Baltimore Orioles Rumors

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

Pirates, Orioles Complete Travis Snider Trade

The Pirates have acquired lefty Steven Brault from the Orioles, the Pirates announced. He will serve as the player to be named later from this January’s Travis Snider deal, joining another young lefty — Stephen Tarpley — to make up the final package for Pittsburgh.

Brault, 22, was floated as a possible name to change hands at the time of the deal, and will indeed be on the move. The southpaw has worked primarily as a starter, reaching the High-A level at the tail end of 2014. He spent most of the year in the Sally League, compiling a 3.05 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9.

Prospect watchers generally saw Brault as something like the twentieth-best  prospect in the O’s system. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs explains that the southpaw will need to find consistent arm speed to reach the bigs as a back-of-the-rotation starter


AL East Notes: Moncada, Orioles, Jepsen, Sox

The Yankees hosted their second private workout for Cuban sensation Yoan Moncada last night, reports George A. King III of the the New York Post. The Yankees like Moncada quite a bit but are a bit leery of the financial commitment it will take to sign the 19-year-old, King adds. He also hears from an international scouting source that the Dodgers could be willing to spend up to $40MM on a bonus for Moncada (meaning an $80MM total commitment after tax), which one scout described to King as “a lot of money for someone to begin at [Single-A].”

Elsewhere in the American League East…

  • Orioles GM/executive vice president Dan Duquette spoke to the media on a number of roster-related issues today, and Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com provides a quick rundown of the items discussed. Duquette says the team is still looking to add a reliever, likely on a minor league deal, and he also said there’s little chance of the team avoiding arbitration with Alejandro De Aza, whose hearing is set for tomorrow. Additionally, Duquette revealed that minor league signee Paul Janish had surgery to remove bone spurs from his throwing elbow and will be out six to eight weeks. That news led the team to its now-official minor league deal with Jayson Nix.
  • Rays right-hander Kevin Jepsen spoke with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times about the strange feeling of being traded from the only organization he’s ever known. Traded by the Angels to the Rays for Matt Joyce this offseason, Jepsen, an Arizona resident, describes the peculiar feeling of heading to Spring Training in Florida. Though the transition is jarring, he does have a familiar face in closer Jake McGee, who grew up with Jepsen in Nevada, Topkin writes. The brief look at Jepsen’s transition serves as a reminder of the human element to these transactions that we often take for granted.
  • While it’s easy to suggest that the Red Sox should simply trade Shane Victorino, it’s also important for them to maintain some outfield depth, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. Hanley Ramirez has averaged just 116 games over the past four seasons, and Rusney Castillo is still “more potential than certainty.” A healthy Victorino is typically a valuable asset and could be of use in any outfield spot if needed.
  • Abraham also spoke to Brandon Workman, who said he’s not the least bit bothered by being moved from the rotation to the bullpen by the Red Sox“I want to be in the majors,” Workman told Abraham. “You feel terrible when you get sent back to Triple A and this is where I want to be. I’m not worried about anything else.”

Free Agent Notes: Moncada, Olivera, O’s, McGowan

The agent for Cuban teenager Yoan Moncada, David Hastings, says that “offers are coming in,” Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Hastings says he is “still hopeful” that he and his client “can make a decision soon.” Last we heard from Hastings, on Valentine’s Day, he indicated that no formal offers had been made and softened somewhat the idea that Moncada would be in position to sign by February 23rd. While there appears to be some movement, the precise timeline remains uncertain.

  • The market for more advanced Cuban infielder (and, presumably, soon-to-be free agent) Hector Olivera seems quite robust. Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons has heard from additional team executives, and he counts at least five that predict a deal of $70MM or more for Olivera. (Twitter link.)
  • The Orioles may not be done adding, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. That holds true even if the club’s deal with Everth Cabrera is finalized, presumably, as the report indicates that Baltimore is expected to sign at least one more pitcher to a minor league deal.
  • One arm that the O’s have been connected to is Dustin McGowan. Another team that has expressed interest in the 32-year-old, the Twins, is not expected to land the free agent righty, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.


Orioles, Jayson Nix Agree To Minor League Deal

The Orioles and infielder Jayson Nix have agreed to a minor league contract that will pay the 32-year-old Turner Gary Sports client $750K in the Majors with another $50K worth of incentives, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Nix will be invited to Major League Spring Training, per MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko (on Twitter). 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson tweeted last night that Nix was on the cusp of signing.

Nix spent time with three different clubs in 2014 but struggled across the board, batting .120/.169/.157 in 91 plate appearances between the Phillies, Pirates and Royals. Earlier in his career, the former No. 44 overall pick (Rockies, 2001) showed 15-homer/15-steal potential, but he’s never been able to consistently produce at the Major League level.

Nix, who has experience at all four infield positions, will provide depth to an Orioles infield that projects to use Manny Machado at third base, J.J. Hardy at shortstop, Jonathan Schoop at second base and a combination of Chris Davis and Steve Pearce at first base. Ryan Flaherty is currently slated to be the backup infielder, and the club also has Jimmy Paredes on the 40-man roster, so Nix seems likely to end up at Triple-A to serve as depth at this juncture. He’s a career .280/.344/.443 hitter at that level.


