- It’s unclear how many “untouchable” players the Orioles have, but second baseman Jonathan Schoop, outfielder Trey Mancini and reliever Mychal Givens are among them, an executive from outside the organization told Kubatko at the Winter Meetings. The lone player of those three who’s not under control for the long haul is Schoop, who has two arbitration-eligible years remaining. The Orioles will attempt to extend him sometime soon, Kubatko suggests. Mancini is controllable for the next half-decade, including two pre-arb campaigns, while Givens is under wraps for four more seasons (he’ll be eligible for arbitration in a year).
- While talking Manny Machado with the Cardinals, the Orioles showed interest in a trio of right-handers – Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty and Jordan Hicks – as well as catcher Carson Kelly, Kubatko relays. In acquiring Weaver and Flaherty, the Orioles would accomplish their goal of getting two major league-ready starters for their top player. Of course, it’s questionable whether the Cardinals would even part with one (let alone both) for a single year of Machado. Weaver held his own across 60 1/3 innings last season for the Cards, who may not be in position to lose another starter with free agent Lance Lynn likely set to depart, while Flaherty ranks as MLB.com’s 48th-best prospect.
- The Orioles are reportedly trying to acquire Royals left-hander Danny Duffy, but Kubatko throws cold water on the possibility. Baltimore is indeed interested in Duffy, but it’s unlikely a deal with Kansas City will come together, in part because the Royals aren’t “aggressively shopping” the soon-to-be 29-year-old, Kubatko hears.
- Although the Orioles are seeking a left-handed hitter, they don’t seem to have interest in free agent Jon Jay, per Kubatko. That differs from previous offseasons when Jay was on the O’s radar, he notes. Conversely, Baltimore could consider Preston Tucker, whom the Astros designated for assignment Friday.
There was a “legitimate possibility” of the Orioles exercising Wade Miley’s $12MM club option for the 2018 season before a late collapse, writes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, but the team now looks likely to buy that option out for $500K. Baltimore will be on the hunt for a left-handed starter this winter, but as Encina points out, the free-agent market is hardly rife with appealing options. Most of the lefties available are reclamation projects or back-of-the-rotation starters, with 35-year-old Jason Vargas and 37-year-old CC Sabathia representing the southpaws that enjoyed the most success in 2017. Encina notes that the weak crop of lefty starters may force the O’s to really evaluate whether they’d like to “balance” out their all-right-handed rotation or simply set their sights on overall quality regardless of handedness. Of course, it should be noted that even the offseason crop of right-handed starters carries more question marks than sure things, and the O’s will need to add a minimum of two starters. Suffice it to say, GM Dan Duquette will have his work cut out for him.
More out of Baltimore…
- The O’s don’t look likely to make any significant additions to their lineup, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Catcher Welington Castillo is expected to decline his modest $7MM player option on the heels of a terrific all-around season, but Baltimore may simply hand catching duties over to top prospect Chance Sisco and Caleb Joseph. In the outfield, Adam Jones will return in center field, with Trey Mancini and young Austin Hays the favorites to work in the corners. (Mark Trumbo, then, would be the DH.) However, Kubatko does note that Hays, a 2016 third-rounder who skyrocketed through the system, won’t merely be handed a job. Inferring a bit, that’d suggest that the O’s could add a veteran outfield option to push Hays and possibly handle some corner work early in the year of Hays proves to need more development time.
- While the Orioles’ farm has long been ranked among the bottom minor league systems in the game, they’ve made some significant progress in that regard as of late, writes MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski. Melewski spoke to MLB.com’s Jim Callis and both J.J. Cooper and John Manuel of Baseball America in recent weeks, with each suggesting that the Orioles now rate more as a middle-of-the-pack farm (in the 15 to 20 range throughout MLB). The improvements come largely based on Hays’ breakout and the presence of Sisco, both of whom will likely exhaust their rookie status early in the 2018 season. But 2017 first-rounder DL Hall, 2015 supplemental rounder Ryan Mountcastle and a once-again healthy Hunter Harvey have helped bolster the top end of the farm for the time being. There’s still a lack of pitching help in the upper levels, however — an element that is particularly troublesome given the current state of the big league roster.
