- The Mets are interested in acquiring Orioles reliever Brad Brach, but a deal that would send outfielder Curtis Granderson to Baltimore is unlikely, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports. One major roadblock involves finances: The Mets don’t want to eat any of Granderson’s $15MM salary for 2017, while the Orioles aren’t eager to add payroll unless it’s allocated to free agent outfielder/first baseman Mark Trumbo. It doesn’t appear that the O’s are remotely close to re-signing Trumbo, however.
- Catcher Matt Wieters is another key Orioles free agent, and they haven’t closed the door on re-signing him, per Kubatko. However, as is the case with Trumbo, Wieters is currently out of the Orioles’ price range. That could lead Baltimore to find an affordable replacement on a one- or two-year contract, thereby enabling well-regarded, big-hitting prospect Chance Sisco to further develop in the minors. “He needs more experience catching,” general manager Dan Duquette told Kubatko in regards to Sisco. “That’s a tough position to learn, right? There are so many things that go into being a good catcher.” Notably, free agent backstop Welington Castillo is on the Orioles’ radar and should only garner a short-term deal.
- The Mets are interested in swinging a deal for Orioles right-hander Brad Brach, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. The Mets have been rumored to be seeking right-handed help in the ’pen but aren’t pursuing top-tier free agents. Brach would represent an affordable setup option, but with two years of club control and a 2.39 ERA over his past 158 1/3 innings, Brach should come with a high asking price. The Orioles have been linked to Mets outfielders Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson (they’re said to prefer the latter), but neither of those outfielders would be enough to get the O’s to part with Brach.
Orioles general manager Dan Duquette said Sunday that he’s comfortable with a platoon of Hyun Soo Kim and Joey Rickard in left field. There’s no clear answer in right field, however, which is where Saunders could enter the equation. The 30-year-old has primarily manned left field in his career, including in 2016 as a member of the the Blue Jays – the team that knocked the Orioles out of the playoffs.
At the midway point of last season, Saunders looked as though he was playing his way to a qualifying offer and a lucrative multiyear pact. In 344 first-half plate appearances, the former Mariner batted an outstanding .298/.372/.551 with 16 home runs and a .252 ISO en route to his first All-Star appearance. Saunders’ production cratered thereafter – .178/.282/.357 with eight HRs and a .178 ISO in 214 PAs – which put a damper on his seemingly skyrocketing value and led the Blue Jays to elect against tendering him a qualifying offer. It also didn’t help that Saunders graded poorly in left, ranking toward the bottom of the majors in Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating.
While he comes with negatives, including a checkered injury history, Saunders would add some variety to a Baltimore lineup whose only current lefty-swinging everyday player is first baseman Chris Davis. He’s also not going to sign for a bank-breaking price, with MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes projecting a three-year, $33MM deal (from the Orioles, in fact). That’s the same contract the O’s nearly signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to last offseason.
The Mets offered one of Curtis Granderson or Jay Bruce to the Orioles in exchange for “a high-end reliever,” ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin reports, though talks didn’t go anywhere. Based on that description, one would think the Mets were asking about Brad Brach, Mychal Givens or maybe even ace closer Zach Britton. While the O’s are indeed looking for right field help, it’s understandable why they didn’t accept that offer. Here’s more from around the NL East…
The Orioles have “made a couple offers to” free agent slugger Mark Trumbo, Orioles executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette told reporters (including Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun and MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko), though despite ongoing talks, an agreement has yet to be reached. “We’ve had several conversations with Mark Trumbo, but we haven’t been able to cinch a deal with him….We’ve had a dialogue going with them for several weeks,” Duquette said.
Though there was mutual interest in a continued relationship between the two sides prior to the end of the season, there hasn’t been much news about Trumbo and Orioles until now. Duquette said during the GM Meetings that the club was looking to prioritize defense and add a left-handed hitting outfielder, neither of which describe what Trumbo brings to the table. Duquette cited outfield defense again today, though Trumbo could also fill Baltimore’s hole at designated hitter. As I noted in my free agent profile of Trumbo, his value could greatly improve if a team uses him in a first base/DH role rather than as a corner outfielder.
Right field is the specific need for the O’s, as Duquette said Hyun Soo Kim and Joey Rickard could handle left field in a platoon and the team hasn’t put much thought into moving Chris Davis from first base into right. As for other internal options, Duquette also cited youngster Trey Mancini as having the hitting potential to possibly handle regular DH duty.
Trumbo has received some interest from the Rockies this winter, though Colorado would have to give up a hefty draft pick price (the 11th overall selection in next year’s draft) to sign Trumbo, who rejected the Orioles’ qualifying offer. That same QO status is a consideration for the O’s as well as they explore re-signing Trumbo, Duquette noted, as is the changing nature of the qualifying offer system in future years under the new collective bargaining agreement.
