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The Cardinals have acquired catcher Michael Ohlman from the Orioles in exchange for cash considerations, the clubs announced. Ohlman had been designated for assignment by Baltimore.
Added to the 40-man roster in the fall of 2013, the 24-year-old Ohlman played last year at Double-A, the highest level of the minors that he has reached. He slashed a disappointing .236/.310/.318 in 454 plate appearances, failing to follow up on his .934-OPS 2013 at the High-A level. A big-bonus 11th-round pick back in 2008, Ohlman had his share of ups and downs even before his rough 2014, as Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper detailed last March.
The price tag on James Shields may be dropping to the point where it makes too much sense for the Yankees to ignore, opines Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Shields has never made sense for the Yankees at or in the vicinity of $100MM, Castrovince writes, but if his price tag is trending closer to that of Ervin Santana (four years, $55MM) than that $100MM plateau, the uncertainty and lack of stability in New York’s rotation makes them a logical destination. As Castrovince notes, the Yanks dished out four years and $52MM to Chase Headley shows that the team is still willing to spend on veterans at a price level with which they are comfortable, and Shields’ work ethic, leadership and durability make him a desirable rotation candidate in the Bronx.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- The Yankees have a pair of very viable closer candidates in Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, but MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch envisions Betances eventually locking down the closer role, with Miller likely ticketed to be the team’s top setup man. Hoch spoke with manager Joe Girardi, who did say that he’d like to have a set closer by the end of Spring Training. “I think guys like to know their roles, so I think if we can iron it out, I think it would be a good thing to do,” said Girardi. Using Betances in the ninth inning would cause his arbitration price to soar, although arbitration awards holds, strikeouts and ERA as well, so Betances looks like he’ll eventually be an expensive reliever regardless of his role.
- As Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun details, Delmon Young said at the Orioles‘ Fan Festival over the weekend that he entertained the idea of signing elsewhere and had the opportunity to do so, but his desire was always to return to Baltimore. “…my first goal was to come back here just because I like just being in a place where you’re guaranteed to have an opportunity to defend a division title,” said Young. “It could have been cool going to a different place and trying to win another one, but it’s always a lot better to defend what you earned the year before.” Young continued, explaining that he’s excited to have a larger role this year following the departure of Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, also adding that he’s much more comfortable in right field than left field.
- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons spoke with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on MLB Network Radio yesterday and acknowledged that the team has indeed talked about Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano (Twitter link). Gibbons said GM Alex Anthopoulos has been in touch with Scott Boras regarding the two free agents, as well as Philadelphia counterpart Ruben Amaro Jr. regarding Papelbon. However, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet notes (Twitter link), the Jays aim to be thorough in their search, so it makes sense that they’d explore all avenues.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked numerous times over the weekend about the club’s vacant leadoff spot, but he didn’t have much in the way of answers, as Jon Meoli of The Baltimore Sun writes. “Somebody’s going to lead off Opening Day, I’ll bet you,’’ Showalter said. “Our guys don’t talk about it a lot. I’ve said many times, take your best hitter and hit him first and give him more at-bats.” Here’s more from the AL East..
- Most of the heavy lifting is done, but the Rays would still like to make some improvements as spring training approaches. “Maybe now this is the time for ‘tweaking’ of the roster,” baseball ops president Matt Silverman said, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. “As we get closer to camp, we have a good sense of the depth that we have as well as a couple areas of potential need. Hopefully we can find ways to line up with other clubs to improve ourselves, but it’s not a necessity.” The biggest priority seems to be adding another middle infielder, preferably a defensively-strong shortstop, though there aren’t many options on the open market. Tampa Bay may also seek an experienced catcher to support Rene Rivera and another experienced reliever.
- Reliever Zach Britton doesn’t seem to think that he and the Orioles are right on the verge of a pre-arbitration agreement, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes. “I’m not sure,” said Britton. “Where we are right now, we’re still negotiating. There’s been a lot of dialogue the last couple of days, but right now there’s really nothing to update other than we’re just talking.”
- The advanced metrics are bullish on the Red Sox‘s improved offense in 2015, as Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes.
- Orioles center fielder Adam Jones spoke with reporters, including Kubatko, about a wide range of topics, including the loss of Nick Markakis and the Dan Duquette-to-Toronto rumors that dominated much of the offseason.
- New Red Sox starter Rick Porcello has the skills to be the ace of Boston’s staff, writes Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe.
We’ve already heard from the Orioles today, but here’s more news as their FanFest continues:
- Manager Buck Showalter told reporters, including CSNBaltimore’s Rich Dubroff, that the Orioles will have the flexibility to add players during the season. Payroll is currently right around $120MM. The club could also look for spring training additions. Earlier today, we learned the O’s are still searching for relief help.
- Showalter also said the Orioles’ leadoff hitter is likely on the roster, reports Steve Melewski of MASNSports.com. Alejandro De Aza is a possible candidate, although Showalter was noncommittal when asked outright about the lefty. He did seemingly imply that De Aza would bat first or ninth when in the lineup. Asked specifically about De Aza, Showalter said “if you asked what is a more important spot in our order, one or nine, I’d probably say nine.”
