Baltimore Orioles Rumors

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

Minor Moves: Saunders, Twins, Solis, Pagnozzi

Here are today’s minor transactions from around baseball, with the most recent moves at the top of the post…

  • The Orioles purchased the contract of left-hander Joe Saunders, the team announced.  Saunders signed a minor league deal with the O’s last month and posted a 1.50 ERA in 12 relief innings for Triple-A Norfolk.  The veteran southpaw has never pitched out of the bullpen in the majors but the Orioles intend to use him as a reliever down the stretch.  Buck Showalter told reporters (including MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli) that Saunders could also make a spot start when the O’s face the Yankees in a double-header on September 12.
  • The Twins will purchase the contracts of utilityman Doug Bernier and right-handers Lester Oliveros and A.J. Achter prior to Tuesday’s game, Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.  The trio are three of eight players Minnesota is adding to its expanded September roster.
  • Rays catcher Ali Solis has accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports (via Twitter).  Solis was outrighted yesterday to create a spot on the Rays’ 40-man roster for right-hander Steve Geltz, who will be promoted today.
  • The Brewers purchased the contract of catcher Matt Pagnozzi, the team announced.  Jeff Bianchi was shifted to the 60-day DL in a corresponding move.  Pagnozzi has 105 career PA since 2009 with the Cardinals, Rockies, Pirates and Astros and he’s also spent time with the Braves’ and Indians’ Triple-A affiliates over the last two seasons.  Pagnozzi has a career .219/.297/.318 slash line over 3026 career PA in the minors.
  • The Angels selected the contract of shortstop Shawn O’Malley, according to Tim Mead, the team’s VP of communications (Twitter link).  O’Malley will join the Halos on Tuesday and add some versatility to the bench; he has mostly played short over his pro career but has played all over the diamond this season.  Originally a fifth-round pick of the Rays in the 2006 draft, O’Malley is looking to make his Major League debut after nine years in the minors, hitting .258/.351/.338 over 2982 PA.

Quick Hits: Orioles, Athletics, Brewers, Pirates

The Orioles made two trades last night, adding infielder Kelly Johnson and outfielder Alejandro De Aza, and any trade involving big-leaguers has an effect on not only a team’s 25-man roster, but its clubhouse. Via Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, manager Buck Showalter provides an interesting look into how trades affect players who aren’t being dealt. Showalter says, for example, that following the acquisition of De Aza, he spoke to Delmon Young and other players about what the trade meant for them. “It’s unknown that drives players crazy and you want them to understand things,” says Showalter. “I had a real good idea what they were going to say. They’re usually pretty short conversations, but you have them nonetheless.” Here’s more from around the big leagues.

  • The Athletics‘ trade for Adam Dunn might not have been needed had they not traded Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox in the Jon Lester deal, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports opines. Oakland’s offense has struggled since the trade, and while Cespedes’ departure isn’t entirely to blame (there have been slumps and injuries throughout the Athletics lineup), it hasn’t helped.
  • In the wake of the Brewers‘ acquisition of Jonathan Broxton today, Rosenthal notes (via Twitter) that Milwaukee also went after David Price last month. Talks with the Rays did not progress very far, however, because the Brewers were unwilling to give up top young pitcher Jimmy Nelson.
  • The Pirates appear unlikely to make any trades today, David Manel of Bucs Dugout writes. “It’s been a lower percentage of successful claims than ever before,” says GM Neal Huntington. “You expect the American League guys not to make it through the American League. But there have been some guys in the National League that have been claimed before they’ve gotten to us, which has been a bit of a surprise.”

AL East Notes: Rays, Escobar, Johnson, Red Sox

In his Sunday column, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes that “the key to [the Rays'] offseason flexibility might be trades” before noting that Tampa would be eager to deal either Grant Balfour or Jose Molina if they opportunity presented itself. He also speculates that names such as Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez and Jeremy Hellickson are names to watch, and he wonders whether or not Desmond Jennings and even Wil Myers will be discussed in trades this winter as well.