With Spring Training beginning to wrap up, details on teams’ Opening Day rosters are beginning to surface. Here are some notable decisions from around the league (decisions that directly impact the 40-man roster more directly are being kept track of in a separate post). Here’s the latest from around the league…
- The Orioles will place left-hander Wade Miley on the 10-day disabled list to open the season, but he’s not actually expected to miss a start, according to Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun. Miley’s DL stint will be backdated, and his first start wasn’t expected to come until April 9 anyhow. Also on the DL will be right-hander Chris Tillman, as has been previously reported, and Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander, who is dealing with elbow and shoulder issues.
- First baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini has made the Orioles’ Opening Day roster, as has outfielder Joey Rickard, per Meoli’s colleague, Eduardo A. Encina. It sounds as if veteran outfielder Craig Gentry will be making the roster as well, though Encina suggests that Gentry’s fate is ultimately tied to that of Rule 5 pick Aneury Tavarez, whom Meoli reported to be on waivers yesterday. If and when Tavarez clears or is claimed by another club, a 40-man spot for Gentry will be opened. Meanwhile, slugger Pedro Alvarez and second baseman Johnny Giavotella are Triple-A-bound to open the season, as are right-handers Alec Asher and Logan Verrett, per a club announcement.
- The Twins have decided against adding Byung Ho Park to the Opening Day roster, leaving him destined for Triple-A, as LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reports on Twitter. Adding Park would have required the clearance of a 40-man spot since he was outrighted last year. Lefty Adalberto Mejia — picked up in last summer’s Eduardo Nunez deal — has earned the club’s fifth starter job, Neal further tweets, seemingly bumping Tyler Duffey back to the pen.
- Right-handers Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman will fill out the Mets’ rotation to to open the year, Marc Carig of Newsday was among those to report on Twitter. It wasn’t clear for much of the spring whether Wheeler would be ready to go at the start of the year, but he showed well late in camp and will now attempt to regain the form that once made him one of the organization’s core players. That leaves Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero fighting for the final bullpen spot, with the other likely to report to Triple-A to stay stretched out in case a need arises.
- Yankees righty Luis Severino will take the club’s final open starting job, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets. He will look to regain the momentum he had as a rookie and leave a disappointing sophomore campaign in the rearview mirror. Meanwhile, the club has decided to option Rob Refsnyder, leaving Aaron Judge in line to make the roster and receive regular playing time in right, as Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com reports on Twitter.
- The Red Sox announced today that lefty Drew Pomeranz will open the season on the 10-day DL due to a flexor strain in his left forearm. That does not appear to be a new injury, though; instead, the club is lining him up to pitch as scheduled while opening the door to carrying an extra player to open the year.
While former first-rounder Alex Jackson got the headlines in the offseason trade that sent him from the Mariners to the Braves, Seattle is feeling good about its end of the deal, MLB.com’s Greg Johns writes. Righty Max Povse has impressed in camp, showing a bigger fastball than had been anticipated. Manager Scott Servais praised his current offerings while noting that “there’s a lot of room for growth” for Povse.
Here’s more from the American League:
- While the general vibe around David Price’s elbow health has been positive, details have been sparse, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. Price and the Red Sox have expressed confidence, but little in the way of specifics with regard to the precise injury and what needs to be done for the lefty to get back on the mound. Further, as MacPherson explains, based largely upon an interview with sports medicine expert Dr. Paul Fadale, there’s still plenty of reason for concern.
