Baltimore Orioles Rumors


Orioles Notes: Urrutia, Borbon, Jackson

Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia is finally set to make his minor-league debut, Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports reports. The Orioles have assigned Urrutia to Double-A Bowie, and he will join the Baysox on Friday. Urrutia signed with the Orioles last year for $779K, but he was forced to stay in Haiti for several months after that with visa problems. Here are more notes from the Orioles.

  • Kubatko also explains why the Orioles didn't trade for outfielder Julio Borbon, who had been designated for assignment by the Rangers. The Orioles were rumored to be interested in Borbon. Kubatko says the Orioles didn't want to deal the minor-leaguers the Rangers wanted, and didn't see Borbon as an upgrade over Chris Dickerson. Borbon ultimately ended up on waivers.
  • Conor Jackson has not yet turned in his retirement paperwork, Kubatko notes (on Twitter). News of Jackson's retirement emerged last weekend, but for now, the Orioles are keeping him on the restricted list in Triple-A Norfolk. If Jackson decides to return to the game while he's still on the restricted list, he'll return as a member of the Orioles organization. Jackson hit .200/.333/.240 in nine games for Norfolk this year.



Julio Borbon Hits Waivers

1:01pm: Borbon will be placed on outright waivers after the Rangers were unable to work out a trade, Heyman tweets. That means the Astros will have the first crack at him should they wish to make a claim.

12:53pm: A trade now looks unlikely, writes MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, who notes that teams like Borbon but don't have fits on their roster. Borbon looks to be headed for waivers.

12:50pm: The Orioles won't pull the trigger on a Borbon trade, tweets Heyman.

11:16am: The Rangers are still expecting to trade Julio Borbon, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, who adds the Mets and Astros into the mix in addition to the previously reported Orioles.

After designating Borbon for assignment eight days ago, general manager Jon Daniels has until 2pm ET to pull off a trade for Borbon. Otherwise Borbon will be subjected to waivers, and teams (presumably the Astros) will have a shot at acquiring him for nothing.

The 27-year-old Borbon is a career .283/.324/.358 hitter whose value comes primarily from a strong glove and plus speed. He's stolen 40 bases in 53 career attempts (75 percent), and both The Fielding Bible and UZR suggest that he's saved seven to eight runs in 1,365 career innings in center field.

It's also been reported that the Twins have kicked the tires on Borbon but were more interested in a waiver claim than a trade. It's possible that the prolonged struggles of Aaron Hicks and an injury to Darin Mastroianni have altered that thinking, though that's just me speculating.

The Rangers are said to be seeking a pitcher with options remaining in any deal for Borbon.



Quick Hits: Borbon, Cubs, Rendon, Profar

Here are a few notes from around baseball:

  • The Orioles have had ongoing discussions with the Rangers about trading for outfielder Julio Borbonwrites MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. Borbon will need to be placed on outright waivers by 2pm ET tomorrow if he is not traded beforehand, but the Rangers appear confident that they will strike a deal. While Texas is interested in a major league capable pitcher with options, the Orioles are reluctant to give up arms and are waiting for the asking price to drop. For the O's, Borbon would bring depth, speed, and another lefty bat in the outfield mix. 
  • The Mets and Astros have also expressed interest in Borbon, Ghiroli further reports. Both clubs entered the season with among the least-entrenched outfield mixes in baseball.
  • Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein spoke about what the club's Wrigley Field renovation deal could mean for the quality of the squad that takes the field at the friendly confines, as reported by Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com. According to Epstein, the club "need[s] revenues to increase in order for us to execute our baseball plan. We expect them to [increase]." Epstein added: "We are not where we want to be right now from a revenue standpoint and therefore we are not where we want to be from a payroll standpoint." While Epstein said that revenue was not the sole "determining factor in our success," he needs it to allow the front office to supplement homegrown talent with "some aggression in free agency."
  • For his part, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts says that, "if [the deal] is approved, we will win the World Series." As Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times explains, however, there is some cause for skepticism. The Cubs' ownership has continued to push out its promised timeline for a championship. And with the Cubs topping Forbes' list of most profitable franchises in 2012, Wittenmyer questions Ricketts' continued unwillingness to be more specific about when and to what extent the budget will expand. 
  • Most big league second baggers do not start out at the position. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that several teams are considering moving big-name young players to second base, with major potential hot stove implications. ESPN's Keith Law (on ESPN Insider) broke down the possible in-season transition of the Blue Jays' Brett Lawrie, as well as two prospects who are keystone candidates: Anthony Rendon of the Nationals and Jurickson Profar of the Rangers. A Lawrie move would be motivated by gaps elsewhere in the Jays' lineup, with the primary impact being on Toronto's affirmative trade plans. The two highly-rated prospects, on the other hand, find themselves blocked at their natural positions. For Rendon and Profar, then, a move to second could be the only viable alternative to an eventual trade. 
  • With Rendon presumably blocked by Ryan Zimmerman at his natural third base, and with a Zimmerman move to first blocked for at least two seasons by Adam LaRoche, a switch to second seems attractive at first blush. Rendon is known as a very good fielder, and may soon be knocking on the door after starting the year destroying Double-A pitching. But even putting aside the presence of young incumbent Danny Espinosa, Law says that Rendon's lack of agility and suspect ankles should preclude such a move. Unless some drastic change intervenes -- Zimmerman's throwing woes worsen; the NL adopts the DH; unforeseen injury -- the Nationals could be forced to consider dealing Rendon after this season. 
  • On the other hand, Law explains that the shortstop Profar, blocked by Elvis Andrus, can certainly handle second. But he would be less valuable there, and the Rangers would need to convince Ian Kinsler to become a first baseman or outfielder. Law goes so far as to suggest that Profar has the capacity to be shifted to centerfield, despite having never seen time in the outfield as a professional. Of course, Profar has already established his value at a premium defensive position. Such a move would not only be risky, but would keep Profar out of the big league lineup for longer while he adapted to a totally new position. Law says that bringing Profar up to man second would add value to the Rangers right now. Certainly, if the club is unwilling to make such a move this season, it is reasonable to wonder (as many have) whether Texas might instead dangle Profar as the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal to acquire a top-flight starter or outfielder.



AL Notes: Blue Jays, Jackson, McFarland, Francona

The 2013 Blue Jays are the only team since 2009 to make three or more waiver claims in April, R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus notes. The Jays have claimed Casper Wells, Edgar Gonzalez and Mauro Gomez this month. The Jays are typically very active on the waiver wire, frequently claiming players and then trying to sneak them through waivers again in an attempt to build depth in their minor-league system. (Toronto also claimed four players in the last half of March: Todd Redmond, Guillermo Moscoso, Alex Burnett and Clint Robinson. Moscoso and Burnett were lost after other teams claimed them.) The Jays' waiver-claim strategy is unusual for a contending team, Anderson says. Here are more notes from around the American League.

  • Orioles manager Buck Showalter reiterates that 1B/OF Conor Jackson retired at least in part because his enjoyment of the game diminished, MASN's Roch Kubatko reports. "[Jackson] loved being with the organization and all that, but he's at the stage of his life where it wasn't something he wanted to continue to do," says Showalter. "I just wanted to know whether there was something he was unhappy about. It wasn't at all. He had been thinking about it for a little while and just didn't enjoy going to the park like he used to." Jackson appeared in nine games this year for Triple-A Norfolk, hitting .200/.333/.240.
  • Rule 5 Draft pick T.J. McFarland, from the Indians' system, remains in the Orioles' bullpen, notes MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. He has appeared in just one game so far, throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings April 6. The Orioles' recent trade of Luis Ayala to the Braves gives McFarland some breathing room, but he'll still have to pitch well to remain on Baltimore's roster the entire year. "We've been throwing him down in the bullpen. Keeping the ball in his hand," Showalter tells Ghiroli. "There will come a time this season, I hope, when it's not always saving him for long relief."
  • Indians manager Terry Francona isn't fixated on his past with the Red Sox, against whom the Indians have an upcoming series, MLB.com's Zack Meisel reports. "To be honest, I'm an Indian," says Francona. "I'm aware of the questions and everything, and I have a lot of great memories, but I don't think it's fair to the players. ... They don't need to be worrying about me having nostalgia week. They just need to try to beat them." The Red Sox let Francona go in 2011, and after a season working for ESPN, he took over as manager in Cleveland.