Here’s more from Topkin’s piece and the rest of the AL East…

  • While trading Yunel Escobar to the A’s or letting him go on waivers might’ve been popular with Rays fans (and even some in the clubhouse, Topkin notes), the team held onto him for multiple reasons. Firstly, the Rays are confident that Escobar will rebound from a tough 2014 season next year. They also don’t trust Ben Zobrist at shortstop next year in his age-34 season and aren’t sold on Nick Franklin‘s defense at short. Nor are they certain whether or not Hak-Ju Lee and Tim Beckham will be ready in 2015. Beyond that, the Rays don’t feel they can replace Escobar for as cheap little as he stands to earn in 2015 ($5MM).
  • Kelly Johnson, who went to the Orioles as the key to a four-player deal Saturday night, is now headed to his fifth straight AL East team. He’s happy to be headed to a likely playoff team in Baltimore, he tells the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. “It’s crazy,” says Johnson. “Obviously I’ll be familiar with the surroundings. … I’m obviously excited to be in a situation where you’re on a first-place team.”
  • In a second piece, Britton also looked at the struggles of Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, and he spoke with Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen about whether or not the hardships experienced by that duo has led the Sox to reevaluate their evaluation process for young players. Hazen speaks at length about the league-wide decline of offense, the increase in defensive shifts and the progress made in scouting reports, noting that it’s tougher now for young players to break through.


Orioles Acquire Kelly Johnson

The Orioles have announced that they’ve acquired infielders Kelly Johnson and Michael Almanzar from the Red Sox for infielders Jemile Weeks and Ivan De Jesus. This is the Orioles’ second significant trade of the evening, having also recently acquired outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the White Sox. The Johnson deal gives the Orioles a bit of low-cost infield depth.

Johnson, 32, began the season with the Yankees, then headed to Boston in a trade for Stephen Drew. (He also played for the Rays in 2013 and the Blue Jays in 2011 and 2012, meaning that he’s now been or will be on the roster of all five AL East teams, with no non-AL East teams in between.) He’s played mostly third base and first base since 2012, and he’s hit .212/.290/.354 for the season. With the Orioles, he’ll likely play mostly at third base in the wake of the team’s loss of Manny Machado for the rest of the year.

The Orioles selected Almanzar from the Red Sox in the Rule 5 Draft last winter, but returned him in early July. Since then, he’s hit .280/.360/.427 in 186 plate appearances for Double-A Portland, mostly playing third base. At 23, he’s the youngest player in the deal.

Weeks was a first-round draft pick by the Athletics in 2008, and they sent him to Baltimore in 2013 in the Jim Johnson trade. The 27-year-old Weeks played in 215 games with the A’s in 2011 and 2012 but has spent most of the past two seasons in the minors. This season, he’s hit .278/.391/.385 in 254 plate appearances for Triple-A Norfolk. Despite the high on-base percentage, the second baseman probably profiles mostly as depth at this point, although CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam tweets that Weeks will join the Red Sox’ big-league team. (Dustin Pedroia may have suffered a concussion in Saturday’s game, but the timing of Weeks’ acquisition appears to be a coincidence.)

De Jesus, who heads back to the Red Sox after spending a few months in the organization in 2012, also appears to be mostly a depth player. De Jesus came to Boston from the Dodgers in the Adrian Gonzalez / Carl Crawford / Josh Beckett blockbuster, then headed to Pittsburgh almost immediately as the Red Sox traded for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt. The Pirates showed little interest in him despite a strong offensive season in Triple-A in 2013, and he signed with the Orioles after the season. The 27-year-old hit .282/.358/.389 in 469 plate appearances for Norfolk this year, mostly playing shortstop.


Orioles Acquire Alejandro De Aza

The Orioles have announced that they’ve acquired left-handed outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the White Sox for minor league pitchers Miguel Chalas and Mark Blackmar. Orioles executive Dan Duquette says (via MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko on Twitter) that De Aza had been available for a few weeks, which suggests he cleared waivers.

USATSI_7890034_154513410_lowresDe Aza, 30, has hit .246/.312/.358 this season, with his power, in particular, taking a step backward — he hit a career-high 17 homers last year, but only has five this season, and his slugging percentage is off by about 50 points as compared to the last two years. He remains, however, a solid defender who can play all three outfield spots. He’s making $4.25MM this season in his second year of arbitration, and he can become eligible for free agency after 2015, although at least one executive has opined that De Aza could be a non-tender candidate after the season.

The Orioles already have a strong starting outfield of Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, but they can surely use De Aza as a backup. With Manny Machado‘s recent injury, sometime-outfielder Steve Pearce is needed more frequently in the infield, meaning the Orioles have playing time available for a fourth outfielder type. De Aza’s addition will probably also mean even less playing time for fellow lefty outfielder David Lough, who has struggled at the plate this season.

