December 2011

Orioles hiring new PA announcer for 2012

The Orioles are looking for the new voice of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, as the team announced Wednesday longtime public announcer David McGowan has stepped down due to a change in his availability.

The new public address announcer will be only the third in Camden Yards history, following Rex Barney (1992-97) and McGowan (1998-2011).

“It is with great sadness that I must step down as public address announcer due to a career change,” McGowan said in a release. “I feel so fortunate to have played even a small role in helping Orioles fans enjoy major league baseball in the best ballpark in the country.  It has truly been a privilege getting to serve the fans of Baltimore and to work for the Orioles organization.”

The search is on for a public address announcer for home games at Oriole Park beginning in 2012, the ballpark’s 20th Anniversary season. The PA announcer’s responsibilities include delivering all public address greetings, player introductions and other gameday announcements. The PA announcer works closely with Orioles Productions staff to create a fan-friendly and entertaining experience for fans at Camden Yards.

The ideal candidate will have a strong voice with excellent enunciation skills. Prior experience working as an announcer in a collegiate or professional sports setting is preferred. Applicants must be available for all 81 home games, as well as any make-up dates or postseason games, starting at least two hours before the scheduled game time. A complete job description can be found at www.orioles.com/voice.

Those interested in applying for the position should visit the website to submit a voice recording based on the provided sample gameday script. Submissions will also be accepted via mail at Voice of Camden Yards Audition, 333 West Camden Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. Entries must be received by January 25, 2012.

Braves did not offer Prado & Jurrjens for Jones

Thought I’d pass along this blog post from Braves.com reporter Mark Bowman..

The Braves did express interest in Adam Jones.  But they did not offer Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens to the Orioles in exchange for the outfielder.

A source with knowledge of the Orioles negotiations disputed a Baltimore Sun report that indicated the Braves were rejected when they offered Prado, Jurrjens and a pitching prospect for Jones.

The source said the Braves were told Jones was unavailable when they asked about him a couple weeks ago.  The Orioles later called the Braves to see if they would trade Prado, Jurrjens and two other “premium guys” in exchange for Jones.

The Braves said they were not interested and the two clubs have not had any recent discussions about these players.

***

People who have been keeping up with this blog, and the Orioles media coverage in general, know by now that Jones is almost untouchable. He’s 26, relatively cheap (despite an huge raise coming in arbitration) and he’s one of the players executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has gone on the record as saying he wants to build around. It’s highly unlikely they trade Jones this winter.

It’s also highly unlikely the Orioles win the Prince Fielder sweepstakes. His name won’t go away in conjunction with Baltimore, and while you can bet the O’s would love to have him, the consensus remains that he’d have to fall into their lap. The rest of the interested teams –most of which have a larger budget and better chance of winning more immediately — would all have to drop out of the running.

Duquette’s most recent comment this afternoon on XM mirror that sentiment. Asked about the O’s interest in Fielder, Duquette said “Our pitching staff has to be up-graded…all of our rebuilding process has to start with that”.

Personally, I’d rather see the Orioles go after one of the better starting pitchers still available in Edwin Jackson, who is young and would have some of the best stuff on the staff. Control is an issue and there’s also the question as to why this guy’s been shuffled around as much as he has. But Duquette has mentioned wanting to stay in the three years and under parameter for free-agent arms and Jackson will probably be able to get a longer deal — and more money — elsewhere.

 

A few notes on the FO, scouting changes & Orioles offseason

*With the additions of two pitchers (Dana Eveland, Tsuyoshi Wada), a backup catcher (Taylor Teagarden) and a veteran outfielder (Endy Chavez), it’s understandable that fans aren’t thrilled. Yes, none of these moves are big splashes. But, as of Monday, the Orioles do have several trade talks still alive and executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette mentioned several times in Dallas at the Winter Meetings what most baseball people would agree on: the free agency process is a slow one. Given what the Orioles have done, it’s fair to speculate that the remaining moves will be almost exclusively about adding pitching.