Orioles Notes: Showalter, De Aza, Roster Decisions

Determining a manager’s value to the on-field success of a team is anything but a quantifiable science, but Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com points out one easily identifiable advantage that Buck Showalter has given the Orioles. Showalter, since day one, has “demanded” that his pitchers control the running game by learning to hold runners and quickening their time to home plate in order to give the team’s catchers a chance. “When Buck came I focused on it,” Chris Tillman told Kubatko. “Before I didn’t really pay all that much attention to it. … But once he put the video in front of us and the stats in front of us about runners advancing another 90 feet, as a pitcher that’s everything.” Tillman is perhaps the most extreme example of success in Showalter’s mandate; he’s allowed just two steals in 13 attempts over the past two seasons.

A bit more from Kubatko and more on the Orioles in general…

  • If the Orioles are going to add another utility infield option or another relief arm to their Major League Spring Training camp, it’s got to happen within the next few days, Kubatko points out. GM Dan Duquette listed both as items on his wish list on Jan. 31, and pitchers and catchers will report for the Orioles on Thursday of this week.
  • The Orioles and Alejandro De Aza seem destined for an arbitration hearing, but there’s little risk for either side in this scenario, writes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. As Encina notes, the $650K gap — a similar gap to the one that separated the O’s and Ryan Flaherty — means less to De Aza than it would to a player like Flaherty, who had filed at $1.6MM (De Aza filed at $5.65MM to the team’s $5MM). As for the Orioles, they can take some solace in knowing that they’re 9-1 over their past 10 arb hearings under owner Peter Angelos, including 7-0 since hiring general counsel H. Russell Smouse to lead their arbitration proceedings. Encina also writes that in today’s game, players are more used to seeing criticism and having their flaws highlighted — likely referring to the rise of web content and players’ accessibility to potentially negative reports on their game — so there’s lesser risk that a player hearing about his negative traits will be affected in terms of on-field performance.
  • Also over at MASNsports.com, Steve Melweski takes a look at Baltimore’s roster questions heading into Spring Training. Though Ubaldo Jimenez can’t be simply handed a rotation spot due to his salary, that salary also means he cannot be written off entirely and does need a fair chance at the rotation. Melewski also opines that J.P. Arencibia and Ryan Lavarnway were brought in for more than the opportunity to compete for the backup job; either could break camp with the team in a larger role, in the event that Matt Wieters needs to open the season on the disabled list. Of Baltimore’s two injured stars, Melewski notes that Manny Machado is more likely to be ready for the opener than Wieters.

Quick Hits: Royals, Hall, Red Sox, Astros

Entering 2015, the Royals possess baseball’s best defense, writes Anthony Castrovince of Sports On Earth. With stalwarts like Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, and Alcides Escobar, the club can count on preventing dozens of runs next season. On the bench lurks speedy defensive whiz Jarrod Dyson to help track down fly balls. Rounding out Castrovince’s top five defenses are the Orioles, Reds, Yankees, and Cardinals.

  • Baseball is fighting for relevance, writes Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic. While football can claim a larger fandom than baseball, it’s not the job of Commissioner Rob Manfred to reverse that trend. Instead, the league needs to improve its relevance with youth. A lot of attention has fixated on minor tweaks to the game like a faster pace of play. Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall has some more novel ideas for improving the fan experience. He suggests letting the home team take batting practice second to improve player-fan interactions. He also proposes using pre-game fielding practice as a stage for displays of athleticism.
  • The Red Sox have a revamped lineup, new rotation, deeper bullpen, and a $200MM payroll, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. The rotation is viewed as a weakness because nobody stands out as a potential ace. However, manager John Farrell believes the current unit will be sufficient. The lineup should provide plenty of fire power and the defense can also help to bail out the rotation. If the rotation is revealed to be a weakness, the club has plenty of prospects to acquire reinforcements.
  • The Astros are looking to win in the present season for the first time in the Jeff Luhnow era, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The club is setting a target for a .500 finish, which does appear to be a viable goal. With several 2014 breakouts and more impactful prospects on the way, Houston appears to be turning the corner on their rebuild. Luhnow points to building chemistry as one important piece of the puzzle. Several roster decisions will be made this spring, most notably in the outfield where Robbie Grossman and Alex Presley will be fighting for jobs.

AL East Notes: Wieters, Romine, Maddon, Alvarez

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is one of ten high-profile free-agents-to-be to watch during the 2015 season, writes Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com. The backstop is working his way back from midseason Tommy John surgery, but he could be available for a designated hitter role by opening day. He was in the midst of a breakout at the plate before he was waylaid by injury. Ringolsby profiles nine other potential free agents including Wieters’ teammate Chris Davis. Here’s more from the AL East:

  • Yankees backup catcher Austin Romine has reported to camp 15 pounds lighter, reports Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. The former prospect will compete with John Ryan Murphy. Last season, it appeared Murphy was above Romine on the team’s depth chart. However, Romine is out of options, which could give him the upper hand in laying claim to the backup job. If not, backup catchers are always in demand around the league.
  • Cubs manager Joe Maddon thinks the Rays are in a good position to compete, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Maddon says the biggest challenge for new manager Kevin Cash is to form relationships with the club’s veterans. Tampa Bay also has a new look entering 2015 – they made seven trades involving 30 players. Maddon identified the outfield as the biggest question for the franchise.
  • Dariel Alvarez could be the first Orioles prospect to reach the majors this season, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. The club believes he’s “one of the best-kept secrets in the minors.” Manager Buck Showalter wonders why Alvarez doesn’t appear on prospect lists. The 26-year-old hit .306/.330/.472 with 15 home runs in the upper minors last season.

