- Orioles skipper Brandon Hyde tells Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com that catcher Pedro Severino is going to “get a lot of innings behind home plate and get a lot of at-bats next year.” Hyde stopped short of firmly declaring Severino the starter over former top prospect Chance Sisco and defensive-minded Austin Wynns, but the 26-year-old Severino was clearly Baltimore’s best option in 2019, when he slashed .249/.321/.420 in 341 plate appearances. Unlike Sisco and Wynns, he’s also out of minor league options, which should afford him a lengthier leash in the event of some early struggles. Kubatko notes that the O’s are still in the market for some catching depth, although one would imagine that with three backstops already on the 40-man roster, that could simply be a minor league pact for a veteran receiver.
- Orioles GM Mike Elias said on Saturday that the club likes the collegiate pitching at the top of the 2020 first-year player draft, as reported by Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports (link). Of course, Baltimore has the second-overall pick in that draft, so the club has a realistic shot at landing their choice of arms among Emerson Hancock (Georgia), Asa Lacy (Texas A&M), Cole Wilcox (Georgia), or Reid Detmers (Louisville). Arizona State’s Spencer Torkelson is widely believed to be the top player available in next year’s draft, but the Tigers will have the first crack at his burly bat.
- Elias doesn’t sound overly stressed about the team’s remaining commitment to embattled slugger Chris Davis, saying in a fan Q&A–with Zachary Silver of MLB.com present–that the team will “work with [Davis] throughout the season“. While that doesn’t give an exact plan in regard to the team’s on-field usage of Davis moving forward, it certainly feels like a further reduction in playing time could be in the works. Davis got into just 105 games last season, logging a second consecutive season well below the Mendoza line (.179/.276/.326 overall). For what it’s worth, Elias also said that he doesn’t take Davis’ remaining three years “lightly” and that Davis remains an asset to the Orioles’ fan community.
- The Orioles and Indians are two of the four teams that have shown interest in infielder Jose Peraza, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). The Reds non-tendered Peraza last week on the heels of an unproductive season, but he’s only a year removed from a respectable showing. The 25-year-old’s also controllable via arbitration through 2022.
- Also departing the Tigers is right-hander Marcos Diplan, who was claimed by the Orioles, per a team announcement. He appeared in 38 games between the Double-A affiliates for the Twins and Brewers, totaling 68 2/3 innings of 4.85 ERA ball with 9.6 K/9 against 5.8 BB/9. Diplan was ranked among the Brewers’ 10 to 20 best prospects back in 2017 but has seen his stock dip in recent seasons as he’s begun to bounce around the waiver circuit. Notably, Diplan was has now been claimed by the Tigers and Orioles this winter — the teams with the No. 1 and No. 2 waiver priorities. He has a minor league option remaining.
The Baltimore Orioles are looking for a slew of rotation candidates to push the holdovers in competition for their two to three open slots this winter. John Means and Alex Cobb appear locked into their turns, and Asher Wojciechowski has a spot to lose. MASN’s Roch Kubatko quoted GM Mike Elias recently, on Wojiechowski: “…if the season started today I think he’d absolutely project for a rotation spot if he shows up in good health at spring training.”
Still, from everything Elias has said so far this winter, his primary goal is to add enough pitching depth at the major league level such that they don’t get caught promoting prospects up the totem pole before they’re ready. Baltimorebaseball.com’s Rich Dubroff explores potential retreads, casting Kevin Gausman as likely out of Baltimore’s price range, while he sees an Andrew Cashner reboot as within the realm of possibility. Cashner does check a lot of boxes in that he won’t cost much, he’s good for 150 innings or so a year, and he won’t be cowed by having to wear one here and there for the rebuilding Orioles. The Athletic’s Dan Connolly adds his own list of potential rotation options like Martin Perez, Shelby Miller, Drew Smyly, Chad Bettis, and other reclamation projects of that ilk.