Even with the Orioles’ need to play Pearce more in the infield, they were fairly well stocked with outfielders, so De Aza represents more of a luxury than a need. It’s no surprise, then, that they do not appear to have paid a high price to get him. Chalas, 22, has pitched most of the season with Class A+ Frederick, where he posted a 4.80 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 69 1/3 innings of relief. He has also appeared in two games for Triple-A Norfolk. Blackmar, also 22, has pitched 130 1/3 innings for Frederick, with a 3.18 ERA, 5.7 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9, pitching mostly has a starter. MLB.com does not rank either of them in its list of the top 20 Orioles prospects.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Orioles Outright Suk-Min Yoon, Cord Phelps

The Orioles announce that they’ve outrighted pitcher Suk-min Yoon and infielder Cord Phelps. The moves open two spots on the Orioles’ 40-man roster.

Baltimore signed Yoon to a three-year deal before the season. Their total financial commitment was minimal, at $5.575MM guaranteed, but they were surely still hoping for better results than they’ve gotten so far. Yoon has pitched 90 2/3 innings for Triple-A Norfolk, posting a 5.56 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. He has not yet pitched in the big leagues. The Orioles owe him $1.75MM in 2015 and $2.4MM in 2016.

Yoon was a standout in Korea, but was widely regarded as having less upside than, for example, Hyun-jin Ryu, who has had success with the Dodgers. Yoon was coming off a 2013 shoulder injury and did not have dominating stuff.

The O’s designated Phelps for assignment to make room for Miguel Gonzalez earlier this week. The former Indians prospect hit .258/.358/.380 in 395 plate appearances for Norfolk this season.


Orioles, Nelson Cruz Mutually Interested In Extension

3:03pm: Cruz himself now tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli, that the Orioles and Katz have had some extension talks since the All-Star break, but the talks have not been serious in nature. The slugger adds that after his difficult experience last offseason, he would like to get an extension worked out before season’s end, although he knows that scenario may not be realistic, given the casual nature of talks to this point. He also repeated that he would like to remain an Oriole beyond the 2014 season (Twitter links).

11:37am: The Orioles and Nelson Cruz share an interest in keeping the slugger in Baltimore past the 2014 season, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  Both Dan Duquette and Adam Katz (Cruz’s agent) declined on comment on whether any extension talks have already taken place or will take place, though both parties have felt Cruz has been a good fit in Baltimore this year.

It’s no secret it’s been a very positive experience for Nelson and the Orioles — though I don’t want to speak for them,” Katz said. “He’s enjoyed every minute of it.”

Cruz is set to hit free agency this winter and his big 2014 numbers will put him in line for a solid multiyear deal.  (MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked Cruz as the sixth-best player on the market in his most recent 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings.)  Cruz’s league-leading 34 homers and .256/.324/.510 slash line have gone a long way in answering the doubts that plagued his stint as a free agent last winter.  With a qualifying offer draft pick attached to him and a 50-game PED suspension clouding his reputation, Cruz was forced to settle for a one-year, $8MM deal from the O’s.

This tough experience last offseason might be a reason why Cruz is considering an extension, as Heyman notes it would be rather unusual for a player in Cruz’s situation (signing a one-year pillow contract type of deal and then delivering big) to not test the open market.  The O’s will certainly offer Cruz a one-year qualifying offer if an extension can’t be worked out, and rather than face such uncertainty again, it could be that Cruz simply prefers to stay in a familiar situation.


AL East Links: Jeter, Beckham, Orioles

Derek Jeter has been worth only 0.1 fWAR in his final season, and the Yankees‘ insistence on keeping him as the regular shortstop and in the No. 2 spot in the batting order is hurting the team, CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa writes.  Jeter is too proud and/or competitive to ask to be dropped in the lineup or take anything less than an everyday role, and the Yankees seem fine with the status quo given Jeter’s stature, Axisa opines.  The problem is that Jeter’s lack of production in a key lineup spot might cost the Yankees a playoff spot.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • The Orioles have talked to multiple clubs about trading for an infielder, and they checked in on Gordon Beckham at some point before the White Sox dealt him to the Angels, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports.  Since the Angels (who own the best record in baseball) claimed Beckham on waivers, that would mean the O’s had an initial chance to claim the second baseman themselves but chose to pass.
  • Also from Kubatko’s piece, he notes that the Orioles had a potential trade fall through once word got out about Manny Machado‘s season-ending knee surgery.  Presumably, the Machado news meant that the other team raised its asking price.  As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported earlier this week, O’s officials were upset that Machado’s injury status became public, as it lowered their leverage in trade talks.
  • Allen Craig‘s career is profiled by WEEI.com’s Nick Canelas, detailing the Red Sox first baseman’s early days to how the Cardinals scouted and drafted him to his current status in Boston.
  • The Red Sox have a lot of decisions to make about their 2015 bullpen, and assistant GM Mike Hazen tells Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com that the team would be open to “spend more money on the back-end guy” if necessary.  Such a move could be needed if Koji Uehara isn’t re-signed.
  • The development of young pitchers like Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Drew Hutchison is a big reason why Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos will likely keep his job despite the Jays’ fade from contention, Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair writes.  Anthopoulos is also helped by the fact that modern organizations generally give their general managers at least enough time on the job to see what their drafting and player development plans can produce.