Do I think the team makes a big splash before spring training? Probably not. But I think they do make a few more upgrades for the Major League roster and continue to funnel resources toward enhancing their Minor League and player development system.

*Speaking of funneling resources, Duquette’s decision to reassign five of the team’s professional scouts –including scouting director Lee MacPhail IV — caused quite a stir among some of the fan base. I got a bunch of emails and questions on Twitter about how –and why — Duquette would move nearly every pro scout out of the department. (For a quick refresher, Todd Frohwirth, Jim Howard, James Keller, Ted Lekas and Jim Thrift were all informed, along with MacPhail, that they would be taking on new roles.)

“I really appreciate all the interest in our scouting department,” Duquette said Monday in detailing the reasoning behind the changes.

“The reason that we are doing it is we are redirecting resources from the pro scouting side of the house into video and baseball analytics. Because of the wide reach of video and the proliferation of the analytics, we can see players on video and we can measure their performance very precisely from the analytics, which means that we need scouting personnel in the areas of the recruiting market where we don’t have access to that as much on the amateur level.

It makes total sense.  It’s resource allocation.”

Duquette, who announced MacPhail’s reassignment several weeks ago, said at the time he has never had a pro scouting director in any of his previous stops and he didn’t really see the purpose in one. On Monday, he reiterated that sentiment and said the way technology –specifically video — has advanced since he was last in the game, he decided to further in his approach to Baltimore’s pro scouting.

“There is a definite thought behind the plan and redeployment of the resources,” said Duquette, who admitted he had more of a pro scouting department in Boston and Montreal because at the time technology simply wasn’t enough.

“The longer you are in professional baseball now, your complete body of work, your history, speaks for itself,” he said. “So there’s video resources and there’s other measures which are recorded and measured to handle the analytics.”

The Orioles are 27th out of 30 clubs in producing big-league players signed at the amateur level, which is the bottom 10 percent. They are also, not surprisingly, the worst team in the American League East at producing big league players from the amateur level.

“So, in an effort to make an impact on the franchise, I can argue that the scouts are most valuable to a team at the amateur level,” Duquette said. “They can have a bigger impact on this organization, they can have a bigger say in exactly how the organization does from a competitive standpoint if they are making good decisions at the amateur level.”

*The Orioles are also beefing up their international efforts under Duquette, with plans to add a crop of new international scouts in January. Legendary scout Fred Ferreira was hired earlier in the month and Duquette described his role as basically the same as director of international operations David Stockstill, although they are working “different parts of the world.”

Ferreira’s track record is beyond impressive: he’s signed 57 players who have gone on to the Major Leagues. The opportunity to make an impact on an organization is what originally lured Ferreira from the New York Yankees to the Montreal Expos to work for Duquette in building up the farm system. Given the Orioles’ lack of international efforts, there’s a similar chance for Ferreira –who has been out of the game the last few years — in Baltimore.

As for Duquette’s other recent front office hire, special assistant Lee Thomas, he will consult mostly on trades. Thomas, a very well-respected baseball executive, figures to be Duquette’s right-hand man, particularly since there are no plans for any other front office additions, such as an assistant GM type.

*MLB.com’s Rick Peterson and Jim Duquette discuss the Chavez signing here. That agreement is still pending a physical to become official.

*Nick and Christina Markakis made the holidays a little brighter for Nicole Sewell and her three children with a shopping trip at Target on Monday. The Sewell family were picked up from their home in a limousine and meet the Markakis family and the Oriole Bird at Target in Cockeysville. The family was selected with help from the Baltimore City Public Schools’ “School Everyday” program that assists families in need.

The shopping outing was coordinated through OriolesREACH and the Right Side Foundation, the non-profit organization established by the Markakis family in 2009 to help improve the lives of distressed children in Maryland.

Nick and Christina also have plans to donate winter coats to the Boys and Girls club of Callaway Elementary School in Baltimore for 21 deserving students. Markakis wears uniform #21 for the Orioles.