Caleb Joseph is another ex-Oriole who could return. Elias won’t necessarily be drawn to former Orioles the way others in the building might, but he is on the lookout for a veteran backstop to complete their catching quartet. Pedro Severino, 25, is a lock for one roster spot after a mini breakout at the plate that saw him put up a .249/.321/.420 line while starting just over half of Baltimore’s games. Statcast ranked his glovework in the bottom half of the league in both poptime and framing, while by Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average, a -13.8 FRAA mark landed him next to last (Josh Phegley).
Chance Sisco should have a chance to claim the other spot, though his defensive marks didn’t grade out much better (-11.1 FRAA). Austin Wynns rounds out the group as presently constituted, though he spent most of last year in the minors.
The other well-known area of focus simply from the standpoint of needing to roster enough bodies to make it through a 162-game season is the middle infield. Hanser Alberto figures to see significant playing time at second, while Stevie Wilkerson, Dilson Herrera, Pat Valaika, Jose Rondon and Richie Martin make up the contenders, though nobody from that group is guaranteed – or even necessarily favored – to secure an Opening Day roster spot.
The latest from Baltimore….
- Fredi Gonzalez has been hired to join the Orioles’ coaching staff, the Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli reports. Gonzalez will work in the general role of Major League coach; as Meoli puts it, “González will influence several areas of the Orioles while sharing some responsibilities with major league field coordinator/catching instructor Tim Cossins, who did those jobs last year while serving as [Brandon] Hyde’s de-facto bench coach.” Best known for his time as the manager of the Marlins (2007-10) and Braves (2011-16), Gonzalez spent the last three seasons back in Miami as the Marlins’ third base coach.
- The Orioles have “definite interest” in Adeiny Hechavarria, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports. The veteran hit .241/.299/.443 over 221 combined plate appearances between the Mets and Braves in 2019, with the bulk of that offense (1.039 OPS over 70 PA) coming after Atlanta signed Hechavarria as extra depth during the late-season stretch run. Of course, Hechavarria is far better known for his glovework than his bat, with +20 Defensive Runs Saved and a + 2.5 UZR/150 over 6761 career innings at shortstop. The 30-year-old was available on a minor league contract for the Mets last winter, and could likely be signed for a similar non-guaranteed deal this offseason.
- Hechavarria would help address Baltimore’s middle infield situation, which GM Mike Elias described (along with back-of-the-rotation pitching) as offseason “priorities” when talking to reporters earlier this week. Since the rebuilding O’s aren’t going to break the bank for veteran help, Kubatko lists a few lower-cost veterans that might potentially fit what the team is looking for, though he notes that even moderately-priced options like free agent Brock Holt or the recently non-tendered Yolmer Sanchez could be too pricey for the Orioles. Jose Iglesias doesn’t appear to be on the Orioles’ radar, as Kubatko writes that “a poor off-the-field reputation…persuaded the Orioles and some other teams to stay away” from the former Reds and Tigers shortstop in the past. The O’s did make an infield signing earlier today by adding Dilson Herrera on a minors contract.
The Orioles announced that they’ve signed infielder Dilson Herrera to a minor league contract. Presumably, he’ll be invited to Spring Training to compete for a roster spot.
Herrera, is still just 25 years of age despite the fact that he’s five years and two notable trades — Marlon Byrd, Jay Bruce — removed from his MLB debut with the Mets back in 2014. Shoulder troubles have derailed the former top prospect’s development and limited his MLB chances, but he did play a full season in Triple-A upon returning to the Mets organization on a minor league deal last year. In 460 plate appearances there, Herrera slashed .248/.330/.501 with 24 home runs but a career-worst 27.6 percent strikeout rate.
Strikeouts haven’t typically been a major detriment for Herrera, who owns a career .280/.344/.471 batting line in parts of five Triple-A seasons. The departure of Jonathan Villar has left the Orioles quite thin in the infield, so Herrera should have a shot to pick up some at-bats if he shows well next spring and makes the club. He’s primarily been a second baseman in his career, but the Mets have him time at first base, third base and in the outfield corners while playing with their Syracuse affiliate in 2019.