- Third baseman Manny Machado is prepared to return to action by the start of spring training, writes Melewski in a separate article. The 22-year-old is recovering from a partial tear to a ligament in his right knee. He already suffered a similar injury to his left knee earlier in his career.
- Another injured Oriole, catcher Matt Wieters, believes he’ll be ready by opening day, reports Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com. Wieters underwent Tommy John surgery last June. He’ll likely spend more time as a designated hitter this spring as he gets his arm back to full strength. In the final year of club control, Wieters is focused on the long haul. “The main thing is we have to get the arm healthy enough to play the rest of my career.”
Here are a few notes from the Orioles’ FanFest convention on Saturday:
- Executive Dan Duquette says he’s fully committed to helping the O’s win, MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli writes. Duquette had been connected to the Blue Jays’ CEO job (and he admits there was “substance” to those rumors, as Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com tweets). It now appears, however, that Paul Beeston will continue in that role with the Jays, since they’ve extended him through 2015.
- Duquette reiterated that he’s still looking for relief help, although the O’s are open to having Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia help in the ‘pen, Ghiroli tweets. The 22-year-old Garcia posted a 3.70 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 at two levels in the Red Sox farm system in 2014, but has not yet pitched above Class A.
- The O’s are also on the lookout for utility infield depth at the minor league level, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes (Twitter links).
- Starter Bud Norris would like to continue as an Oriole beyond this season, but says he has not heard anything about extension talks, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets. Norris, who posted a 3.65 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 165 1/3 innings in 2014, will make $8.8MM in 2015 before becoming eligible for free agency next winter.
Here is today’s list of minor arbitration settlements, with all projections coming via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz…
- The Orioles and Steve Pearce have agreed to a one-year deal that will pay the first baseman/outfielder a sizable $3.7MM sum, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links). Pearce had an unexpected breakout season with the O’s in 2014, batting a whopping .293/.373/.556 with 21 homers after spending the first seven season of his career in relative obscurity. The 31-year-old entered the 2014 campaign with a pedestrian .238/.318/.377 batting line over the life of 847 big league appearances. The unique nature of Pearce’s breakout led him to vastly surpass the $2.2MM estimate of Swartz’s projection model. His $3.7MM settling point was the exact midpoint of the $5.4MM at which he filed and the $2MM figure submitted by the Orioles (which is one of the more notable gaps you’ll see in arb filing numbers). With his case settled, the Orioles have only Zach Britton, Alejandro De Aza and Miguel Gonzalez remaining.
Remember, all arbitration situations can be monitored using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker.
It’s been a busy day around the AL East, as the Blue Jays made a pair of minor league signings, Dan Duquette spoke about his situation and other Orioles topics, and we collected some Rays notes. Here’s some more from around the division…
- The MLBPA would support Alex Rodriguez if the Yankees attempt to withhold his $6MM contract bonus for tying Willie Mays on the all-time homer list, Dan Martin of the New York Post reports. “The union would challenge any breach of contract with the union,” a source close to the MLBPA tells Martin. “A player can’t be punished again for something he’s already been punished for.” The MLBPA’s argument is that A-Rod is being further penalized for his involvement with the Biogenesis scandal, while the Yankees intend to argue that the homer bonuses are based around marketing and Rodriguez’s diminished reputation around baseball has negated any celebration of the milestone.
- “In some ways, the importance of ‘No. 1 starters’ has been devalued by the sheer quality of arms, in general, in today’s run-squelching environment, and mid-inning matchup play has increased the prominence of the bullpens,” MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince writes in an examination of how the Red Sox may not need a proven ace atop their rotation. Boston could model itself after the Orioles, whose recent success has been based around defense, relief pitching and big hitting rather than a superb rotation. On the other hand, Castrovince notes that the Sox could make a move for an ace at midseason if necessary, or any of the Boston rotation could still emerge as a true frontline starter as the season develops.
- The Orioles are “leaning toward” extending a Spring Training invitation to left-hander Mark Hendrickson, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports. The 40-year-old Hendrickson pitched for the O’s from 2009-11 and hasn’t appeared in the majors since, spending 2013 with the Orioles’ Triple-A team and 2014 in independent ball. Kubatko notes that the Orioles are interested in hiring Hendrickson as a pitching coach within the organization when he eventually retires.
Before a dinner event at the Orioles’ A-ball affiliate in Aberdeen this evening, executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette spoke to reporters (including MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko and Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun) about both his own tumultuous offseason and some other hot stove topics. Here are some of the highlights…
- Duquette doesn’t discuss ongoing negotiations for players, and that same logic led to his lack of comment about the rumors connecting him to the Blue Jays president’s job, and the discussions between the Jays and Orioles about a possible trade to free him from his Baltimore contract. “You know, these things happen in baseball. This is rare, but sometimes trades are made for managers, sometimes trades are made for executives and that’s the way it goes,” Duquette said. “It’s a part of the business. If there’s trade discussions that I have as an executive, I really don’t talk about those publicly, because you never know what’s going to come to fruition and what’s not.”