- The Orioles are continuing to cram power bats in the outfield, with Trey Mancini now joining the freshly re-signed Pedro Alvarez on the grass. As Jon Meoli of the Batimore Sun reports, Mancini spent the winter preparing for the possible transition, but is only now readying to do so in game action. The long-time first baseman would surely be a much more intriguing player if he were capable of playing a passable outfield, though he’ll surely be given plenty of MLB opportunity regardless. Mancini, who’ll soon turn 25, blasted three home runs in 15 plate appearances during his first taste of the bigs last year.
- Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at how the Athletics’ pen is shaping up. Righty Santiago Casilla was bombed in his spring debut, though he’s playing catch-up after a visa issue delayed his arrival. Lefty Sean Doolittle, meanwhile, is slated to make his first competitive appearance tomorrow. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be joined by another southpaw in the bullpen, but Slusser says that Ross Detwiler “is emerging as a strong possibility” to claim such a role.
Despite the fact that Luis Severino was dominant in 23 1/3 innings of relief last year after flopping in the rotation, the Yankees still view the 23-year-old as a starting pitcher, writes Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. That’s fine with Severino, who tells Davidoff: “Of course I want to be a starter.” Pitching coach Larry Rothschild tells Davidoff that Severino still has a starter’s mentality and adds some optimism that the talented righty can overcome the “bumps in the road” that he incurred in 2016. Severino shined as a 22-year-old rookie, logging a 2.89 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 50.3 percent ground-ball rate in 62 1/3 innings back in 2015. However, he was clobbered for an 8.50 ERA and 11 homers in 47 2/3 innings as a starter last year before shifting to the ’pen. Working in short relief, Severino posted a 0.39 ERA and allowed just eight hits with a 25-to-10 K/BB ratio in 23 1/3 frames. He’s competing with Chad Green, Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell and Adam Warren for the two open rotation spots in the Bronx.
More from the AL East…
- Andrew Benintendi has just 118 plate appearances in the Majors and still qualifies as a rookie, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Red Sox are nonetheless considering batting the game’s No. 1 overall prospect (per Baseball America, ESPN and MLB.com) third in their lineup this coming season. Doing so would break up Boston’s other top four hitters (right-handed bats Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez) evenly. “A lot of times, a player is going to tell you what he’s ready for or capable of and how you would think he would handle adversity by not being fragile mentally,” manager John Farrell tells Rosenthal. “If we didn’t feel that way about Andrew, I don’t know that he’d be in the big leagues last year.”
- Jose Bautista tells Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports that his final night as a Blue Jay in 2016 and his drive from Toronto to Pennsylvania (where his wife’s family lives) following the season were incredibly emotional due to the uncertainty of his impending free agency. Bautista acknowledged that he thought the Blue Jays would move on in the offseason but said he’s thrilled to return to the city where he first thrived as a big leaguer. Always candid when it comes to discussing the financial side of the game, Bautista called his journey through free agency “confusing … tough at times,” but said he’s content with where he landed. “It’s hard to complain when you’re playing the sport you love, and you’re making a lot of money,” said the polarizing right fielder. Bautista also acknowledged Baltimore GM Dan Duquette’s offseason comments, in which Duquette stated that he wouldn’t pursue Bautista because Orioles fans “don’t like him.” While the slugger said it was strange for any executive to make that type of comment about a player, he also shrugged the comments off and expressed no interest in offering any type of rebuttal.
- Trey Mancini’s spot on the Orioles’ Major League roster was put in jeopardy when Baltimore re-signed Mark Trumbo and acquired Seth Smith, but the 24-year-old first baseman still aims to force his way onto the roster, writes Rich Dubroff of PressBoxOnline. Mancini explained to Dubroff that his cup of coffee late last season (during which he homered three times in five games) was invaluable due to the confidence it instilled in him from day one in Spring Training. Mancini also spoke to Dubroff about the work he’s put into improving his defense at first base and the the experience of getting his first real exposure to outfield work as well.
