- In-house issues prevented the Orioles from signing free agent infielders Ryan Flaherty and Ryan Goins during the offseason, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. Flaherty was with the Orioles from 2012-17 and wanted to re-sign with the club, even showing a willingness to take less money than he did to join the Phillies. Philadelphia made Flaherty an offer with a three-week deadline to accept it, but he wanted to hear from the Orioles before taking it. The O’s then submitted a counteroffer, though it “didn’t get club-wide approval in time to meet the Phillies’ deadline,” Encina writes. As a result, he said yes to the Phillies’ minor league proposal. Given that Flaherty has a late-March opt-out in his deal, it’s possible he’ll hit the market again and rejoin the Orioles before the season, Encina notes. Like Flaherty, Goins also settled for a minor league pact (with the Royals). However, he actually was set to sign a major league contract with the Orioles beforehand, according to Encina. Orioles ownership didn’t approve it in time, though, leading the former Toronto utilityman to head to Kansas City.
- The Orioles are dealing with some early injuries in camp, writes MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. Most notable is that of Jonathan Schoop, who was scratched from today’s lineup due to bursitis in his left elbow and is listed as day-to-day. The injury isn’t characterized as serious, but Kubatko notes that it underscores the team’s need to have a strong utility infielder on hand. With that in mind, Kubatko notes that Baltimore still plans to monitor the waiver wire and could continue to be active in picking up infield options in that manner. Kubatko also writes that righty Miguel Castro is suffering from patellar tendinitis in both knees and possibly some back soreness. He won’t make his first scheduled start of the spring. Castro is among the many internal candidates to fill in the fifth spot in the Baltimore rotation.
TODAY: Rasmus would earn a $3MM salary in the majors and can add another $2MM via incentives, per Feinsand (via Twitter).
YESTERDAY: The Orioles have agreed to a deal with free-agent outfielder Colby Rasmus, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter link). Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun had strongly connected the sides this morning. It’s a minor-league pact, per the report.
Baltimore has been looking for a lefty outfield bat all winter long, and may now have found its man. Rasmus will still need to earn his way onto the roster, of course, but the O’s presently have no left-handed-hitting outfielders on the 40-man after designating Jaycob Brugman earlier today.
Rasmus, 31, logged 129 plate appearances last year with the Rays before going on the DL. Rather than returning when he was back to health, though, the veteran outfielder decided not to continue playing and was placed on the restricted list for the remainder of the season, foregoing the remainder of the $5MM deal he had signed.
Now, it seems, Rasmus is interested in resuming his career. He had shown signs of bouncing back from a tough, injury-filled 2016 season in his early showing with Tampa Bay, posting a .281/.318/.579 slash with nine home runs in limited time.
For Baltimore, this move represents a low-risk method of bolstering their overall outfield unit. Rasmus has never come around against left-handed pitching, but has succeeded against opposing righties to the tune of a .252/.318/.463 lifetime triple-slash.
- Colby Rasmus, who signed a minor league contract with the Orioles yesterday, candidly spoke to the Baltimore media about his decision to step away from baseball last season while on the disabled list with the Rays (links via MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko and the Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo A. Encina). Rasmus and his wife were expecting their third child at the time, and the outfielder ultimately prioritized spending time with his young family above all else last season. The 31-year-old Rasmus has suggested in the past that he may not play into his late- or even mid-30s, but he felt pulled back to baseball this offseason as he began working out. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel, so I got back to working out and mentally I feel good,” said Rasmus. ” I feel like I still have a little bit left to give to the game and show the game some respect and go out in a good way.”
Feb. 21: Tillman will earn a $1MM bonus for reaching 125 innings and 150 innings, reports FanRag’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). He’d earn $1.5MM upon reaching 175 and 190 innings and an additional $2MM for crossing the 200-inning barrier for the first time since 2014. Heyman adds that some of the incentive payments are deferred, but any deferrals would be voided with a trade.
Feb. 19, 10:42am: Kubatko tweets that Tillman can earn another $7MM via incentives, meaning the deal can max out at $10MM.
10:18am: The Orioles are in agreement on a contract that will bring right-hander Chris Tillman back to Baltimore, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (via Twitter). Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets that it’s a big league contract, and Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com adds that it’s a one-year deal.
Tillman, a client of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, receives a $3MM guarantee, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (all Twitter links). Kubatko adds that Tillman is taking his physical this morning and, unsurprisingly, can boost his salary via performance bonuses for innings pitched.
