Thoughts on Koji, McClellan, other rumors & Betemit details
There’s been a bunch of rumors flying around today, so I thought I’d put my two cents in on what’s going on..
*The Cardinals are actively shopping pitcher Kyle McClellan as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported, and the Orioles are among the interested teams. He’s due to make $2.5 million this year, and would presumably give a team either a very good reliever or a serviceable back-end starter. Given the open competition and uncertainty in the O’s rotation (and bullpen) it makes sense that Baltimore would be interested and McClellan could end up competing for a starting pitching job.
But, how interested are the Orioles? I was told the organization is engaged in “at least three” active trade talks and it’s unclear what the Cardinals want beyond salary relief for McClellan. Ideally, St. Louis would want to get something in return given that McClellan has put up some fairly good numbers, and the Orioles really don’t have much to give up.
*One of the other potential trades the team continues to discuss involves Texas’ Koji Uehara’s possible return to Baltimore. Those talks have been going on since Dallas’ Winter Meetings, as MLB.com first reported, and while Uehara has a limited no-trade clause he’s made it no secret how much he loved his time in Baltimore. The problem with a potential trade with the Rangers –and really any trade of significance — becomes what the Orioles can afford to give up in return.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has acquired plenty of depth this offseason because the organization lacks any top-tier prospects in the upper levels of its farm system. They aren’t trading Adam Jones or any other young piece deemed part of the future. (ie. Matt Wieters, Zach Britton, etc.). I’m not saying Koji would demand a significant piece, especially given that he’s a 36-year-old reliever who is coming off a disastrous second half of the season, but if you’re the Orioles you have to be careful in what you trade for. Koji has an injury history, but he did perform well –when healthy — in the backend of the O’s bullpen.
You also can’t discount the fact that Uehara, who told several people close to him last fall that he wanted to return to Baltimore, was comfortable with the Orioles. They were the team that scouted and signed him out of Japan and manager Buck Showalter had taken great care in keeping Uehara on a specific plan –things like avoiding having him warmup and not come into the game — to keep Koji healthy.
*As for other trade scenarios, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes then what surfaces. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, my money’s on Duquette making a trade before Spring Training. The Orioles’ main priority at this point in the year is to shore up the bullpen, although I don’t see them passing up an opportunity to upgrade their starting pitching if they get the chance.
I don’t see free-agent starter Edwin Jackson signing in Baltimore for several reasons. (And before I get a thousand angry emails, I’ll add this is just educated speculation.)
One, Jackson has been part of winning clubs, going to the World Series recently with Tampa Bay and St. Louis and wants to win right away. Two, while money almost always trumps winning nowadays, the right-hander would have to be severely overpaid to pick Baltimore over other rumored-suitors such as Boston and St. Louis. And I don’t see Duquette –who has made it clear his preference is to sign free-agent arms to three-year and under deals — going above and beyond to land Jackson with more money and years. It doesn’t make sense given what else he’s done this winter –which is primarily add depth — and this organization isn’t a piece or two away where you can justify going out and overpaying to get a guy. Three, if Jackson really does have several three-year options –as FoxSports reported — and is also thinking about possibly taking a one-year deal to up his value (similar to Roy Oswalt), you can bet he’d go that avenue before signing a three year deal to play for a perennially struggling team at the hitter-friendly Camden Yards.
Do I think Jackson would be a good fit? Absolutely. It’s just unlikely at this point. Even if his market dries up in terms of three-year deals, I can’t imagine there wouldn’t be a host of clubs willing to take on the 28-year-old power arm on a one-year contract. You can never say never in baseball, so file this one under “unlikely” at this point.
*I keep getting asked about the status of pitcher Armando Galarraga. The Orioles have not signed him to a Minor League deal, although they remain fairly confident that will get done. The organization has yet to unveil its list of non-roster invitees for Spring Training, and there should be a few more additions to that list between now and camp.
*Dan Wheeler signing with Cleveland tonight takes another serviceable reliever off the board. Former Oriole Michael Gonzalez is still available, and here are a few other interesting names on the market: Chad Durbin, Arthur Rhodes, Jason Isringhausen, Chad Qualls, David Aardsma, Todd Coffey, Juan Cruz and Pat Neshek.
*Finally, I was thinking about this the other day and brought it up briefly at FanFest. The Orioles offseason hasn’t been exciting in terms of player acquisitions, there’s no way around that. But what has this club actually given up? Virtually nothing. Duquette sort of hedged at this a few times this winter, and it’s true. The team has made some additions in hopes of incremental improvement, and is largely banking on the young arms to rebound. The Orioles haven’t traded anyone or lost any viable piece on waivers.
Luke Scott was non-tendered and signed with Tampa Bay for a guaranteed $6 million — one year at $5 million and a $1 million buyout if his option isn’t pick up) — and you argue he’s the one big loss from last year’s club. But if the organization is going to see what they have in Nolan Reimold, who will get a chance to win the left field job, why not sign Wilson Betemit to DH for far less money than Scott and leave the potential to acquire another veteran bat on a one-year deal?
I’m not saying I agree with all the Orioles’ moves, but you have to look at pluses and minuses and –at the very least — Duquette has done a pretty good job his first few months in acquiring depth for very little cost or drawback to an already-sparse farm system.
*Finally here’s the lowdown on Betemit’s contract:
Betemit’s contract is worth $3,221,524 and is a two-year deal with a vesting option for 2014 with several incentives that could see him earn over $6 million total. He will make a base salary of $1 million in 2012 and $1.75 in 2013 and it’s a vesting-only option in 2014 for $3.2 million.
Signing bonus – $500,000, of which all is deferred without interest. His option vests if 700 plate appearances are reached in 2012-2013 combined.
Plus in 2012-2013: $50,000 for 300 PA; $75,000 for 350 PA; $75,000 for 400PA; $100,000 for 450PA; $100,000 for 500PA; $150,000 for 550PA; $150,000 for 600PA. Betemit would get $50,000 for All Star selection,$50,000 for Gold Glove; $100,000 for LCS/MVP; $100,000 for WS/MVP; $100,000 for Silver Slugger.