November 2010

Upcoming Dates

*As I blogged earlier, the Orioles will have to set their 40-man roster by midnight tonight and right now Zach Britton is the only lock to be added. The O’s will add “three or four” players to a 40-man that right now stands at 32 players with president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail using the word “conservative” in the Os approach, noting that keeping a player in the Rule 5 Draft is hard because he must stay on your active roster all year.

*While there were a few trades made around baseball during the two-day GM meetings it’s likely most of the player movement will come after the non-tender date, on Dec. 2, when a surplus of new players are available. Last year’s non-tender date was Dec. 12, so the 10-day difference should help kick-start some signings. Here are some other key dates coming up:

* Next Tuesday is the deadline for teams to offer arbitration to their Type A and Type B free agents, which puts them in position to receive draft pick compensation if they leave. The Orioles have two Type B free agents: Kevin Millwood and Koji Uehara.

* On Nov. 30, those free agents offered arbitration must decide whether to accept or decline that offer.

Talking some 40-man

The Orioles are expected to make a few personnel moves prior to Friday’s midnight deadline for setting rosters in advance of next month’s Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla.

The O’s current 40-man roster is at 32, after a pair cleared waivers yesterday, leaving them with room right now to protect an additional eight, although I don’t think they will use all those spots. Keep in mind that clubs can add players through trades or free-agent signings. They can also continue to remove players, but the rules prevent clubs from adding players to their 40-man roster from within their organization after the deadline until the Rule 5 Draft concludes. That Draft is after the Winter Meetings, so it’s conceivable that the Orioles could leave a few spots open, particularly given that there aren’t a wealth of top prospects that need to be protected.

Players are generally eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if left unprotected after four or five pro seasons – four years for players who were 19 or older when they signed their first pro contract; five years for players who were younger than 19.

Adding top prospect Zach Britton is a near-certainty and fellow pitcher Wynn Pelzer -who the Os got in the deadline trade of Miguel Tejada – is a pretty safe bet as well. You don’t trade for a guy and a few months later leave him exposed, especially since Pelzer -who was listed quite high by Baseball America’s recent ranking of the O’s system – has an arm that projects to be suited to the bullpen, i.e., a quicker route to the Majors.

Others who would need to protected or risk being exposed are: Matt Angle, Ryan Adams, Tyler Henson, Joe Mahoney, Pedro Beato, Billy Rowell, Tim Bascom, Steve Johnson, Pat Egan, Brandon Cooney, Chad Thall, Brandon Waring and Robbie Widlansky.

For more info on the Rule 5 Draft and its potential impact (who could forget the Rays losing Josh Hamilton?) MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo has a good story up here.

*I’ve gotten a few questions so here’s my completed unsolicited opinion on the Baltimore Sun’s report that the Orioles asking about the Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett. Tampa Bay reportedly countered by asking about David Hernandez. I don’t like the idea at all, and fortunately, it’s highly unlikely at this point. If you are going to trade a young, cheap arm that hits the upper-90s my thought is you better be getting back a bat. It’s all preliminary talks at this point –the Os also reportedly asked about the Twins SS, J.J. Hardy — but in my opinion, Hernandez is too good of a trade chip to waste on a slight upgrade of Cesar Izturis. Get the power bat first. Package Hernandez, or another young arm with a guy like Felix Pie for a middle-of-the-order bat or a true impact shortstop or starter. Not a potential rental. 

Agree? Disagree? Got a better idea? Let’s hear it. Email me or join the fun on Twitter

Gabino, Hughes off the 40 man

The Orioles announced today that right-handed pitcher Armando Gabino and infielder Rhyne Hughes have cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk.
 
This is important because the Orioles now have 32 players on their 40-man roster, which must be set by midnight on Friday. Any guys they need to protect, such as Zach Britton, will have to be added.

Gabino, 27, appeared in five games for the Orioles in 2010, allowing seven earned runs in 4.2 innings of work. Gabino appeared in 30 games (eight starts) for Norfolk, and was 7-0 with two saves and a 2.37 ERA (83.2IP, 22ER).

Hughes, 27, made his Major League debut for the Orioles on April 24 and appeared in 14 games, batting .213 (10-47) with four RBI. Hughes batted .258 (100-388) with 10 home runs and 39 RBI in 104 games for Norfolk in 2010.

Kranitz to Brewers

Former Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz is back in the big leagues. The Brewers officially relieved Rick Peterson of his duties on Monday and didn’t waste any time naming Kranitz as his successor.