The 29-year-old Tillman will return to the only organization he’s known as a Major Leaguer. The former second-round pick (Mariners, 2006) has spent parts of the past nine big league seasons pitching for the Orioles since coming to Baltimore alongside Adam Jones in the 2008 Erik Bedard blockbuster.
Last season was the worst full season of the veteran Tillman’s big league career, as the long-time rotation stalwart opened the year on the disabled list due to bursitis in his throwing shoulder and seemingly never made a full recovery. Tillman struggled to a ghastly 7.84 ERA in just 93 innings due to that ailment, posting the worst full-season averages of his career in strikeouts (6.1 K/9), walks (4.9 BB/9) and home runs (2.3 HR/9). His average fastball velocity (90.7 mph) dropped by a full mile per hour from 2016 as well.
Those undesirable results notwithstanding, the Orioles did well to bring Tillman back on a modest $3MM base. Last offseason, for instance, rotation rebound candidates such as Tyson Ross and Derek Holland each landed $6MM contracts, while Andrew Cashner took home a $10MM guarantee from the Rangers. That said, shoulder issues tend to throw up significant red flags for clubs, and several potential suitors for Tillman have already made rotation acquisitions this offseason (e.g. Mike Fiers to the Tigers, Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, Jaime Garcia to the Blue Jays).
Tillman joins Cashner, whom the Orioles signed to a two-year deal worth $16MM last week, as the second arm added to a rotation that was in dire need of some veteran additions entering the offseason. Baltimore had as many as three vacancies to fill, and GM Dan Duquette has said in the past that he’d like to add a left-hander to the mix, so it’s possible that there’s another addition yet to come. Assuming he passes his physical, Tillman will slot into the rotation behind Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and the newly signed Cashner, giving Baltimore a fairly experienced quartet of arms on which to rely.
If he’s healthy, Tillman could very well be among the best of that bunch, too. From 2012-16, he started 143 games for the Orioles and worked to a 3.81 ERA with 7.0 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 and 1.1 HR/9 with a 40.2 percent ground-ball rate. He doesn’t need to replicate those numbers to justify a commitment ranging from $3MM to $10MM, of course; if he can merely provide 30 mostly serviceable starts, he’ll be well worth the investment for the O’s.
Even with Tillman and Cashner on board, the team still faces an uphill battle in competing with the Red Sox and Yankees for a division crown. A healthy Tillman increases their chances of remaining competitive but also gives the team a potential trade chip midway through the year should Baltimore find itself facing a sizable deficit in the standings. The team’s ability to compete in the season’s first half will be among the most fascinating storylines to follow, as if the Orioles are out of contention come July, they’ll have tough decisions to make not only on Tillman but on free-agents-to-be Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Adam Jones and Manny Machado.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Baltimore had picked up the 25-year-old Brugman earlier in the offseason after he was designated by the A’s. He had been expected to compete in camp for a reserve role and perhaps still will if he clears waivers.
Brugman posted a .266/.346/.343 slash over 162 plate appearances last year. He also owns a .289/.353/.410 composite line across 605 total trips to the plate at the Triple-A level. Regarded as a solid corner outfield defender who’s capable of spending some time in center,
The O’s are said to be looking for a lefty-hitting outfielder, but evidently don’t expect Brugman to be their best option. It seems rather clear at this point that the club has every intention of bringing in a veteran from outside the organization.
The Orioles announced that they’ve signed veteran outfielder Alex Presley to a minor league contract and invited him to Major League Spring Training. Presley, a Sports Pro Services client, gives the Orioles a left-handed-hitting option to add to their outfield mix, which they’ve reportedly been seeking for much of the offseason. Given that Presley isn’t guaranteed a 40-man spot, it’s possible that the O’s could continue to explore other additions for that role as well.
Presley, 32, quietly had a very solid season at the plate with the Tigers in 2017, hitting .314/.354/.416 with three homers, 10 doubles, three triples and five steals (in five attempts). That marked his most productive stint in the Majors since a promising .298/.339/.465 showing as a 25-year-old rookie back in 2011, though it’s worth noting that last year’s output was buoyed by a .383 BABIP and 31.1 percent line-drive rate that both seem likely to come back down to Earth.
Overall, with 29 career homers and 30 steals in 1500 MLB plate appearances, Presley has demonstrated a bit of power and speed while hitting a combined .263/.306/.388 in the Majors. He’s had more power against righties but doesn’t have a huge platoon split in terms of batting average or OBP.
