Baltimore Orioles Rumors

Baltimore Orioles trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Quick Hits: Int’l Scouting, Morales, Olt, Taveras, Pitching Tandems

Scouting pitching in the Dominican is a challenging endeavor on many levels, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America. Players are incented to light up radar guns (or, for hitters, launch home runs) in non-game situations due to a “showcase mindset” that pervades the baseball environment. Here are more notes from around the game:

  • Baseball executives believe it an increasing likelihood that Kendrys Morales will wait to sign until after the June 5-7 amateur draft, reports CBSSports.com’s  Jon Heyman. If he does so, then a signing club would not lose a draft pick and his former club (the Mariners) would not gain a compensatory choice. Morales has had discussions since the start of the season — Heyman says the Orioles are believed to have had “serious talks” – but apparently nothing is close. In addition to Baltimore and Seattle, says Heyman, possible landing spots could hypothetically include the Brewers and even the Athletics.
  • Cubs third baseman Mike Olt, 25, has done enough in the early going to earn a chance at additional playing time, writes Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Though his on-base and strikeout numbers are less than promising, Olt has blasted four home runs in 48 plate appearances. Olt, of course, came over in last year’s Matt Garza trade as something of a buy-low prospect, after eye issues contributed to a rough season at Triple-A in 2013 (.201/.303/.381, with 15 home runs and 132 strikeouts, in 432 plate appearances).
  • Outfielder Willy Taveras is eyeing a comeback, according to a report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 32-year-old, who last played in the bigs in 2010, is playing in Mexico at present. Best known for his wheels — he led the league in stolen bases (68) in 2008 — Taveras has swiped seven bags in seven attempts in his first 18 games in the Mexican League, Rosenthal notes. In 279 plate appearances at Triple-A last year with the Royals, Taveras slashed .239/.308/.340 and stole 11 bases.
  • With a young staff, the Astros have made the league’s most extensive use of true long relief, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. GM Jeff Luhnow says that the club’s minor league use of a true tandem system is “more of a development thing,” with the big league club’s employment of long men more a “cousin” deployed for “high-pitch count guys.” Looking ahead, though, Luhnow says he “would not be surprised if clubs started to think about some unique solutions to help prevent injuries” noting that “we’re certainly one of them.” Notably, given his organization’s upper-minor tandems, Luhnow observed:“you do it at Triple-A — what’s the difference doing it at the big leagues?” Athletics assistant GM Farhan Zaidi was even more bullish on the possibility of tandem starters appearing in MLB. “I can absolutely see it happening,” he said. “We actually talked about doing it a few years ago when we had pitching depth that wasn’t unlike what the Astros have now. The reason I think it could still happen is overwhelming evidence that limiting the exposure of pitchers to a third time through the lineup is really advantageous.” The full piece includes many more interesting observations from these executives, and is well worth a read.

Orioles To Designate Steve Pearce For Assignment

The Orioles will designate outfielder Steve Pearce for assignment, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). Pearce agreed with Baltimore on a $700K deal to avoid arbitration this winter.

Pearce, 31, had only seven plate appearances in the early portion of the 2014 season. Last year, in 138 trips to the dish at the MLB level, he put up a .261/.362/.420 line. The club has previously outrighted Pearce, so he would have the right to decline a minor league assignment (assuming he is ultimately exposed to outright waivers).


Minor Moves: Buckner, Martinez, Edlefsen, Carter, Ramirez, Hauser, Scammell

The Padres have sold the contract of Triple-A right-hander Anthony Carter to the Nippon Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball, MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports (via Twitter). The 28-year-old Carter appeared in just three games for Triple-A El Paso this season, allowing a pair of runs in three innings of work. The former 26th-round draft pick (White Sox) has punched out more than a batter per inning in his minor league career and owns a 4.93 ERA with a 2.51 K/BB ratio in 680 1/3 innings. In addition to the Sox and Padres, he spent the 2013 season — arguably his best year — with the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate. In Pawtucket, he posted a 3.47 ERA with 11.4 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 62 1/3 innings. Here are the rest of today’s minor moves from around the league…

