year ago, but they probably won’t tender him for $16.7MM during the upcoming offseason. The 30-year-old is in the midst of one of his worst offensive seasons, having batted .241/.300/.401 in 438 plate appearances. Alvarez, a former Pirate, took a $5.75MM deal with the O’s last March and has since slashed .248/.319/.506 with 22 homers in 367 PAs. Those are right in line with the numbers the designated hitter/corner infielder regularly produced in Pittsburgh.
Orioles first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce will undergo surgery to repair the flexor mass in his right forearm and will be sidelined anywhere from four to six months as he recovers, manager Buck Showalter told reporters, including Rich Dubroff of CSNMidAtlantic.com (Twitter link). Certainly, as an impending free agent, that timeline is a blow to Pearce’s offseason stock. Assuming that timeline sticks, he won’t be ready until at least late January and could see his recovery linger well into Spring Training.
Viewed through a more immediate lens, Pearce’s injury is a blow to the depth of an Orioles team that is currently in possession of one of the two American League Wild Card spots and still has a chance at the division championship in the American League East (currently three games back from Boston). Pearce was outstanding when healthy this season, hitting .288/.374/.492 with 13 homers and 13 doubles in 302 plate appearances for the Rays and Orioles. Baltimore let Pearce walk this past offseason, electing instead to acquire Mark Trumbo and sign corner bats Pedro Alvarez and Hyun Soo Kim to cost-effective deals. However, the O’s picked Pearce back up in a trade that sent minor league catcher Jonah Heim to the Rays. They’ll ultimately receive just 70 plate appearances and a .217/.329/.400 slash out of their reinvestment in Pearce, though.
Had Pearce finished up the season in healthy fashion, a two-year deal could seemingly have been on the table for him, but it’s difficult now to envision the 33-year-old (34 next April) securing more than a one-year pact — likely one that is laden with incentives — on the open market. If he does make a full recovery, though, Pearce would be a tremendous value on such a deal, as he’s somewhat quietly produced a very strong .266/.348/.485 slash in 1148 plate appearances dating back to the 2013 season.
The Orioles have announced a few roster moves, including placing infielder Steve Pearce on the 60-day disabled list and reinstating reliever Darren O’Day from the 15-day DL. The club has also purchased the contract of first baseman Trey Mancini from Triple-A Norfolk.
Before sending him to the DL and ending his season, the Orioles shut down Pearce indefinitely Wednesday on account of a right flexor mass strain. Manager Buck Showalter said then that Pearce was a possibility to return later this month, but that won’t be the case. This injury could wrap up Pearce’s second tenure with the Orioles, who acquired him from the Rays prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. The impending free agent hit an outstanding .309/.388/.520 and mashed 10 home runs in 232 plate appearances with Tampa Bay this year, but his numbers dipped in Baltimore as he dealt with an elbow injury.
Pearce batted .217/.329/.400 with three homers in 70 PAs as a member of the Orioles and could end up hitting the open market, where the soon-to-be 34-year-old would try to outdo the $4.75MM deal he signed with the Rays last winter. First, though, Pearce will have to go undergo forearm surgery, which will require a four- to six-month recovery, Rich Dubroff of CSN Mid-Atlantic tweets.
O’Day, meanwhile, hasn’t taken a major league mound since mid-August because of a right shoulder cuff strain. While his return is a welcome one for an Orioles team with a three-game lead on an American League wild-card spot, O’Day hasn’t been as effective this year as he was in previous seasons. Injuries have been a problem, as O’Day was previously on the DL from early June until the end of July thanks to a hamstring strain. When O’Day has pitched, he has issued 4.3 walks per nine innings, more than doubling his 2015 rate and contributing to a jump in his ERA from 1.52 to 3.95. On the positive side, O’Day has posted a posted a terrific 10.87 K/9.
Mancini, whom the Orioles selected in the eighth round of the 2013 draft, has done nothing but produce since joining the organization. After hitting .280/.349/.427 with 13 home runs in 536 Triple-A plate appearances this season, he could be in line to make his major league debut. MLBPipeline.com ranks the 24-year-old as the Orioles’ fifth-best prospect and praises his offensive abilities.
- The Orioles are meeting with Matt Wieters’ agent Scott Boras this week to discuss a contract extension, though Rosenthal is doubtful Wieters will remain in Baltimore. The Nationals will have interest in signing Wieters if their own notable free agent catcher (Wilson Ramos) leaves, and Rosenthal also cites the Mets, White Sox and Braves as possible candidates to pursue Wieters. The Braves have perhaps a bit of a geographic advantage, as Wieters is from South Carolina and played college ball at Georgia Tech.
Scott Boras, agent for star Orioles closer Zach Britton, doesn’t think the club will be looking to pursue an extension with his client in the near future, Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com reports. Britton has two more years of arbitration eligibility before he hits free agency in the 2018-2019 offseason.
With so much team control remaining, it perhaps isn’t surprising that the O’s are prioritizing other business before getting around to a long-term deal with Britton. Extending Britton now would also be something of a buy-high move given that the closer is in the midst of perhaps his most dominating season yet — an 0.60 ERA, 9.8 K/9 and 3.57 K/BB rate over 60 1/3 innings, plus a stunning 80.4% ground ball rate and a career-best 96.3 mph average fastball velocity. Britton is a perfect 44-for-44 in save opportunities in 2016.
Needless to say, Britton will be getting a healthy raise in his third year of arbitration eligibility. Britton and the O’s avoided arbitration in his first two arb years by agreeing to salaries of $3.2MM for 2015 and $6.75MM for this season. As a Super Two player, Britton is on track for yet another big arbitration payday following the 2017 campaign; if he continues on his current pace, he could be looking at a 2017 salary in the neighborhood of $12-13MM.
Having already achieved quite a bit of financial security, Britton has some negotiating leverage on his side. It could also help he (and Boras) in waiting to discuss an extension until after this offseason, as Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen are poised to set new standards for reliever contracts.
From Baltimore’s perspective, there are some arguments for exploring an extension now. Locking Britton up to even a two-year deal through his remaining arb years would get the team some cost certainty. The Orioles have traditionally been wary about signing pitchers to a significant multi-year deals, though they’re more comfortable doing so when it’s an arm they’re already familiar with (i.e. Darren O’Day’s four-year contract last winter). Britton also doesn’t carry a significant health risk; as MLBTR contributor Bradley Woodrum outlined in his study of Tommy John injuries earlier this year, there is a well below-average chance Britton will eventually require TJ surgery.