In the outfield, Presley has plenty of experience at all three positions, having turned in 620 innings of work in center, 690 in right and 1582 in left field. Ultimate Zone Rating is bullish on his work in left field, where he has the largest sample of data, but has given him below-average marks at the other two spots. Last season, in particular, was a rough season for Presley in the eyes of defensive metrics (-11 Defensive Runs Saved, -2.5 UZR, -2 Outs Above Average).
That said, he’s considerably more experienced in the outfield than Trey Mancini and could give the O’s a left-handed complement to Mancini, Adam Jones, top prospect Austin Hays, part-time outfielder/DH Mark Trumbo and fellow non-roster invitee Craig Gentry.
The Tigers remain on the lookout for a starter, which could lead to a Chris Tillman signing, Jon Heyman of FanRag tweets. Tillman threw for the Tigers on Saturday, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun adds (via Twitter). Both Heyman and Encina note that Tillman is deciding among three teams and likely to sign within the next day or two, and they agree that a return to the Orioles is a legitimate possibility.
- A Dickerson trade was not imminent as of last night, Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported (Twitter link), but a deal could come together with the AL East rival Orioles, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun suggests. The Orioles, who have been on the lookout for a lefty-hitting outfielder for months, “will undoubtedly inquire about Dickerson,” Encina writes. Dickerson has impressed Orioles manager Buck Showalter in the past, relays Encina, who adds that being in the same division hasn’t stopped the Rays and O’s from swinging deals at previous points (Baltimore acquired infielder Tim Beckham from Tampa Bay last season, for instance).
Orioles infielder Manny Machado “wants to be a Yankee and the feeling is mutual,” Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes. The Yankees were among the teams that tried to trade for Machado over the winter, so it’s no surprise that they’re continuing to eye him a year before he hits free agency. Regarding offseason trade rumors, Machado said, “Thank God nothing went down and I was able to come back, and see my guys that I’ve been with for seven years.” Although the 25-year-old is content to be an Oriole for now, it seems highly unlikely he’ll remain with them past this year, considering the massive contract he’d land on the open market. And while the longtime third baseman plans to spend the rest of his career at shortstop, where New York has a quality starter in Didi Gregorius, the Yankees would find spots for both of them, Nightengale suggests.
More from the American League…
- The Indians announced Friday that right-hander Danny Salazar “experienced an onset of right shoulder rotator cuff inflammation” last month during his offseason throwing program. The 28-year-old is “a couple weeks” behind the rest of the pitchers in Indians camp, per the announcement, though he has at least resumed throwing. It certainly doesn’t appear as if Salazar is presently dealing with a major injury, but the shoulder trouble isn’t entirely insignificant. Salazar missed roughly six weeks of the 2017 season due to shoulder troubles, and he has a history of right elbow issues as well. He’s also seen his name pop up in occasional trade speculation, most frequently being linked to the Brewers, though one would imagine that ongoing shoulder issues would temper some of the interest that other clubs may have in Salazar.There’s not yet any indication that Opening Day would be in jeopardy for Salazar, whom the Indians have penciled into a rotation spot alongside Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger are both on hand as options for the fifth spot. Injuries limited Salazar to just 103 innings last season, during which time he posted a 4.28 ERA with a gaudy 12.7 K/9 mark against 3.8 BB/9.
- Before he joined the Phillies on a three-year, $60MM contract in November, longtime Indians first baseman Carlos Santana proposed a five-year, $75MM deal to Cleveland, the player told Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. However, “the Tribe was never seriously engaged with him at all this winter,” Castrovince tweets. Shortly after Santana left the Indians, they added replacement Yonder Alonso on a much cheaper pact (two years, $16MM).
- Texas had interest in re-signing Andrew Cashner before he accepted Baltimore’s two-year, $16MM guarantee Thursday, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels confirmed to TR Sullivan of MLB.com. However, not only did the Orioles make Cashner a better offer, but it seems he wouldn’t have been a lock to remain a starter with the Rangers. “We talked to him and gave him a range of what we were thinking,” Daniels said. “He got a better deal. We even asked him if he would pitch in the bullpen, but he got a commitment to start, a multi-year deal, a good deal from Baltimore.” In 2017, his only year with the Rangers, Cashner paced their starters in ERA (3.40) and finished second in innings (166 2/3), though his success came in spite of a league-worst K/BB ratio (1.34).
Steve Adams contributed to this post.