  • The Padres have inked righty Billy Buckner to a minor league deal, tweets Corey Brock of MLB.com. Buckner, 30, has tossed 155 2/3 MLB innings in parts of five MLB seasons, splitting his appearances about evenly between starting and relieving. His lifetime ERA stands at 6.07, and he has averaged 6.4 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 with a 44.7% ground-ball rate.
  • Two former big leaguers decided to hang up their spikes rather than continue on at the Triple-A level, according to the PCL transactions page. Joe Martinez of the Angels and Steve Edlefsen of the Dodgers both retired today. The right-handed relievers had both seen relatively minimal MLB action over their professional careers, and were off to rough starts in the season’s early going.
  • The Reds have signed right-hander Elvin Ramirez, per Cincinnati’s official transactions page. The 26-year-old struggled in 61 innings with the Angels’ minor league affiliates last season but had a strong 2.13 ERA in 55 innings with the Double-A and Triple-A affiliates for the Mets in 2012. In 422 2/3 career innings in the minors, the Dominican native has a 4.02 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9.
  • Right-hander Matt Hauser has signed a minor league deal with the Orioles, according to the team’s transactions page. A former seventh-round pick of the Twins (2010), Hauser enjoyed strong minor league numbers until posting a 5.09 ERA between Double-A and Class-A Advanced last year. The 25-year-old has a career 2.95 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9.
  • The Royals have inked outfielder Cory Scammell to a minor league contract (also via the club’s transactions page). The 20-year-old Canadian was a 35th-round pick of the Mariners in the 2011 draft and spent two seasons with the team’s Rookie-level affiliate, slashing a solid .274/.349/.355 in 358 plate appearances.


Ervin Santana Rumors: Tuesday

Here's the latest on Ervin Santana, whose free agency situation has been the most active in recent days among the three still-unsigned players who declined qualifying offers:

  • The Braves are "making [a] legitimate run" to sign Santana, a source tells Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (on Twitter). 

Earlier Updates

  • Santana could be expanding the search for possible landing spots, reports Ken Rosethal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). An executive from an interested team told Rosenthal that Santana's representatives were "talking to everyone."
  • The Orioles are standing by their previously-reported, one-year offer of around $13MM, reports Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun. A source tells Encina that the O's had been in touch with Santana's reps late this afternoon, and that Santana is likely to choose a destination within the next day or two.
  • The Orioles and Blue Jays still look like the favorites, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Santana's interest in a one-year deal is genuine, reports Heyman, with the righty being motivated to prove himself on the field.
  • Indeed, as MLBTR's Steve Adams noted earlier this morning, if Santana signs a one-year pact and throws well enough to earn another qualifying offer, he would stand to make nearly as much in two years as he could on the three-year offers he has reportedly received in the low-$30MM range. Or, he might find the substantial, multi-year deal that has seemingly eluded him to date. It bears recalling that Scott Feldman managed to get three years at a $10MM AAV earlier in the offseason, and that more comparable arms like Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez landed $50MM guarantees over four years. Betting on another good season and a market reset carries risk, but accepting a lesser multi-year deal would pretty much ensure that Santana could not reach his full earning potential. 
  • Orioles GM Dan Duquette called Santana's market "interesting," with more possible teams seemingly entering the fray as injuries change roster complexions.
  • We learned that Braves starter Kris Medlen is getting a second opinion, but his MRI shows ligament damage. Atlanta has definitely been in touch with Santana, the same report provided.

Orioles Notes: Machado, Extensions, Santana, Schoop

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette spoke with reporters today, including MLB.com's Britt Ghiroli, and covered a host of topics, beginning with Manny Machado. The standout third baseman called his $519K salary for the 2014 season "disappointing" last night, but Ghiroli reports that Machado will also receive a $100K bonus for winning a Platinum Glove award — an award being the best defensive player, regardless of position, in the league. Here's more on Machado and the Orioles…