*That’s all I’ve got for now. Happy Holidays! To watch the Orioles’ holiday card click here.

FanFest autographs sessions

FanFest autograph vouchers will go on sale Saturday, January 7 at 10 am ET at www.orioles.com.  A preview of the sessions will be available at the team’s website no later than 9pm the night before (January 6) to allow fans to plan for the next morning’s purchase. Details regarding the number of autograph vouchers available, the cost, and more will be announced January 3 or 4.

Just like last year, all proceeds generated from the sale of autograph vouchers will be directed to the Orioles Charitable Foundation. Below is a refresher on the autograph policy..

Children ages 4-14 will have a specially designated Kids Only player autograph station that is free of charge and will operate continuously throughout the day. All other autograph stations at FanFest will require the advance purchase of autograph vouchers. The vouchers will be available at www.orioles.com, with all of the proceeds to benefit children’s charities through OriolesREACH. There will be a limited number of vouchers available for each autograph session, guaranteeing each fan who purchases a voucher for a particular session an autograph from each of the 3-4 players at the station. Advance purchase of autograph vouchers is the only way to guarantee an autograph. Any vouchers that are not sold in advance will be available for purchase the day of the event, but last year all vouchers sold out in advance, so fans are urged to purchase on January 7 to avoid disappointment.

For more details on this year’s FanFest, which will be held January 21 at the Baltimore Convention Center, click here.

Os agree to terms with Chavez

The Orioles crossed an item off their offseason shopping list, bolstering their outfield depth by agreeing to terms with veteran Endy Chavez on Sunday night.

Chavez’s deal is a Major League contract for one-year, confirmed a baseball source, and the expectation is the left-handed hitting Chavez will serve as a platoon in left field with Nolan Reimold. Chavez played 66 games in centerfield last season, giving executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette the necessary backup for Adam Jones.

Chavez, who will turn 34 before the start of the 2012 season, made a solid big-league return last season with the Rangers, batting .301 in 83 games. The Orioles will be his seventh team in 10 years.

Duquette had referenced just last week that his preference would be to find a left-handed hitting outfielder who could spell Jones if necessary. The 26-year-old Jones is deemed virtually untouchable in a trade –the organization would have to blown away by a deal – and Chavez’s signing doesn’t change that stance.

What it does do, is add another veteran player and give manager Buck Showalter some flexibility in using Reimold and Chavez. The departure of the left-handed hitting Felix Pie, who signed a Minor League deal with Cleveland this winter, left the Orioles without a true backup for Jones. Speedy outfielder Matt Angle, who bats left-handed and plays center field, made his Major League debut last season although the organization wanted him to get infield work this winter, hinting at perhaps a position change or more of a utility role.

The agreement with Chavez was first reported by the Venezuelan website Lider En Deportes. It  is stil pending a physical.

Haas hired, reportedly more reassignments

The Orioles announced Friday that Danny Haas has been hired as the club’s National Crosschecker. Haas spent the last 10 seasons as an amateur scout in the Boston Red Sox organization, and the 35-year-old most recently served as Boston’s Southeast Crosschecker.

Haas worked as the club’s Upper Midwest/Northeast Crosschecker from 2006-09, with Red Sox Major Leaguers Ryan Kalish, Ryan Lavarnway and recently-traded Kyle Weiland all signed during that time.

Haas was originally hired by Boston in 2002 –right at the end of Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette’s tenure as GM – and he served as a Midwest area scout. Haas was named Red Sox Amateur Scout of the Year in 2004 and signed Red Sox pitcher Michael Bowden in the supplemental round of the 2005 draft.

Haas’ hiring is the latest in a front-office overhaul that is expected to continue for the rest of 2011. Duquette announced the reassigning of Lee MacPhail IV, director of professional scouting, several weeks ago on a conference call to unveil new amateur scouting director Gary Rajsich and –according to a report Friday morning from FoxSports — five other pro scouts were also informed Thursday that they will be reassigned within the organization. Todd Frohwirth, Jim Howard, James Keller, Ted Lekas and Jim Thrift will be reassigned along with MacPhail, although their exact duties are still yet to be determined.

