The Orioles are pushing right-hander Chris Tillman back to the bullpen, as Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. It’s the second move to the ’pen for Tillman this season, as he’ll be replaced by right-hander Gabriel Ynoa on Sunday. As Encina notes, the Orioles’ rotation is devolving into a veritable game of musical chairs, with the struggles of Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez and Jeremy Hellickson all creating uncertainty as the team tries to hang around in a tight AL Wild Card race. It’s certainly possible that Tillman finds his way back into the rotation mix; Jimenez was only just recently bumped to the bullpen but will now return to start on Monday. Tillman has been dealing with soreness in his right wrist, per Encina, though he said the apparently minor issue hasn’t impacted him on the mound. It’s been a nightmarish season for Tillman, who has long been the most consistent member of the Orioles’ staff. His free-agent stock has already taken a massive hit in 2017, and a move to the ’pen doesn’t do him any favors, as it minimizes his chances to demonstrate improvement in the final few weeks.
The Rockies have acquired minor-league righty Jon Keller from the Orioles, per an official announcement. He’ll become the player to be named later in the April swap that sent right-hander Miguel Castro to Baltimore.
Keller, 25, has yet to move past the Double-A level through five seasons in the minors. Though he has had some intriguing moments at times in the lower minors, he has stalled out with command issues at Bowie. Over 53 total frames there since 2015, Keller owns a 7.13 ERA with 41 strikeouts and 51 walks.
Meanwhile, Castro — once seen as an intriguing prospect — has produced for the O’s this year. The 22-year-old carries a 2.65 ERA through 54 1/3 innings spread over 33 appearances. Those innings alone make the deal worthwhile and Castro won’t reach arbitration eligibility until at least 2020.
Of course, while he’s averaging 96 mph with his fastball and generating swings and misses at a solid 10.1% rate, Castro is also averaging just 4.8 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 on the year. There’s little chance that he will sustain his current .201 BABIP moving forward, so he’ll need to find a way to put away big league hitters to keep his earned run average anywhere near its current levels.
- The Orioles announced that right-handers Tyler Wilson and Logan Verrett have both cleared waivers and been assigned outright to Triple-A Norfolk. The O’s exposed both players to waivers as a means of opening 40-man spots for Pedro Alvarez and top catching prospect Chance Sisco. Wilson, 27, has logged a 5.02 ERA over 145 1/3 innings with the Orioles from 2015-17, and his numbers at Triple-A have taken a step back in the past two years as well. Verrett, also 27, saw just 10 2/3 innings with the Orioles this year after coming over from the Mets organization this past spring. He’s struggled to a 5.10 ERA with below-average K/BB numbers in Triple-A as well.
The Orioles announced that they’ve promoted outfield prospect Austin Hays to the Majors and designated left-hander Jayson Aquino to clear space on the 40-man roster. Hays will be making his Major League debut the first time he enters a game for the O’s.
The 22-year-old Hays has ridden a monster season in the minors to the No. 97 slot on MLB.com’s list of the game’s top 100 prospects and to his first MLB promotion. The 2016 third-rounder opened the year in Class-A Advanced and slashed .328/.364/.592 with 16 homers through 280 plate appearances before being bumped to Double-A Bowie. Remarkably, Hays posted a near-identical .330/.367/.594 batting line with, again, 16 home runs in 283 PAs following that promotion.
Aquino, 24, has spent the past two seasons in the Orioles organization but has totaled just 15 2/3 frames in the Majors. He’s logged a disappointing 6.32 ERA in that time to go along with a 16-to-6 K/BB ratio. Aquino has posted more appealing numbers in Triple-A, though, working to a 4.24 ERA with 7.0 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 in 114 2/3 innings out of the Norfolk rotation in 2017.
- Welington Castillo’s scorching bat is helping to keep the Orioles in the Wild Card race, and manager Buck Showalter spoke to reporters about how the backstop has met, if not exceeded expectations this past spring (via MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli). “He had that potential,” said Showalter. “I told you from the first day. I wasn’t that knowledgeable other than talking to people, people who I respect their opinion, watching some tape. Until you get someone, especially a catcher, he’s been so easy to work with. … He’s getting a good return for the way he’s approached this season, and so are we.” Castillo is hitting a ridiculous .376/.410/.688 with 10 homers since the All-Star break.
- Of course, Castillo could also be playing himself either out of the long-term picture for the Orioles or at least into a considerably larger contract with them. Given his recent surge at the plate, his cumulative .300/.339/.512 batting line and his career-best/league-leading 50 percent caught-stealing rate (22-for-44), I find it difficult to imagine Castillo exercising his $7MM player option for the 2018 season. Rather, it seems likely that he’ll enter free agency in search of a considerably larger payday and be able to find just that.
The Orioles announced that they’ve designated right-handers Tyler Wilson and Logan Verrett for assignment on Friday. That pair of DFAs will open enough room on the 40-man roster to formally select the contracts of catcher Chance Sisco, first baseman Pedro Alvarez and right-hander Richard Rodriguez — all of whom are being brought to the Majors as September call-ups. Baltimore has also recalled outfielder Joey Rickard and right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis from Triple-A Norfolk.
Wilson and Verrett have each taken the ball a few times this year for the O’s at the major-league level. But both have primarily operated at Triple-A — the former as a starter and the latter as a reliever.
Through twenty outings at Norfolk, Wilson worked to a 4.74 ERA over 114 innings, with 5.4 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9. The University of Virginia product has pitched in the Orioles organization since being taken in the tenth round of the 2011 draft, and could remain there if he ends up clearing waivers.