  • Duquette told Ghiroli and others today that the team visited the idea of a long-term deal for Machado last year, but talks didn't come to fruition. Those talks weren't resumed this spring, as the focus has been on getting Machado healthy. The third baseman said to Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com (Twitter link), however, that he likes the idea: "I’d be up for it, I’m open to it. Nothing has come up yet."
  • Duquette added that there is no progress to report on extension talks with J.J. Hardy, Chris Davis or Matt Wieters. Hardy told Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun that it's been 17 days since his agent even had discussions with the Orioles' front office (Twitter link). He's set to hit free agency next winter, while Davis and Wieters are controlled through 2015. Machado, of course, is under control for much longer and cannot become a free agent until the 2018-19 offseason.
  • The market for Ervin Santana has become "interesting," per Duquette, who alluded to the fact that other teams are beginning to show interest due to various injuries in camp. Most notably, the Braves have begun to show interest in Santana after an MRI showed ligament damage in Kris Medlen's right elbow.
  • Ghiroli wrote last night that top prospect Jonathan Schoop is impressing the Orioles both on and off the field with his relentless work ethic and his constant desire to pick the brains of veteran players to learn something new. Schoop added a good deal of muscle this offseason and is making a strong case to open the season as Baltimore's second baseman. However, he'd never be here if his baseball coach at age 13 hadn't slapped him on the back of the head and pulled him off a soccer field, Schoop recalled. The now-6'2", 228-pound Schoop had decided to try focusing on soccer, believing himself to be too small (he was 5'4" at the time).

AL East Notes: Sizemore, Machado, Cervelli

Here's a quick look in at the American League East:

  • With Red Sox outfielder Grady Sizemore progressing towards cracking the team's Opening Day roster, WEEI.com's Rob Bradford provides the details of his incentive-heavy contract. If Sizemore breaks camp, he would earn a $250K bonus and draw a $750K base salary. He can, as previously reported, boost the total value to $6MM if he were to hit all incentives. Here's how: $250K each for reaching 60, 90, 120, and 150 days in the big leagues; $250K for each increment of 25 plate appearances from 225 to 500; and a slate of award bonuses (including $50K for being named AL Comeback Player of the Year). 
  • Orioles third baseman Manny Machado says that his $519K contract for 2014 is "disappointing," reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Of course, with less than two years of service, Machado had little choice in the matter. The two sides have yet to discuss the possibility of an extension, though Connolly says there are "indications" that talks could take place once the health of the 21-year-old's left knee is more certain. Machado maintains that he would "love to be an Oriole forever," noting that his only wish is "to be treated fairly." 
  • The Yankees have drawn significant trade interest in backstop Francisco Cervelli, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Among the teams giving the catcher a look is the White Sox. Though the out-of-options, 28-year-old Cervelli figures to have the inside track on the reserve role for New York, the club has several other viable options to back up Brian McCann (as MLBTR's Steve Adams recently explained).

Braves Could Make Run At Ervin Santana

7:26pm: After throwing a 2-inning simulated game today, Santana may still wait a day or two before choosing a destination, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (Twitter links, in Spanish). 

The Braves are indeed very interested, with financial concerns the main limitation. Meanwhile, the Royals have put in a call on Santana. The Blue Jays and Orioles have standing offers out, Rojas adds.

2:21pm: O'Brien hears from a person connected to the Royals that the Braves may now be making a run at Santana (Twitter link). In addition to Medlen's injury, Brandon Beachy left today's Spring Training start with biceps tightness.

10:17am: The Braves haven't completely ruled out Santana in the event of a serious Medlen injury, writes MLB.com's Mark Bowman, but the financial and draft pick costs are definite factors. Atlanta would very much like to strengthen its crop of top prospects, and sacrificing the No. 26 selection in the draft would go against that thinking.

9:19am: Over the weekend it was reported that Ervin Santana has completely changed course and is now seeking a one-year deal with an eye toward a lucrative multi-year deal next offseason. With one-year offers of $13MM plus incentives and $14MM without incentives from the Orioles and Blue Jays, respectively, there appear to be a pair of clear favorites for Santana.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provides some updates on the Santana sweepstakes this morning, noting that the Blue Jays' players are lobbying for Santana to come to Toroto. Santana has many friends on the club, including countrymen Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes. One source told Rosenthal that several Jays players got together and texted Santana a picture of themselves holding a poster that read, "Come to Toronto."

One potentially game-changing factor to the Santana market could be the severity of the injury to Braves right-hander Kris Medlen, who left Sunday's Spring Training game with a forearm strain. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution touched on the topic this morning, wondering if the Braves could consider expanding their budget to bring him into the fold. Rosenthal writes that the Braves will get the results of an MRI on Medlen today. The draft pick loss wouldn't be as big for the Braves as some teams around the league, as Atlanta would surrender the No. 26 selection after already having received the No. 32 selection for losing Brian McCann to free agency. That forfeiture, however, would be the most significant of the specific teams mentioned in Rosenthal's piece.