Rangers Notes: Lewis, Bridwell, Rosales

It’s definitely not the race the Rangers hoped to be leading in late August, but Texas is currently in position to land the first overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft.  As you can follow on MLBTR’s Reverse Standings, the Rangers currently have the game’s worst record at 52-81, narrowly putting them “ahead” of the Rockies (53-80), Diamondbacks (55-78) and Astros (57-78).  Houston, of course, is in line for two top-five draft choices since the team is already guaranteed the #2 pick in 2015 as compensation for failing to sign first overall selection Brady Aiken this past summer.

Here’s the latest from Arlington…

  • Colby Lewis wants to return next season and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News figures the team wouldn’t hesitate to re-sign him aside from the troubling issue of Lewis’ struggles at Globe Life Park.  Lewis has a 7.17 ERA in 13 home starts this season, as opposed to a 3.69 ERA in 11 road starts.  Overall in 2014, Lewis has a 5.44 ERA in 137 1/3 innings, though ERA predictors such as FIP (4.35), xFIP (4.30) and SIERA (4.15) indicate that he has been unlucky this year, possibly due to a .365 BABIP.  The veteran right-hander returned to action this season after being sidelined since July 2012 due to injuries, and his minor league deal with Texas is up after the season.
  • The Rangers have long been interested in Orioles right-handed pitching prospect Parker Bridwell and have attempted to acquire him several times over the last three years, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports.  Bridwell, 23, was a ninth-round draft pick in 2010 and currently has a 4.51 ERA, 2.03 K/BB rate and 136 strikeouts over 135 1/3 IP at the high-A ball level this season.  Though Bridwell’s career numbers are nothing to write home about, Kubatko thinks the O’s should put him on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft since “he’s also got some of the best stuff in the organization.”
  • Also from Evan Grant, manager Ron Washington says that Adam Rosales is performing well enough to be considered for a utility role in 2015.  Rosales has started at all four infield spots for Texas this season and is enjoying by far his best season with the bat, posting a .907 OPS in 80 plate appearances.  Rosales is eligible for arbitration for the third and final time this offseason.

Quick Hits: Herrera, O’s, Mariners, Cubs, V-Mart

The Mets have placed Daniel Murphy on the disabled list and will recall Double-A second baseman Dilson Herrera to fill his roster spot. The 20-year-old Herrera was the second player acquired from the Pirates (along with Vic Black) in last year’s Marlon Byrd/John Buck trade. In 274 plate appearances with Binghamton this season, he slashed a healthy .333/.401/.544 with nine homers and nine steals. Herrera’s overall numbers this season are quite strong, and his continued development has led some, including ESPN’s Keith Law, to consider him among the game’s Top 100 prospects.

Here are some more links from around the league…

  • The Orioles have continued to be active on the waiver wire despite the fact that they’ve yet to make an August acquisition, executive vice president Dan Duquette tells Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. The O’s have been on the hunt for a left-handed hitting infielder but have come up empty in their search, Connolly writes.
  • While the Mariners very much want to make the playoffs, team president Kevin Mather tells Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune that the M’s weren’t “going to sell [their] souls for a one-game Wild Card opportunity” by mortgaging the future at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Mather characterizes the acquisitions of Kendrys Morales, Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia as “strategic” but “not crazy.” The team held onto top prospects Taijuan Walker and D.J. Peterson as well as young lefty James Paxton.
  • Cubs president Theo Epstein told reporters, including ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers, that the team will have the financial wherewithal to add to the payroll in the coming years due to its young core. Epstein said he never looks at one offseason and decides that he has to get something done that year, but he expects to add impact starting pitching from outside the organization in the next 18 to 24 months.
  • Victor Martinez would like to play for “a few more years” but thinks he’ll be out of the league by the age of 40, he tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Morosi spoke to Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who offered lofty praise for his DH, calling him the most prepared and focused hitter he has ever encountered. Morosi looks at the weak DH situations that many teams around the league have and wonders if the 35-year-old Martinez can fetch something in the neighborhood of Carlos Beltran‘s three-year, $45MM contract from last offseason.