As for Verrett, he allowed 5.10 earned per nine in sixty frames while striking out 7.4 and walking 3.3 batters per regulation affair. The former Mets swingman, a 2011 third-rounder, has also not previously been outrighted and thus would not have the right to refuse a minor-league assignment if no other team decides to give him a 40-man spot.
While Baltimore did not end up making any outside acquisitions in August, leaving room for the team to use those two hurlers for depth in September, the organization obviously decided it would rather see some other players. We previously discussed Sisco and Alvarez, but the O’s will also have a look at two new pitchers that have little experience between them at the game’s highest level.
Yacabonis, 25, struggled in his first, brief taste of the majors earlier this year. He has managed a 1.32 ERA in 61 1/3 outings at Triple-A though that has come with just 7.0 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9. Rodriguez will make his MLB debut at 27 years of age after eight minor-league campaigns. He has pitched to a 2.42 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 over 70 2/3 frames at the highest level of the minors this year.
The Rangers have struck a deal to add righty Miguel Gonzalez from the White Sox, as Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun first reported (Twitter link). Per the report, the Orioles were also attempting to bring back the veteran starter, but weren’t willing to meet the asking price. Infielder Ti’Quan Forbes will go to Chicago in return. The Rangers have designated righty Anthony Bass to open a roster spot.
Though Texas isn’t exactly in prime position to snag a Wild Card berth — the team entered play today three games out and dropped its contest — it seems the club is at least interested in keeping that possibility open. Gonzalez will help bolster a rotation that no longer features Yu Darvish and has seen numerous other pitchers struggle. If they can crack the postseason, the Rangers will be able to utilize Gonzalez on their roster.
The White Sox have been quite aggressive in moving veterans, and Gonzalez now becomes the latest to go. The 33-year-old has been a steady presence since coming to Chicago after a four-year run in Baltimore. He’s earning $5.9MM this year — about $1MM of which remains to be paid — and will be a free agent at season’s end.
On the season, Gonzalez owns a 4.30 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 to go with a 38.1% groundball rate over 127 2/3 innings. He has been quite good since returning from a mid-summer DL stint, spinning 49 frames of 2.94 ERA ball — albeit still with just 35 strikeouts against 19 walks.
Despite the underwhelming peripherals, Gonzalez has typically managed to limit hard contact and suppress batting average on balls in play; opposing hitters carry a .278 BABIP against him over his six-year career. He doesn’t work with much velocity, but mixes five pitches and has managed to post a lifetime 3.88 ERA over 843 MLB frames.
Forbes only just turned 21 and was a second-round pick in 2014. But he has not really shown much yet as a professional. While playing mostly at third base this season, which he has split between the Class A and High-A levels, Forbes carries a meager .234/.281/.344 batting line with 11 home runs through 517 plate appearances.
The 29-year-old Bass has seen action in six MLB campaigns, but was bombed in two appearances this year with Texas. He has pitched to a 4.17 ERA in 84 1/3 Triple-A innings, though, with 10.2 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
We’ll see a number of promotions beginning tomorrow, as active rosters will expand to include any and all players on the 40-man. The Orioles have some particularly notable players slated to come up, per David Hall of the Virginian-Pilot (Twitter links): Baltimore will call up top catching prospect Chance Sisco along with veteran slugger Pedro Alvarez.
Sisco, 22, was seen as a consensus top-100 prospect league-wide entering the season. He hasn’t hit a ton this year at Triple-A, his first full season at that level, but does own a solid .267/.340/.395 batting line with seven home runs through 388 plate appearances.
Despite that modest slash line, Baseball America still rated him as the game’s No. 29 overall prospect on their midseason top 100. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com ranked Sisco as baseball’s No. 50 prospect on their own summer top 100, while Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen pegs him 83rd.
For the time being, Sisco will likely see only limited duty behind Welington Castillo and Caleb Joseph. But with Castillo facing an opt-out decision after the season — one which he seems fairly likely to take in the affirmative — the O’s could end up relying on Sisco quite a bit next year.
As for Alvarez, he’ll function as a bench bat against right-handed pitching for the O’s. He has swatted 26 homers in his 590 plate appearances at Norfolk on the season, though he does carry only a .293 on-base percentage.
Baltimore is also bringing up outfielder Joey Rickard and righty Jimmy Yacabonis for September, according to Hall. For now, at least, the team doesn’t plan to promote veteran third baseman Chris Johnson. He has slashed .307/.336/.517 over 253 trips to the plate, but would (like Alvarez) require the opening of a 40-man roster spot.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The trade that would have sent Zach Britton from the Orioles to the Astros included third baseman Colin Moran, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, but medical issues ultimately sank the deal. Moran was already on the disabled list after having suffered a concussion and a facial fracture when he fouled a ball off his face in mid-July, per Heyman, but there were also medical issues with one of the prospects that would have gone to Baltimore. That issue was found as the O’s sifted through medical paperwork, and though Houston tried to resurrect the deal in the final hours leading up to the non-waiver deadline, the two sides were ultimately unable to find a common ground. None of Kyle Tucker, Derek Fisher, Francis Martes, Forrest Whitley or Yordan Alvarez were offered in either iteration of the deal, he adds.
- The Orioles intend to consider calling up veteran Pedro Alvarez when rosters expand in September, manager Buck Showalter told reporters including Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun. While his experiment with playing the outfield has failed, Alvarez has put up fairly typical numbers at Triple-A, with a .241/.296/.446 batting line and 26 long balls over 584 plate appearances. Unsurprisingly, he has been more effective against right-handed pitching and might provide the O’s with a boost off the bench — if the team can manage to find a 40-man opening.