Rosenthal also has some specifics on recent offers made to Santana; the Orioles' last three-year offer was believed to be in the $27MM range, while the three-year offer from the Twins was in the $30-33MM range. That offer was still on the table as of last night. However, as Rosenthal notes, Santana could earn nearly that much over the next two seasons by taking $14MM or so in 2014 and receiving a qualifying offer following the season, as next year's QO could jump to the $15-16MM range.


Out Of Options Players: AL East

The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options.  That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so.  I've included players on multiyear deals.  This list was compiled through MLBTR's sources.  Today, we'll take a look at the AL East.

Blue Jays: Brett Cecil, Jeremy Jeffress, Luis Perez, Esmil Rogers, Sergio Santos, Todd Redmond, Moises Sierra

Back on February 20th, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos spoke about beginning the season with an eight-man bullpen, as they did in 2013, partially because of the desire not to lose a player, according to MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm.  Cecil, Santos, Casey Janssen, Steve Delabar, and Aaron Loup are the locks.

Perez has already been sent to minor league camp, with the Jays expected to buy some time by putting him on the DL to start the season.  Dustin McGowan is under contract on a multiyear deal, and was not listed above because he has over seven years of big league service.  Still, the Jays will have to find a spot if they wish to retain him, and they probably will.  McGowan, Rogers, Redmond, and Jeffress are part of the fifth starter competition, as outlined by Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star on Friday.  In theory, all four could be retained: one in the rotation, the other three filling out the bullpen.  That scenario would involve sending Neil Wagner and other solid pitchers to Triple-A, establishing strong depth but perhaps not putting the team's best 13 pitchers on the Opening Day roster.  A trade would be another way to find some breathing room.  The Jays are known to be in the mix for Ervin Santana, who would take a rotation spot and have a ripple effect on the above-named players.

Sierra seems to have a good shot at the team's last bench spot partially because of his lack of minor league options.  It's another case where making the decision to retain the player might be less than ideal, as Sierra would have to be the team's fourth outfielder over the defensively superior Anthony Gose.  Sierra would also platoon at DH with Adam Lind and could pitch in at first base, however.

Orioles: Edgmer Escalona, Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Troy Patton, Nolan Reimold, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Kelvin De La Cruz, David Lough, Brian Matusz, Steve Pearce, Francisco Peguero, Josh Stinson

The Orioles' list includes a staggering 13 players.  Let's start with the team's rotation.  We can project three members with certainty: Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, and Wei-Yin Chen.  At this moment, Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris would grab the two remaining spots.  Two of the above-named pitchers, Britton and Matusz, had been among those competing for the fifth starter job before Jimenez was signed.  Further muddying the picture, as explained by Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun today, is the pursuit of Ervin Santana.  Additionally, Suk-min Yoon and Johan Santana will come into play later in the season.

Connolly notes that Norris or Gonzalez could move to the bullpen if necessary.  Hunter, Darren O'Day, Ryan Webb, and Matusz seem to be locks for the pen.  A 25-game amphetamine suspension for Patton takes him out of the picture for most of April.  That leaves Escalona, De La Cruz, Britton, and Stinson as out of options pitchers competing for three likely spots, with Steve Johnson, Alfredo Aceves, T.J. McFarland, and Evan Meek also in the mix.  You may recall the Orioles were loose with 40-man roster spots in the offseason, giving them to Escalona, De La Cruz, and Peguero despite scant big league experience.  Retaining them now requires putting them on the 25-man roster.  This situation seems to call for a trade or two.

As the backup center fielder, Lough is assured a spot on the roster.  The Cruz signing takes away at-bats from Reimold, but he still seems likely to make the team.  Peguero or Pearce could take the final roster spot, but only by beating out the other candidates in camp, such as Delmon Young, Xavier Paul, Julio Borbon, Quintin Berry, and Henry Urrutia.  There seems a good chance Peguero or Pearce is exposed to waivers; perhaps both.  Again, a minor trade could make sense in the coming weeks.

Rays: Jake McGee, Cesar Ramos, Matt Joyce, Chris Archer, Josh Lueke, Brandon Guyer

Archer is a lock for the Rays' rotation, while Ramos is battling pitchers such as Erik Bedard, Jake Odorizzi, Nate Karns, and Alex Colome for the fifth starter job until Jeremy Hellickson's projected late May return.  If he doesn't win the job, Ramos would go back to the Rays' bullpen.

