The Orioles have signed catcher Jacob Nottingham to a minor league deal, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Nottingham spent some of 2021 in the big leagues with the Brewers and Mariners but was outrighted in June, thus making him eligible to sign a minor league deal during the ongoing lockout.
Although it’s a minor league deal, it’s noteworthy for the Orioles given their catching situation. They don’t currently have any catchers on their 40-man roster. In 2021, most of the time behind the dish went to Pedro Severino, who was outrighted at the end of the season and has since signed with the Brewers. Chance Sisco got some playing time in the first half of the year but was claimed on waivers by the Mets in June. Austin Wynns and Nick Ciuffo, who were also in the mix, were both outrighted off the roster at the end of the season.
The club has the consensus top prospect in baseball, Adley Rutschman, set to debut at some point in 2022 after he finished this year in Triple-A. However, they will need some other catching options on hand to cover the position until his call-up, or to act as backup to Rutschman later in the year. That means Nottingham has a decent path to some playing time in the big leagues next year.
Nottingham, 26, was selected by the Astros in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. In 2015, he was shipped to the Athletics as part of the trade that sent Scott Kazmir to Houston. A few months later, Oakland sent him to Milwaukee as part of the Khris Davis deal. He made his MLB debut in 2018 and spent three years as a frequently-optioned depth catcher, appearing in 38 total games over the 2018-2020 campaigns.
2021 saw Nottingham be the centerpiece of a game of hot potato between the Brewers and Mariners. Having exhausted his option years, he was designated for assignment by the Brewers in April. He was claimed by the Mariners and then designated for assignment again a few days later. Seattle traded him back to Milwaukee, who designated him yet again after less than two weeks. He was claimed by the Mariners a second time and then, just over week later, designated yet again. In the middle of June, he finally cleared waivers and was outrighted.
Over the past four seasons, Nottingham has only gotten into 53 games at the big league level, hitting eight home runs and slashing .184/.277/.421 in that time, with a strikeout rate of 38.5%. In 2021, amidst all that traveling, he got 45 plate appearances over 15 games. He hit three homers and slashed .150/.222/.400, with a strikeout rate of 44.4% in that tiny sample size.