AL East Notes: Hardy, Blue Jays, Edwards, BoSox

J.J. Hardy made an early exit from the free agent market when he re-signed with the Orioles before the ALCS, but the shortstop would’ve preferred to have inked his new contract even sooner.  “It kind of went a lot longer than I wanted it to,” Hardy told Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com. “I didn’t think it needed to go that long, but it did. But I told my agent, ‘Listen, this is what I want and I like it in Baltimore. Let’s get to what is fair and make this happen.’ Now that it is done, I’m glad everything worked out as it did.”  Hardy also said he was hampered by a bad back last season, and hopes to deliver more of his customary power now that he’s feeling healthier.  Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Canadian-born Russell Martin, Dalton Pompey and Michael Saunders are slated to play major roles for the Blue Jays, though team president Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos tell Robert MacLeod of the Globe & Mail that this increase in Canadian talent is a coincidence in roster-building, not a promotional gimmick. “The city and the fans and the country embrace great players because great players help you win. And I think winning is what promotes the sport and baseball in Canada,” Anthopoulos said.
  • Rays minor leaguer Spencer Edwards has been issued an 80-game suspension for a PED violation, the league announced.  Edwards was Tampa’s second-round pick in the 2012 draft, selected 88th overall.  The 21-year-old shortstop/center fielder has a .558 OPS in 569 PA over his first three pro seasons, none above the A-ball level.
  • Rough seasons for Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley were a big reason why the Red Sox suffered through a last-place finish in 2014.  Alex Speier of the Boston Globe examines both why these players struggled and takes a broad overview of how the Sox are adapting their player development system as part of an in-depth four-part series of articles.
  • The main takeaway from Speier’s piece is that the Red Sox felt empowered by their 2013 World Series title to deploy so many youngsters in last year’s starting lineup, and realistically, the team didn’t even expect all three to contribute right away.  The larger roster flaw, according to Speier, may have been that Boston didn’t acquire enough veteran depth last winter to account for some growing pains by their three young starters.  In response, the Red Sox began adding notable veterans even before last season ended, and now theoretically have protection should Bogaerts, Bradley or other unproven talents like Mookie Betts or Rusney Castillo underperform.
  • Speier’s piece also explores some bigger-picture topics, such as how the Red Sox are dealing with the age-old problem of how to best prepare each individual prospect to be ready for the majors.  This is complicated by the fact that the quality gap between Triple-A and MLB has never been wider, yet top prospects are coming into the game with higher expectations than ever thanks to media hype and fan interest.

Orioles Among Teams With Interest In Dustin McGowan

The Orioles have reached out to representatives of free agent righty Dustin McGowan to express interest, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. Several other clubs are also believed to be in on the 32-year-old swingman.

McGowan has had a quiet offseason since Toronto declined its $4MM option and set him loose on the market. He opened the season in the Jays rotation, but was hit hard and demoted after eight starts. McGowan showed much more promise in the 43 relief innings that came, working to a 3.35 ERA, upping his strikeout rate to 7.5 K/9, and holding opponents to a sub-.700 OPS.

Amongst a quickly-depleting supply of viable free agent arms, McGowan is notable for his mid-90s fastball. Though he has been much more effective against opposing right-handers in his career, McGowan’s long history as a starter at least supplies him with some tools for attacking lefties in a relief role. And it never hurts to have an additional spot starter if need be.


Quick Hits: Tanaka, Sabathia, Royals, Cuba, Extensions

Yankees starters Masahiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia are generating positive reports, team pitching coach Larry Rothschild tells Mark Didtler of the Associated Press (via the LoHud Yankees Blog). Tanaka has “felt good” while going through a normal winter progression, says Rothschild. The pair’s progress this spring will be critical for the Yankees. If Tanaka’s partially torn UCL or Sabathia’s balky knee are problematic, the club would seem a prime candidate to add pitching.

  • In the final analysis, the Royals‘ run with James Shields was an example of the team “beating the system,” according to Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star. By selling high on Wil Myers to add Shields, Kansas City added the arm it needed before cashing him in for a new first-round pick through the qualifying offer system.
  • The Red Sox and Orioles have at least begun looking into the idea of playing a spring game in Cuba this year, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports. While it appears unlikely that will happen in such short order, it certainly hints at how quickly things could move in that arena.
  • Signing players to big extensions is obviously risky, and rarely works out in the way that many expect when a deal is struck. But that does not mean that they fail to deliver good value, or that teams are irrational in reaching them, Russell Carleton of Baseball Prospectus writes.