Kranitz was recently hired as the Minor League pitching coordinator for the Houston Astros, but obviously was able to leave for a spot in the big leagues again. The announcement was made per a team press release and includes this interesting fact: Kranitz pitched for five seasons in the Brewers’ farm system after being
selected by Milwaukee in the fourth round of the 1979 draft.

Talk about coming full circle. Good for Kranny.

Russell expected to be bench coach

The Orioles’ coaching staff is one step closer to completion, as a Major League source confirmed on Monday afternoon that the organization is expected to name former Pirates skipper John Russell bench coach.

Russell interviewed with O’s manager Buck Showalter over the weekend in Baltimore and has yet to agree contractually, but according to the source “all wheels are in motion” and as of Monday afternoon it looks to be nearly a done deal.  Russell is expected to speak with president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail -who is in Orlando, Fla. for Tuesday’s general manager meetings – to hammer out details in the next few days.

Russell was named manager of the Pirates on November 5, 2007 but became one of three Major League managers dismissed a day after the 2010 season ended. He finished with a record of 186-299 in Pittsburgh and is still under contract through 2011, meaning that the Pirates will be responsible for paying the rest of his salary.

A former big-league catcher, Russell brings the Major League coaching experience Showalter wanted as well as the expertise to work with young O’s backstop Matt Wieters. Russell played part of 10 seasons in the Majors, including five with the Phillies, who selected him in the first-round of the ’82 Draft.

Following his playing days, Russell managed in the Minnesota Twins and Phillies Minor League systems before taking over the helm in Pittsburgh. He will be the fifth coach hired under new manager Buck Showalter, who will bring in Jim Presley (hitting coach), Mark Connor (pitching coach), Rick Adair (bullpen coach) and Wayne Kirby (first base/outfield).

The only remaining position to be filled on staff is that of third base coach, which could be done by retaining Gary Allenson or bringing in another external candidate. Whoever fills the role will likely have an infield background given that former leading candidate Juan Samuel -who was hired away by the Phillies – chose to decline the Orioles offer, leaving Showalter without a specific infield coach. 

Russell’s hiring is not official and both Showalter and MacPhail have declined to comment on the record until the entire 2011 staff is in place. Should Allenson not be on Showalter’s staff, he has been offered a position managing Triple-A Norfolk, which is where he started last season.

*Also, the Orioles have agreed to terms with Minor League free agent Mitch Atkins. A right-handed pitcher who spent time with the Cubs last season, Atkins will also get an invite to big league Spring Training.

A few Orioles odds and ends..

There should be an inbox filled with your offseason questions up on Orioles.com shortly, but I have a few quick notes to pass along as well…

*General manager meetings are slated to start Tuesday in Orlando and in all likelihood there will be a lot of talk and little movement on the trade front. My guess is there’s a few minor deals to be made, but more importantly it’s a chance for the GMs to sit down face-to-face and get the wheels in motion.

*MLB.com columnist Anthony Castrovince brings up some important points in his column about award-winning candidates on team that didn’t get much recognition. Here’s the Oriole-related graph on Luke Scott

DESIGNATED HITTER: Luke Scott, Orioles

Vlad Guerrero and David Ortiz are the bigger names, but Scott actually had the highest OPS of any qualifying DH in 2010, with a .902 mark. His park-adjusted OPS+ was 142.

It appears the 32-year-old Scott is just coming into his own as a Major League hitter. He had nine homers and a .996 OPS in August of a lost season, right around the time Buck Showalter arrived and instilled new hope for the future in the O’s and their fans.

In fact, with a slash line of .284/.368/.535, 27 homers and 78 RBIs for the season, you could argue that Scott could have/should have beaten out Guerrero for the AL Silver Slugger for DHs. But playing in Baltimore, on a team that won just 66 games, doesn’t do much to raise one’s profile.

What do you think? Is Scott under appreciated around the league?

*It’s never too early to start helping. Double-A Bowie is once again bringing back Louie’s Holiday Hope Project, which supports families in need. More info on the effort and how you can help can be found on their website or by clicking here.

*In case you missed it, I talked some Orioles offseason and possible Hot Stove action over the weekend with MLB.com’s on-air talent. You can catch that video here

A few Os pictures

A few pics from various stadiums on my first year of the Os beat..

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Please note the Orioles all-orange throwback uniforms at Tropicana Field. This was as close a pic as I could get, no one was too thrilled to be seen in this..

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Pictures anyone?