- The Angels and Orioles swung a headline-grabbing trade Wednesday, when Los Angeles acquired righty Dylan Bundy from Baltimore. Even after picking up Bundy, the Angels remain “in the market for pitching,” said general manager Billy Eppler (via Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com). As for the non-contending Orioles, in parting with Bundy, they took “a big step toward our stated goals to accumulate and develop as much young talent as possible as the club rebuilds its roster and gets our talent level back to the level needed for consistent playoff contention,” per GM Mike Elias (via Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com).
4:16pm: The Orioles have announced the move. Their 40-man roster is down to 37 players.
3:06pm: The Angels have reached a deal to acquire right-hander Dylan Bundy from the Orioles, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (via Twitter). Minor league right-hander Isaac Mattson is among the players headed back to the Orioles in the trade, which should be the first of several moves made to add to the Angels’ rotation this winter. Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles will acquire a total of four minor league pitchers in the deal (Twitter link).
Bundy, 27, was the fourth overall pick by the Orioles back in 2011 and was touted as one of the game’s premier pitching prospects before a slew of injuries slowed his path to the big leagues. Once heralded as a potential ace, he’s instead settled in as a back-of-the-rotation arm in Baltimore, although despite a loss of velocity on his formerly blazing heater, Bundy still creates some optimism that there could be more in the tank.
First and foremost, it should be noted that he’s largely distanced himself from his early-career injury troubles, making 89 starts across the past three seasons as the lone source of consistency in the Baltimore rotation. He’s averaged better than a strikeout per inning over the past two seasons as well, and in 2019 posted a career-high 12.9 percent swinging-strike rate and 35.7 percent opponents’ chase rate on pitches outside the strike zone.
Bundy averages just 91.2 mph on his fastball at this point, but his ability to miss bats is undeniable. Drilling down a bit deeper, the spin rate on Bundy’s fastball ranked in the 95th percentile of MLB hurlers back in 2017 and has fallen in the 86th percentile in each of the past two seasons. His slider has generated whiffs at a near-25 percent clip over the past three seasons as well.
All of that said, Bundy’s bottom-line results simply haven’t been that inspiring since establishing himself as a rotation regular in Baltimore. He’s totaled 503 innings dating back to 2017 but pitched to a lowly 4.83 ERA and 4.76 FIP in that time. Home runs have been a particular problem for Bundy, who served up a league-high 41 long balls in 2018.
Bundy did work to counteract that in 2019, throwing fewer four-seamers and more changeups. The resulting 41.5 percent ground-ball rate was the highest of his career, and if he can continue to induce grounders on a more regular basis, he should be aided by an improved infield defense in Anaheim, where Andrelton Simmons and David Fletcher both grade as standouts with the glove. Simply moving away from Camden Yards and the many hitter-friendly parks the AL East has to offer could also shave a few home runs off his total moving forward as well.
From a contractual standpoint, there’s plenty to like about Bundy. He’ll be eligible for arbitration both this winter and next before reaching the open market upon completion of the 2021 season, and he’s projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn an affordable $5.7MM salary for the upcoming 2020 season.
The Angels, perhaps more than any team in baseball, have been decimated by injuries in recent years, so Bundy’s average of 29.7 starts over the past three seasons alone surely holds appeal to the Halos. He’ll slot into a rotation mix that features a returning Shohei Ohtani (who should be recovered from 2018 Tommy John surgery), Andrew Heaney and youngsters like Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barria and Jose Suarez.
Of course, the Angels are also known to be in the hunt for much bigger fish in free agency this winter, with Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg both rumored to be of interest to GM Billy Eppler and his staff. Other names on the market include Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel, and it’d be a rather notable surprise if the Angels didn’t add at least one high-end arm to join Bundy in the updated rotation — be it via free agency or via trade. Given Bundy’s relatively low salary, there’s ample financial room for the Angels to do just that; they’re currently projected to come in around $150MM in 2020 payroll, and their luxury tax considerations are only a bit north of that mark.