Aside from Trumbo, Duquette also discussed such topics as the team’s needs in right field, catcher (either as a starter or platoon partner with Caleb Joseph) and the potential use of the upcoming Rule 5 draft to procure more young talent.
Duquette also denied a rumor about an extension between Manny Machado and the Orioles, saying that the two sides hadn’t had any talks. Most teams wait until after the bulk of the offseason work is complete before entering into extension negotiations, so we might not hear about anything with Machado until Spring Training at the earliest. The superstar third baseman is projected by MLBTR to earn $11.2MM in arbitration next season, and the O’s control Machado through the 2018 campaign. With Machado hitting the open market at age 26, the sky is the limit for the size of a potential extension — Baltimore would likely require something north of a $250MM guarantee.
In a radio appearance with Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link), the executive VP also commented on the attention being drawn by closer Zach Britton. “There’s a lot of interest in Zach Britton. Personally, I like Zach Britton on our club, but there are teams interested,” Duquette said. Britton is also due for a hefty arbitration payday ($11.4MM) in the wake of his excellent 2016 season, and there has been speculation that the O’s could sell high on Britton now given the large demand for relief pitching this offseason. One would think it would take a pretty significant offer to pry Britton out of Baltimore, as Duquette has said both here and in prior interviews that he wants to keep the closer.
1:17pm: Add the Orioles to the list of teams interested in Castillo, as MASN’s Roch Kubatko tweets. The Orioles could lose Matt Wieters to free agency and have been interested in Castillo for some time, according to Kubatko.
11:03am: The Diamondbacks’ unexpected decision to non-tender Welington Castillo has added a new name to the free agent catching market, and Castillo is already receiving interest. The Rays are “expected to aggressively pursue” Castillo, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote last night. The Rays, who currently have Luke Maile and Curt Casali atop their depth chart at catcher, were already expected to look for catching help, so it’s easy to see why the surprise addition of a .264/.322/.423 hitter and longtime starter to the market would be intriguing for them.
Topkin also tweeted this morning, though, that Castillo was receiving a number of calls, and not just from the Rays. It’s possible one of those teams could be the Braves, who have “some interest,” as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tweets. Current Braves backstop Tyler Flowers hit fairly well last year and rates as a good framer, and he and fellow catchers Anthony Recker and Tuffy Gosewisch are all now under contract for 2017. Castillo could certainly still help the Braves, however, and it stands to reason that they’d have interest, since they’ve also shown at least some interest in free agent backstops like Matt Wieters and Jason Castro.
- Righty Vance Worley has been non-tendered by the Orioles, per a team announcement. All of the team’s other eligible players have been tendered contracts. Worley had been projected to command $3.3MM in arbitration as a 4+ service-class player, but will instead hit the open market. The 29-year-old pitched to a 3.53 ERA in 86 2/3 innings last year with Baltimore, functioning mostly in a relief capacity. He has plenty of experience as a starter, however, and remains a possible swingman (or back-of-the-rotation) option for other organizations. Over his seven major league campaigns, Worley has posted a 3.75 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9.
- The Brewers are trying to trade recently-designated-for-assignment slugger Chris Carter before tonight’s 8pm ET non-tender deadline tweets Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. The Orioles, who just claimed a player with a potentially similar skill set in Adam Walker, aren’t likely to make a play for Carter, per Heyman (whose tweet came prior to the Walker claim). Carter’s current scenario is somewhat reminiscent of last year’s Mark Trumbo situation, as he’s a player with prodigious power that the league isn’t valuing at his arbitration number due to defensive concerns, high strikeout tendencies and a questionable on-base percentage. The Mariners were able to get a nominal return for Trumbo rather than non-tendering him, but MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy tweets that Milwaukee shopped Carter around for a month before designating him, so it seems unlikely that a trade will materialize in the next six hours.
The Orioles announced today that they’ve claimed outfielder Adam Walker off waivers from the Brewers. Milwaukee claimed Walker off waivers from the Twins two weeks ago but designated him for assignment last week when they claimed right-hander Steve Geltz from the Rays.
The 25-year-old Walker fits a profile that has become somewhat of a trend in Baltimore, as he possesses enormous power but brings little defensive value to the table and strikes out in abundance. The former third-round pick has received 60 and 65 grades for his raw power (on the 20-80 scouting scale), and has homered 58 times across the past two minor league seasons. However, he punched out an incredible 202 times in 531 plate appearances at the Triple-A level this season (38 percent) and whiffed at a 34.8 percent clip at Double-A in 2015. He also lacks any true defensive position, as he’s played left field recently but is projected by most to ultimately function as a first baseman or DH if he ever breaks into the Majors. The addition of the right-handed-hitting Walker gives the Orioles 37 players on their 40-man roster.