- Despite the Toronto situation, Duquette described his Orioles offseason work as “business as usual” and said he didn’t feel it necessary to reiterate his commitment to O’s upper management. “I’ve always done my job 24 hours a day and to the best of my ability,” Duquette said. “That’s a habit. We’re going to have another good ballclub this year. I’m confident of that.”
- The O’s have offered Nolan Reimold a contract, Duquette said, though he noted that the outfielder is also receiving interest from other teams. The Indians are known to be one of the clubs linked to Reimold this winter.
- Duquette said he is still looking to add a right-handed bullpen arm.
- The Orioles’ recent acquisition of Travis Snider gives the club added depth both offensively and defensively, Duquette said, and he thinks Snider’s bat is a good fit for Camden Yards. Duquette and Pirates GM Neal Huntington had originally discussed a Snider deal during the Winter Meetings, though talks were only rekindled a few weeks ago. “I had stayed in touch with Neal because we were still looking for a left-handed-hitting outfielder, so we continued our persistence and Neal made him available,” Duquette said.
8:23pm: Pirates GM Neal Huntington tells reporters, including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link), that the player to be named later will be “similar” to Tarpley. It seems worth noting, then, that Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reported earlier tonight that fellow Class-A left-hander Steven Brault was a possible name that could exchange hands.
7:32pm: It’s been a quiet offseason for the Orioles in terms of outfield additions, but the team announced today that it has struck a deal to acquire Travis Snider from the Pirates in exchange for Class-A left-hander Stephen Tarpley and a player to be named later.
Snider, who turns 27 next week, represents the first outfield addition to an Orioles club that has already lost both Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz this offseason (though the team did also re-sign Delmon Young). Where he fits into the overall picture for the Orioles is a bit less clear, as the team already has a pair of left-handed hitting corner outfielders in Alejandro De Aza and David Lough. However, Lough doesn’t have the same offensive ceiling as Snider and may be considered more of a fourth outfield option for the Orioles follwing this trade.
Snider, formerly a Top 10 prospect in all of baseball per both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, has not lived up to that billing nor his lofty draft status (14th overall in 2006), but he enjoyed a strong season at the plate in 2014 with Pittsburgh. After a slow start, Snider recovered to slash .264/.338/.438 with 13 homers in 359 plate appearances. Specifically, Snider was excellent after the All-Star break, hitting .288/.356/.524 in 188 plate appearances.
The Pirates and Snider have already agreed to a $2.1MM salary for 2015, thereby avoiding arbitration. Snider will be arb-eligible again next winter for the final time before hitting the free agent market in the 2016-17 offseason.
As for the Orioles, they’ll acquire a 21-year-old former third-round pick (98th overall in 2013) in the form of Tarpley. The Arizona native spent 2014 with short-season Class-A Aberdeen, working to a 3.68 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 66 innings of work (12 starts, one relief appearance). Tarpley recently ranked 14th on MLB.com’s list of Top 20 Orioles prospects and last winter ranked 21st on Baseball America’s list of Top 30 Orioles prospects. BA noted that Tarpley has the stuff to start, with a 90-92 mph fastball that touches 96 at times in addition to a curveball and changeup. He previously had a slider in his arsenal as well, though the Orioles opted to scrap that pitch so he could focus on his change, per BA. MLB.com praised him as an arm with upside, touting not only solid curveball and a changeup that shows potential, but also his pitchability and size.
Even more recently, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel ranked Tarpley ninth among Orioles’ prospects, noting that one scout labeled his curveball as a 70 (on the 20-80 scale), but Tarpley is inconsistent due to both inconsistent mechanics and some maturity/makeup issues, though he looks to be coming around on that front.
Beyond that, however, are the implications for the Pirates’ 2015 roster. With Snider out of the picture, a path is likely cleared for top prospect Gregory Polanco to receive everyday at-bats in right field. Polanco got off to a blistering start in 2014 but quickly cooled and eventually lost time to Snider in the second half. The Pirates will surely hope that Polanco’s 2015 batting line will more closely resemble his .328/.390/.504 batting line from Triple-A than his .235/.307/.343 Major League triple-slash.
Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun first reported that the two sides were nearing a deal. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports then reported that an agreement had been reached, and Tarpley was headed to Pittsburgh (Twitter link). Connolly added (on Twitter) that a PTBNL would be in the deal as well.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Ohlman, 24, spent this past season with Double-A Bowie in the Orioles’ minor league ranks, hitting .236/.310/.318 with a pair of homers in 113 trips to the plate. That production represented a significant step back from his 2013 campaign — a strong .313/.410/.524 showing with 13 home runs in the Class-A Advanced Carolina League. Baseball America ranked him ninth among Orioles’ prospects just last offseason, although clearly his poor showing in 2014 caused his stock to slip. In their report, BA noted that Ohlman’s 6’5″ frame is large for a catcher, and he struggles with both receiving and pitch blocking, though they did note that he possesses solid-average arm strength.