Turning to the Orioles’ return, the 24-year-old Mattson, 24 will slot into the upper levels of the Baltimore farm system. He’s not a high-end prospect and wasn’t considered to be among the 30 best minor leaguers in the Angels’ system by either MLB.com or FanGraphs, but he enjoyed a strong 2019 season. A 19th-round pick in 2017, Matttson soared through the Angels’ system with 73 1/3 innings of 2.33 ERA ball and reached Triple-A late in the year. He posted a gaudy 13.5 K/9 mark against 3.3 BB/9 out of the bullpen and went on to post even better numbers in the Arizona Fall League; in 10 2/3 innings of relief in the AFL, Mattson allowed two earned runs (1.69 ERA) on nine hits and three walks with 12 strikeouts. He’s generated average or better ground-ball numbers throughout his minor league tenure and should be a near-term option for the ’pen in Baltimore.
Bradish turned 23 in September and spent the season with the Angels’ Class-A Advanced affiliate after being selected in the fourth round of the 2018 draft. He logged a 4.28 ERA, 10.7 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 while running up a 43.9 percent ground-ball rate in 101 innings. MLB.com ranked him 21st among Angels prospects, praising his four-pitch mix and deceptive delivery but noting that said delivery also leads to control issues.
Both Peek (sixth round) and Brnovich (eighth round) were college arms drafted by the Angels this summer. However, neither pitched following the draft, as the Angels shut both down per an organizational policy for college arms (as noted by MLB.com’s Joe Trezza, on Twitter). Baseball America ranked Brnovich 107th in the draft class and Peek 193rd, while MLB.com ranked both just inside the top 200 (Peek 178th, Brnovich 185th).
The subtraction of Bundy leaves what already looked to be perhaps the worst rotation in baseball in even more grisly shape, although the Baltimore organization has made it abundantly clear that winning games in 2020 isn’t a priority. To the contrary — the Orioles are quite likely gunning for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft as part of what looks to be an Astros-esque rebuild under second-year GM Mike Elias (who was hired out of the Houston organization). The next several seasons won’t be pretty for Orioles fans, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll come out on top of this rebuild like the Astros and Cubs did, but their aim to do so is readily evident.
Villar enters his final season of arbitration control, so he’s not necessarily a long-term asset for the rebuilding Marlins. That said, it’s not hard to understand the thought process here. Villar has been a productive player the past few seasons, especially in 2019. Last year, he slashed .273/.339/.453 (107 wRC+) while playing in all 162 games for Baltimore. He started 158 of them somewhere on the middle infield. Between that durability, defensive profile and offense (bolstered by elite baserunning), Villar was worth exactly 4 wins above replacement, per Fangraphs. Finding that level of player for around $10MM isn’t easy.
Miami has Miguel Rojas and prospect Isan Díaz ticketed for much of the club’s middle infield work, so it’ll be interesting to see how manager Don Mattingly deploys Villar. Rojas, while a gifted defender, has never hit much, so it’s possible he’ll take on more of a utility role with Villar in the fold. It’d be a bit more surprising to see Villar cut into Díaz’s playing time. Speculatively, though, Díaz has faced some questions about his ability to stick at second base coming up through the minors. Perhaps Miami could look to expose him to other positions as they identify who shapes up as a long-term piece.
Riddle and Guerrero, meanwhile, will head out to make way for Villar and Jesus Aguilar, who was acquired from Tampa Bay on waivers. Riddle, a 28-year-old infielder, has never hit in parts of three seasons in Miami, combining for a .229/.269/.368 slash over 718 plate appearances. Guerrero, also 28, flashed power stuff out of the bullpen but never got quite as many swings and misses as one might expect. With an untenable 13.6% career walk rate, he ran out of leash in Miami.
It’s possible Villar and Aguilar could themselves wind up as trade candidates next season. If they produce, Miami could be motivated to flip them off to a team more positioned to contend in the short-term. Given the low acquisition costs of today’s moves, it’s hard to question the logic.
In Lucas, Baltimore brings aboard a recent 14th round pick out of Pepperdine. GM Mike Elias voiced an expectation that Lucas could someday mature into a back-end starter (via Roch Kubatko of MASN), but he was not rated among the Marlins’ top prospects. Instead, the decision to waive, and eventually trade, Villar seems motivated almost entirely by a desire to clear his projected salary off the books.