I know some of you are frustrated that the Orioles aren’t appearing in rumors. President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail is very, very close to the vest and keep in mind it’s still early. The majority of moves won’t happen until after the Winter Meetings, which are Dec. 6-9 in Orlando. The O’s are calling agents and getting in touch with players, according to manager Buck Showalter, Andy’s been working the phones ever since the FA period started last weekend. So, now we wait for the Hot Stove to heat up a little bit.

In the meantime I’ve been awful at posting pictures this season like I wanted to, so here are a few from the ALCS games in Texas.  Enjoy.

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This is at the Ballpark in Arlington. They have suites on the upper level with famous names, including Os pitcher Jim Palmer and Mickey Mantle.

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The Yankees taking batting practice. Notice the red shirts starting to file in already. The Rangers crowd was really, really loud and very pro-Texas. Nice to see, especially given Yankees fans tendency to take over…

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I had missed the Orioles trip down here and was pretty impressed with the stadium and atmosphere in Texas. Oh, and the pretzels were good which always ups the ante in my book.

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This is the view from the aux press box. During the playoffs, teams have to accommodate the hundreds of extra reporters and in Texas we were out in the outfield. Note, these are pretty good seats still to watch an ALCS game. The Yankees aux box seats were in the nosebleeds and only partially shielded for rain, thus I stayed in the cafeteria most of the time.

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Juan on what happened

Juan Samuel just had a conference call with the media and the subject of why he left Baltimore for Philly obviously came up. Here’s his response, courtesy of MLB.com’s Phillies reporter Todd Zolecki. If you missed it, the full story on Samuel’s departure is up here.

“I probably had about three conversations with Buck Showalter and Andy MacPhail,” Samuel said. “They wanted to see if I wanted to come back to the [third base] role I was before I took over the club and left the team. We talked about my role. But in the end things just didn’t come out the way I wanted them to be.

And then later here the Phillies came into the picture through my agent Rex Gary and things developed quickly. It was a decision I had to do, and my heart had a lot to do with it. And I think the right decision was made.

It was very unfortunate things didn’t work out with Baltimore, but we just couldn’t finish up the contract situation with Baltimore. And to be fair with the Orioles and everybody and Buck Showalter, I told them, time is crucial here for everybody and if they’re just going to continue to drag and we’re not going to get things done we’re just going to have to go our separate ways and give the Orioles time to find somebody if I didn’t come back. So time had a lot to do with it. And Philly came into the picture and it was a very good situation.”

Juan to the Phillies is official (updated)

Former Orioles interim manager Juan Samuel will not be a part of the organization in 2011. In a move that had grown from speculation to near-certainty the Philadelphia Phillies unveiled Samuel as their new third base coach on Thursday afternoon, a move that shifts Sam Perlozzo to first-base duties starting next spring.

Samuel’s name was not immediately in the mix for O’s manager Buck Showalter’s staff, but after Toronto’s  third base coach Brian Butterfield opted to remain with the Blue Jays, Showalter reached out to Samuel, who gave the new O’s skipper his word that he would return.

But the two sides couldn’t agree on terms, and on Monday MLB.com, citing several sources close to the situation, reported that Samuel’s future would likely be in Philadelphia.  

“[We are] grateful to Juan for the work he has done for us in a wide variety of roles this past season,” president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said in an email to MLB.com. “He is a true professional and class individual.”

Originally signed as a undrafted free agent by Philadelphia in 1980, Samuel spent from ’83-89 with the big league club and went on to garner National League All-Star honors three times during his 16-year career. Samuel, who became the first Latin-born manager in Orioles history when he temporarily took over for Dave Trembley, was enshrined on the Phillies’ Wall of Fame in 2008.

The opportunity to join his former team came when first base coach Davey Lopes announced his departure at season’s end. Given Samuel’s expertise in outfield/baserunning instruction -which is what Lopes handled – his name quickly became a target.

“I feel fortunate that we were able to add someone of Juan’s stature to our coaching staff,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said in the release.  “He was a tremendous Major League player and a big part of Phillies history and I’m looking forward to him passing on his knowledge of the game to our players.  He’s a great addition to our organization.”

Samuel isn’t the only former O’s skipper moving on to a new organization. The Atlanta Braves also named Trembley their Minor League field coordinator on Thursday.

Trembley became the Orioles manager during the 2007 season and maintained that role until he was fired in June.  During his four seasons as Baltimore’s skipper, his clubs combined to go 187-283.

Highly regarded during his 20 seasons as a Minor League manager, Trembley takes over for Tommy Shields, who had spent each of the past four seasons as the Braves Minor League Field coordinator.

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