Conor Jackson Retires

Outfielder Conor Jackson has decided to retire, according to a tweet by the Norfolk Tides, the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate. Jackson signed a minor league deal with the Orioles last December and was their final cut this spring after posting a slash line of .302/.327/.528 with three home runs and six RBIs in 22 games. Norfolk manager Ron Johnson said Jackson is healthy but he has been wrestling with the decision to retire as his heart is just not into baseball right now, reports MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko (Twitter links)

"A lot happens during the season and I've been on teams where the 25-man roster starts one way and ends up a different way within six weeks," Jackson said when he was cut (as quoted by Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun). "It's a funny game and things work differently."

Things did work differently when Jackson managed only five hits in 25 at-bats for a .200/.333/.240 batting line in his nine games with the Tides. Taken by the Diamondbacks with the 19th overall pick in the 2003 amateur draft, Jackson was ranked by Baseball America as the 17th best prospect entering the 2006 season and he didn't disappoint averaging a slash line of .292/.371/.451 from 2006-2008 for Arizona. Jackson then contracted Valley Fever that offseason and was never the same. His last MLB action came in 2011 when appeared in 114 games for the A's and Red Sox, the most since his illness, hitting .244/.310/.341. The 30-year-old spent the entire 2012 campaign at Triple-A in the White Sox's organization recording a line of .277/.363/.434.

According to Baseball Reference, the 30-year-old made nearly $10.5MM during his seven-year MLB career (658 games) and finishes with a slash line of .271/.351/.407.



Rangers Notes: Stanton, Borbon, Orioles

Yesterday, we learned that the Rangers are "growing confident" that they'll be able to find a taker for Julio Borbon after designating him for assignment last week.  We already know that the Twins are among the teams with interest in the 27-year-old, but another interested club has emerged.  Meanwhile, the Rangers are in the early stages of plotting what would be a much bigger move.  Here's the latest out of Arlington, courtesy of ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider sub. req'd).

  • The Rangers are doing early reconnaissance and prep work on what it would take to land Giancarlo Stanton down the road, according to Olney.  In a poll last week, roughly 70% of MLBTR readers said that the Marlins star would be traded either this season or following the 2013 season.  Only 4% see Stanton signing a long-term deal to remain with Miami.
  • The Orioles have interest in trading for Borbon, but the asking price is high.  The out-of-options outfielder posted a .304/.349/.433 slash line for Triple-A Round Rock in 2012.  Recently, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan suggested that the Rangers might get a reliever in return for Borbon.



Orioles, Wieters Still Discussing Extension

APRIL 13: The Orioles would be willing to give Wieters six years in an extension, reports Buster Olney ESPN.com (on Twitter). Olney further notes, however, that there is no momentum in the long-term extension discussions between the O's and their star catcher.

APRIL 3: The Orioles recently offered a contract extension of at least five years to Matt Wieters, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. However, Heyman adds that there is no evidence that the two sides are anywhere near an agreement. In fact, Wieters (a Boras Corporation client) says that if the O's have made an extension offer to him, then he doesn't know about it, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Then again, the catcher says that he doesn't want to be briefed on contract talks right now.

Wieters, who can become a free agent following the 2015 season, avoided arbitration with the Orioles this offseason by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $5.5MM. Heyman notes that the bar for catchers has been raised significantly with Buster Posey's extension, but it's safe to say the two aren't exactly comparables. Posey already has a Rookie of the Year, an MVP and two World Series titles under his belt. His .317/.384/.509 batting line from 2010-12 is also far superior to Wieters' .253/.326/.423 performance during that same span.