- Dubroff also notes that right-hander Logan Ondrusek will undergo an MRI on his ailing right elbow. It’s been a rough spring for the Orioles righty, who’s been limited to just two appearances due to an ankle injury that he sustained while avoiding a collision. “I feel snake-bitten right now,” said Ondrusek, who is vying for a spot in the Baltimore bullpen. Meanwhile, Baltimore is targeting March 17 for Chris Tillman’s first start of the spring. Shoulder trouble has slowed Tillman this offseason, and he underwent a platelet-rich plasma injection back in December in an effort to accelerate the healing process.
Orioles closer Zach Britton said again yesterday that he’s interested in working out a long-term deal with Baltimore, tweets MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. Britton stated that he hopes to spend his “whole career” in an Orioles uniform. Of course, any long-term commitment to Britton figures to come at a staggering cost for the O’s. The 29-year-old has morphed into one of the best relievers in baseball, and arguably the single best reliever the game has to offer. Over the past three seasons, Britton has a comical 1.38 ERA with 9.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and an MLB-leading 77.9 percent ground-ball rate. He’s set a new Major League record for single-season ground-ball rate in each of the past two campaigns, including an unthinkable 80 percent mark in 2016. Both Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman landed $80MM+ contracts this winter, and one has to imagine that Britton could challenge those figures in free agency following the 2018 season, barring any sort of collapse. And, with an $11.4MM salary already agreed upon for the 2017 season, it’s not as if he hasn’t already earned quite a bit of financial security.
A few more notes on the Orioles…
- Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com takes a look at first base prospect Trey Mancini’s future with the O’s now that Mark Trumbo has agreed to a new three-year deal. As Connolly writes, Mancini isn’t considered an outfielder, so he’s not likely to platoon with trade acquisition Seth Smith in right field. However, the Orioles still could add another outfielder to upgrade the team’s defense (and possibly platoon with Smith), which would likely cost Mancini his roster spot and send him back to Triple-A. Connolly argues against trading Mancini, noting that he’ll turn 25 in March and has yet to have a dominant season in Triple-A. Connolly suggests that while Mancini isn’t considered a top-tier prospect league-wide, some additional time to prove he’s mastered Triple-A pitching could bolster his value. A bench role is theoretically possible for Mancini, but as the Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli observes, with a backup catcher (likely Caleb Joseph), outfielder Joey Rickard and infielder Ryan Flaherty all occupying spots, there’s only one place left, and the O’s may not be done adding pieces.
- GM Dan Duquette would still like a left-handed-hitting outfielder with a trustworthy glove, writes Kubtako, which keeps the Orioles alive as a possibility for someone like Michael Bourn (or, as Connolly suggests above, Angel Pagan). However, any new addition would be limited to a reserve role, as Adam Jones is entrenched in center while Smith and fellow lefty Hyun Soo Kim figure to get looks in the outfield against right-handed pitching. Kubatko notes that the Trumbo addition should put to rest any chance of the Orioles re-signing Pedro Alvarez or of the team serving as a landing spot for Chris Carter — another right-handed slugger to whom the O’s have been linked throughout the winter. Kubatko also adds that the Orioles aren’t going to move Chris Davis to right field, despite the fact that his glove there is passable, as his defense is considered too much of an asset at first base.
Tonight represented the end of the illustrious career of Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, as Boston was knocked out by the Indians in a sweep. The 40-year-old’s twentieth season in the majors was one of his best, as he led the league in slugging percentage and OPS (with a .315/.401/.620 batting line) while knocking 38 long balls in 626 plate appearances. Despite the team’s disappointing end to the year, the Fenway Faithful stayed on hand long after the game for one final in-uniform curtain call. MLBTR offers its congratulations to a player who was one of the greatest designated hitters ever to suit up. All told, he racked up over 10,000 MLB plate appearances with a monster .286/.380/.552 slash line and 541 home runs — 17th most in major league history.