In announcing MacPhail’s reassignment, Duquette said that he had never had a director of pro scouting and indicated that he would prefer to allocate resources and people elsewhere.

“We will make other changes to the staff to make sure we are strong, not just in amateur scouting, but at all levels,” said Duquette, who added that the Orioles weren’t going to replace MacPhail’s position but instead would have “appropriate” staffing at all levels of the organization.

Duquette on the offseason

Here are some more offseason-minded quotes from executive vice president Dan Duquette, who briefly held court after Tsuyoshi Wada’s press conference. Duquette didn’t say much, but he touched on a few topics. Here are the highlights..

[on what the organization still needs to do] “Our offseason shopping list was upgrade the pitching staff and also sign a catcher. We’re still looking for a left-handed hitter for the outfield. And we also were interested in adding some infielders, and we’ve done that. We also need to be aware of a DH. We’re going to continue to look to upgrade the pitching staff and see if there’s an additional outfielder out there who can help our ballclub and then see if there’s additional bats that can help us.”

[on free agents and if they are close on anything]: “We’re still interested  in adding players to help our ballclub and we’ve got a couple trade discussion that are still alive.”

“We’re going to continue to work on building our team. I can’t speculate whether we’re going to add people tomorrow or next week, but we’re working on it every day.”

[on adding lefties in Dana Eveland and Wada]: “Whenever you can sign a good left-handed pitcher…certainly a pitcher of Wada’s caliber…Wada has to be terrific, in terms of his concentration, he has to be a very good fielder and precise with his pitches. You can’t get to the level that he’s at to be the top in your league without preparation, good mental toughness and understanding the game, so he has all those traits. He’s a very uniquely skilled player and we’re glad to have him. The fact that he’s left-handed is a big bonus because a lot of those teams build their club around left-handed hitters.”

[on how comfortable is he with the current pitchers]: “I believe we have improved our pitching. We’ve added two left-handed pitchers who threw over 185 innings, so certainly that’s additive to what we have. And we’re hoping that our other pitchers mature in the big leagues. We’re looking to continue to add to our depth. It’s a long season. We’re looking to sign as much good pitching as we can.”

[on if adding starters puts Jim Johnson in the bullpen]: “That’s up to Buck [Showalter] in the spring. I believe there’s a lot of qualified starting pitchers who end up in the bullpen, and I’d rather see them go from starting to the bullpen than the other way around.”

[on Luke Scott] : “We non-tendered Luke and Luke had some great years with the team, which we really appreciate. We just thought his value in arbitration was much higher than his actual market value. We are interested in Luke Scott. Whether we make a deal with him or not is another story.”

[on if Brad Bergesen will be a starter or reliever]: “That’s up to the manager. It really depends on how he pitches, right. I believe by having more depth, we make it more competitive for the starting pitchers going into our rotation, which I think is a good thing. I think that’s healthy.”

Wada introduced as an Oriole

As you know by now, the Orioles announced yesterday the signing of left-handed starter Tsuyoshi Wada to a two-year deal with an option for 2014.

Wada’s control is what ultimately sold Baltimore on giving him a deal –despite a mid-80s fastball — and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette likened the Japanese lefty’s style to former Oriole Scott McGregor.

I’ll have a full story on Orioles.com later, but here’s Duquette’s opening statement on Wada. The newest Oriole also did an admirable job in speaking his brief opening remarks in English.

DUQUETTE:

“We are excited to have Tsuyoshi join our team and we’re honored to have him join our pitching staff. Tsuyoshi has been one of the top pitchers in baseball the past two years having won 33 games in Japan. Last year he was the MVP, the Most Valuable player of the Japanese Baseball League in 2010, which is an extraordinary accomplishment. He started his career he was the rookie of the year for the great Japanese legend Sadaharu Oh. And he was also a four-time all star.