A look at MLBTR's Extension Tracker shows that catchers with between three and four years of service time have typically signed extensions worth $15-16MM. That's too low for Wieters, whose salary is already north of $5MM. A number closer to Miguel Montero's five-year, $60MM contract with the Diamondbacks could be more reasonable, though Montero was just one year from free agency when he signed that deal.

Heyman asked Orioles GM and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette how talks between the two sides were going but was simply told, "We'll enjoy him while he's here," in reply. Wieters recently told reporters that he would be open to discussing a long-term deal in Baltimore.



Orioles Claim Alex Burnett

The Orioles have claimed right-hander Alex Burnett off waivers from the Blue Jays and optioned him to Triple-A Norfolk, the team announced via Twitter. The team has transferred Wilson Betemit to the 60-day disabled list in order to create space on the 40-man roster.

Burnett, 25, was designated for assignment when the Blue Jays claimed Casper Wells off waivers from the Mariners. Burnett's command has improved each year since his 2010 debut with, but his strikeout rate has declined as well. In 170 career innings, he has a 4.61 ERA, 5.6 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9. Last year he struck out just 36 batters in 71 2/3 innings, though he managed a solid 92.7 mph on his fastball. All three of his Major League seasons have come with the Twins.



East Links: Harang, Span, Romero, Halladay

Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes was surprised when Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports pointed out that his new team is off the the same 2-5 start as the Marlins were a year prior. Reyes, however, isn't worried about his team's outlook: "...there’s no concern at all. There’s way too much talent on this ballclub to continue to play the way we’re playing.” Here are some more links from baseball's two Eastern divisions...

  • WEEI.com's Rob Bradford hears that the Red Sox are not interested in trading for Aaron Harang (Twitter link). Reports over the weekend linked Boston to the recently DFA'ed right-hander.
  • Offseason acquisition Denard Span has given the Nationals a "new kind of offensive identity," writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The presence of Span and Jayson Werth atop the lineup forces pitchers to work, given the high volume of pitches the pair averages per plate appearance. Werth and Adam LaRoche both offer high praise for the Nats' new leadoff man, who was acquired from the Twins for Alex Meyer this offseason.
  • Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca chronicles the early work that former Blue Jays ace Ricky Romero has done so far in his attempts to rediscover his mechanics. As Dividi notes, given the $7.5MM owed to Romero in each of the next three seasons, Toronto has no reason to rush and every reason to make sure they get it right.
  • Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that struggling ace Roy Halladay will have as long of a leash as he needs to get things sorted out: "If he needs 30 starts he’ll get it. As long as he’s healthy and he keeps working at it -- as much as he needs."
  • Chris Dickerson is set to be added to the Orioles' 40-man and 25-man roster today, but speculation that it could result in a Steve Pearce DFA doesn't make sense, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports, who hears that the upcoming move won't involve Pearce.



Braves Acquire Luis Ayala

The Braves have acquired right-hander Luis Ayala from the Orioles in exchange for minor league lefty Chris Jones, the Orioles announced (on Twitter).

As Roch Kubatko of MASNsports notes (on Twitter), the move allows the team to call up outfielder Chris Dickerson and makes it easier to keep Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland on the 25-man roster.

Ayala, 35, returned to baseball in 2011 after not pitching in the Major Leagues in 2010. Since his comeback, he's reinvented himself, compiling a 2.50 ERA, 6.2 K/0 and 2.3 BB/9 in 133 innings of work. While he's not a left-handed reliever, Ayala gives Braves' manager Fredi Gonzalez another late-inning option with Jonny Venters currently on the shelf.

The 24-year-old Jones has a 3.58 ERA, 8.3 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 356 2/3 minor league innings. He's yet to pitch higher than the Double-A level, where he's maintained his solid strikeout numbers but owns a 4.11 ERA. He will report to Double-A Bowie for the Orioles.









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