McGee is a lock for a bullpen job, as are Grant Balfour, Heath Bell, and Joel Peralta.  Juan Carlos Oviedo has yet to report to camp due to visa issues, but he's expected to take a spot as well.  If Ramos doesn't win the rotation job, that leaves one potential opening for Lueke.  Late last month, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times named Brad Boxberger, Brandon Gomes, and Mark Lowe as other candidates, choosing Lueke as the favorite given his option situation.

Joyce is a lock for a roster spot.  If the Rays go with a traditional fifth outfielder, Guyer could snag the job, as Roger Mooney of The Tampa Tribune explained late last month.  The team could also use Sean Rodriguez or Ben Zobrist as the fifth outfielder. 

Red Sox: Mike Carp, Felix Doubront 

Doubront is penciled into Boston's rotation.  Carp has a bench spot locked down, though he did pop up in recent trade rumors.

Yankees: Francisco Cervelli, Ivan Nova

Nova is a key piece of the Yankees' rotation, while Cervelli is highly likely to break camp as the backup catcher.


Ervin Santana Rumors: Sunday

It was reported yesterday Ervin Santana is weighing one year offers from both the Blue Jays ($14MM) and Orioles ($13MM plus incentives) with two other clubs also expressing interest. Here's the latest on the top ranked free agent remaining on MLBTR's 2014 Top 50 Free Agents list:

  • Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters, including MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko (Twitter), GM Dan Duquette told him nothing is imminent on the Santana front.
  • Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes the Twins offered Santana a three-year deal, but he prefers a one-year contract unless someone is willing go four years at his asking price.
  • With all this recent action on Santana, Heyman tweets it may take a few days for the situation to resolve itself adding both the Blue Jays and Orioles have made strong one-year proposals. 
  • 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson tweets he's been told Santana isn't coming to Twins with the hangup being length of contract (Santana wants one year and the Twins want three years).

AL Notes: Santana, O’s, Porcello, Masterson, Rangers

Big-league ballplayers make plenty of money, but that doesn't mean free agency isn't stressful. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal takes a fascinating look at free agency as seen through the eyes of Red Sox players. Chris Capuano reports that, whenever he's a free agent, he sends his agent a list of teams in order of preference, but then has to wait to see if there's mutual interest. He also notes that, typically, playing for a winner becomes more and more important to a player the older he gets. David Ross says that, before the 2009 season, he signed to be a backup with the Braves rather than a starter with the Astros because the Braves offered a two-year deal.

Here are more notes from around the American League:

  • Conflicting reports yesterday regarding Ervin Santana has everyone confused. "I really don’t know what’s real and what’s not real in that case," Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette told reporters, including Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
  • The biggest culprit for Santana's situation is the right-hander's own camp, which dramatically overestimated his market and then was slow to change gears, ESPN's Buster Olney writes (Insider subscription required). Olney suggests that, if Santana's demands had been more realistic, he could have at least wound up with a contract similar to Matt Garza's or Ricky Nolasco's, rather than the one-year deal he now appears likely to receive.
  • Back to the Orioles, Duquette still has the financial flexibility to improve the roster, but is confident in the pitching they currently have in camp, according to MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. "We have some more resources that we can invest in our team, and we'll take a look at each case as it comes up," Duquette said. "We do have a little more pitching depth with our starting pitching going into the season, and some of the young pitchers we have high hopes for are continuing to develop their skills."
  • GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers won't be trading any starting pitchers, including Rick Porcello, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. Earlier today, the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo reported that the Tigers would field offers for Porcello.
  • Starting pitcher Justin Masterson, who is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season, has surprisingly suggested to the Indians that he might be willing to sign a shorter-term extension, perhaps three years, but the Indians have not yet responded with an offer, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets.
  • The Rangers are trying to develop a long-term answer at catcher, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Texas hasn't had stability at catcher since Ivan Rodriguez left over a decade ago. "It’s a topic of conversation, absolutely," says GM Jon Daniels. "We’ve had some guys come over here as big-time catching prospects, but we haven’t developed our own long-term championship-caliber starter." The Rangers have beefed up their coaching staff in an attempt to help their catchers develop. The Rangers' best hope of becoming a homegrown regular catcher is, of course, top prospect Jorge Alfaro, who played most of the 2013 season with Class A Hickory.

Edward Creech contributed to this post.