The Orioles announced the signing of former Twins’ right-hander Kohl Stewart. Fellow right-hander Marcos Diplan has been designated for assignment to clear 40-man space. Stewart’s deal is a split contract which will pay him $800K if he stays in the majors, reports Roch Kubatko of MASN (via Twitter). While Stewart was used primarily as a reliever/opener with the Twins, he’ll be in line to compete for a permanent spot in Baltimore’s rotation, hears Joe Trezza of MLB.com (via Twitter).
Stewart, 25, is best known as being the fourth overall pick by Minnesota out of a Texas high school in 2013. The former two-sport athlete was named Baseball America’s #52 overall prospect after that season, although he never realized his lofty upside with his original organization. In fairness to Stewart, injuries could have played a part in that, as he went on the injured list eight times as a prospect. He has been healthy the last two years, though, and he made the majors in 2018.
In 62 MLB innings over the last two seasons, Stewart has compiled only a 4.79 ERA. More importantly, his 12.7% strikeout rate and 7.4% swinging strike rate are both well below average. Coupled with a relatively lofty 9.7% walk rate, that convinced the Twins to bump Stewart from their roster last month.
That said, there’s plenty of reason for the rebuilding Orioles to take a look. Stewart has two option years, so the organizaton can shuttle him back-and-forth between Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk for the next couple seasons. He also comes with six years of team control and just turned 25, so there’s plenty of time for him to emerge as a long-term success.
It’s not hard to see the appeal for Stewart, either. Calling Camden Yards home and facing the high-powered AL East may not be ideal, but it’s not hard to see a path toward a rotation spot. As Trezza notes, Stewart’s internal competition includes Asher Wojciechowski, prospect Keegan Akin, and Rule V selections Brandon Bailey and Michael Rucker. There are things to like about each, of course, but it’s a quartet light on MLB experience and track record.
Diplan, 23, has yet to make the majors but obviously holds some leaguewide appeal. He’s been acquired by five different organizations, four in the last six months. He made his mark as a Brewer farmhand but logged eight minor-league games in the Minnesota organization after being acquired in a minor trade. He’s been claimed (and subsequently waived) this offseason by the Tigers and Orioles, the teams with the top two waiver priorities. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see some other club further down the waiver order take a chance on him, too, even if in hopes of passing him through waivers themselves. Diplan has flashed strikeout stuff in the minors but that has too often come with a high volume of walks.