He has excellent control and he has command of a fastball, a curveball, a slider and a changeup. And he is someone our scouts had targeted and seen extensively the last couple years in Japan. Some clubs would be concerned about his velocity. But when I saw that he could throw his breaking pitches and his changeup over when he is behind in the count, to both left and right-handed batters, I felt like he had everything to contribute as a starting pitcher for the Orioles.”

Wada, who used one of his agents –Yoshi Hasegawa of Octagon Sports– for most of the interpreting, opened the press conference by speaking English on his own.

“My name is Tsuyoshi Wad,” he said. ” I’m from Shimane Japan. I played for Fukoka SoftBank Hawks. I would like to thank you, Baltimore Orioles organization to give me this opportunity. I was dreaming to play Major League Baseball since I was a college (pitcher). So this is a very special moment. I very (much) look forward to pitch at Camden Yards. Thank you.”

Os also non-tender Eyre & Reyes, offer Bergesen a contract

In addition to non-tendering Luke Scott, the Orioles also declined to offer contracts to pitchers Jo-Jo Reyes and Willie Eyre. Eyre was designated for assignment last week to make room for Dana Eveland on the team’s 40-man roster. Monday’s moves gives the Orioles 38 players on the 40-man roster and means they will tender a contract to Brad Bergesen, who was a potential non-tender candidate, along with the rest of their arbitration eligible players.

Reyes was claimed on waivers from Toronto in August and the lefty pitched to a 6.16 ERA in nine games (five starts) for Baltimore.  While originally acquired to add depth, the 27-year-old Reyes  –who was estimated to get a contract around $1.5 million in 2012 – wasn’t overly impressive and the Orioles will look to find more value through free agency or trade.

A former fourth-round pick, Bergesen is “Super Two” eligible, meaning –based on previous service time – he earns a fourth year of salary arbitration instead of the usual three. While Bergesen made the league minimum in 2010, he could make over a million in arbitration given his time as both a starter and reliever. Bergesen posted a 5.70 ERA in 34 games for the Orioles in 2011, including 12 starts, and ended the year 2-7.

The team tendered contracts to the other six arbitration-eligibles in Eveland, outfielder Adam Jones, infielder Robert Andino and pitchers Jeremy Guthrie, Jim Johnson, and Darren O’Day.

Scott non-tendered

As expected, the Orioles have non-tendered Luke Scott, opting to not offer a contract to the outfielder –who is coming off season-ending surgery – but not completely closing the book on his return.

“He’s had some good years for the club,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said of Scott, who was named the team’s MVP after the 2010 season. “We’d like to see what the market is for him. We would like to keep the door open on that.”

Scott, who has said previously that he would like to remain in Baltimore, underwent surgery in late July to repair SLAP and posterior tears in his right shoulder. The procedure, combined with the fact that he made $6.4 million last season, made Scott a prime candidate to be non-tendered and Monday’s announcement is hardly a shock.

Coming off a career year in 2010, Scott was plagued by shoulder pain –believed to be suffered in camp – and never looked comfortable at the plate this past season. In 64 games Scott batted .220 with nine homers, 22 RBIs and a .703 OPS in 64 games.

There’s a chance the Orioles work out a deal to keep Scott at a lesser rate, depending on how his rehab progresses and what other offseason moves the organization makes.  The 33-year-old Scott, who would have been eligible for free agency after the 2012 season, instead immediately becomes a free agent.

According to baseball’s Basic Agreement, when teams tender contracts, they can’t cut any more than 20 percent of what a player earned in salary and performance bonuses the previous season, or 30 percent of those figures during the past two seasons. Non-tendered players, however, can be re-signed by their teams at larger cuts.

The team’s other two non-tender candidates, Brad Bergesen and J0-Jo Reyes, are still being worked out.  There should be official word from the club later this evening.

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