As the Hall of Fame debate begins in earnest on Ortiz, here’s more from around the game:
- MLB commissioner Rob Manfred expressed optimism that there will be a positive resolution in “relatively short order” on the Athletics’ quest for a new park, as John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle (in a tweet) and Joe Stiglich of SportsNet California (Twitter links) were among those to report. Nothing seems to be imminent — Manfred suggested that something will come together within the next year — but it nevertheless seems that there’s some forward progress. He suggested that there are still several potential sites being explored in Oakland, with mayor Libby Schaaf having “made it clear to [Manfred] that baseball is her first priority.”
- Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune takes a long look at the Mariners’ many roster decisions this winter. Among other things, he notes that Seattle is open to bringing back Drew Storen, though the sense is that the reliever will look for a late-inning opportunity elsewhere. He also breaks down the decisions on many arbitration-eligible relievers; you can find their projected arb salaries right here. In the field, Dae-ho Lee could be retained as a righty option at first, but that’s no certainty. And one of the biggest questions is at short; Dutton notes that the club intends to look into a veteran option after a tough year for Ketel Marte.
- The Orioles may face a call on young first baseman Trey Mancini, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com explains. He had a solid season in the upper minors, but swatted three long balls in just five games of major league action late in the year. Some might suggest that the O’s shift Chris Davis to right field, but Kubatko suggests that’s not a likely outcome. And while Mancini could get a look there, the club hasn’t seemed optimistic about such a move. Instead, perhaps, he’ll more likely push for a spot in the DH mix — but could end up back at Triple-A, at least to start the year.
- Matt Harvey remains a wild card for the Mets after undergoing surgery to help alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome, but there’s a bit of good news on that front. Harvey is already able to throw, as he posted to his personal Instagram account. His specific timeline remains unclear, but that would seem to suggest that he’ll be ready for a full spring.
The Orioles have announced a few roster moves, including placing infielder Steve Pearce on the 60-day disabled list and reinstating reliever Darren O’Day from the 15-day DL. The club has also purchased the contract of first baseman Trey Mancini from Triple-A Norfolk.
Before sending him to the DL and ending his season, the Orioles shut down Pearce indefinitely Wednesday on account of a right flexor mass strain. Manager Buck Showalter said then that Pearce was a possibility to return later this month, but that won’t be the case. This injury could wrap up Pearce’s second tenure with the Orioles, who acquired him from the Rays prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. The impending free agent hit an outstanding .309/.388/.520 and mashed 10 home runs in 232 plate appearances with Tampa Bay this year, but his numbers dipped in Baltimore as he dealt with an elbow injury.
Pearce batted .217/.329/.400 with three homers in 70 PAs as a member of the Orioles and could end up hitting the open market, where the soon-to-be 34-year-old would try to outdo the $4.75MM deal he signed with the Rays last winter. First, though, Pearce will have to go undergo forearm surgery, which will require a four- to six-month recovery, Rich Dubroff of CSN Mid-Atlantic tweets.
O’Day, meanwhile, hasn’t taken a major league mound since mid-August because of a right shoulder cuff strain. While his return is a welcome one for an Orioles team with a three-game lead on an American League wild-card spot, O’Day hasn’t been as effective this year as he was in previous seasons. Injuries have been a problem, as O’Day was previously on the DL from early June until the end of July thanks to a hamstring strain. When O’Day has pitched, he has issued 4.3 walks per nine innings, more than doubling his 2015 rate and contributing to a jump in his ERA from 1.52 to 3.95. On the positive side, O’Day has posted a posted a terrific 10.87 K/9.
Mancini, whom the Orioles selected in the eighth round of the 2013 draft, has done nothing but produce since joining the organization. After hitting .280/.349/.427 with 13 home runs in 536 Triple-A plate appearances this season, he could be in line to make his major league debut. MLBPipeline.com ranks the 24-year-old as the Orioles’ fifth-best prospect and praises his offensive abilities.