February 2012

Orioles avoid arbitration w. Jones

The Orioles avoided arbitration with center fielder Adam Jones Tuesday night, with the two sides agreeing to a one-year deal and avoiding a potentially contentious hearing which had been scheduled for Friday.

The 26-year-old Jones –named the Most Valuable Oriole in 2011 – will earn a base salary of $6.15 million with $50,000 in performance-based bonuses, a figure which is just shy of the midpoint between the two sides. The Orioles originally offered $5 million, while Jones’ camp at CAA Sports countered with $7.4 million.

“He was our player of the year last year,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said of Jones, who set new career-highs in games played (151), doubles (26), home runs (25), RBI (83), stolen bases (12). “He’s a dependable player and we’re glad to have him.”

How long will the Orioles have Jones, now that his 2012 salary has been agreed on, remains the biggest question for an organization marred in a stretch of 14 consecutive losing seasons. Duquette has said all offseason that the primary focus was on what the organization would pay Jones in 2012 and –although he reiterated Tuesday that there remains a possibility of the two sides reaching a long-term deal in the future — it probably won’t be any time soon.

“I wouldn’t revisit it during the season,” Duquette said of Jones’ contractual status, which currently has him slated to be a free agent after 2013. “We’re glad we have a mutual agreement this year and then we can take a little bit longer and more detailed look at a future contract. But it was important for the team to get a deal done this year.

I think [negotiating during the season] is a distraction to the player and the team. I think everybody’s interest is better served by putting the interest of the team first.”

Jones, who was prepared to fly to Florida Wednesday for the hearing, was grateful that the deal was struck and he will be able to attend his nephew’s sixth birthday party in California instead. Asked again Tuesday night if he would be open to signing long-term with Baltimore, Jones reiterated that those discussions have to start by the Orioles.

“It’s on them, it’s not on me; I just need to go play,” said Jones, who dismissed any rumblings that he wouldn’t be open to staying in Baltimore.

“I guess I need to learn how to handle all that speculation now. But only the people closest to me know how I feel about everything.”

Considered one of the game’s best young outfielders, Jones has also dealt with a fair amount of trade talk this offseason, another foreign situation and one that won’t be going away with his new one-year deal. A fierce competitor and one of the most outspoken and outgoing Orioles, Jones hit .280 with a .319 on-base percentage and a .466 slugging percentage last season and figures to be in the middle of the lineup this year along with catcher Matt Wieters.

“I don’t just go out there to play, and say ‘I play in the Majors’,” Jones said. “I mean, yeah it’s cool, I’m in the Majors.  But while I’m in the Majors, I want to win while I’m here. If we want to build a winning team, let’s go. I’m all for it.”

With Jones agreeing to terms, the Orioles have no remaining arbitration-eligible players.

Orioles avoid arbitration hearing with Jones

The Orioles have agreed to terms with center fielder Adam Jones on a one-year contract, avoiding a potentially contentious arbitration hearing scheduled for Friday in St. Petersburg.

Jones, 26, batted .280/.319/.466 in 2011 for the Orioles, setting career-highs in games (151), doubles (26), home runs (25), RBI (83), stolen bases (12) and total bases (264) on his way to being named Most Valuable Oriole.

Hello, Sarasota

I’m officially down in Florida —  in preparation for the Orioles Spring Training in Sarasota– and while there will be plenty of content in the coming days about the O’s on this blog and Orioles.com, I wanted to take a second to shed some light on what the organization has been doing outside of upgrading the 40-man roster.

Laura Williams, the Orioles director of Florida operations, wrote a very informative article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that discusses the various ways the organization is helping the community and how the O’s new digs –with most of Ed Smith’s renovations completed in time for last spring — are finally feeling like home. I encourage you to check it out.

**You can also read my Spring Training preview on Orioles.com here.

Orioles to hold tryouts for ballboys & ballgirls

The Orioles have announced they will conduct an open tryout to find ballgirls and ballboys for the 2012 season at Oriole Park on Sunday, March 4.

The judges will include members of the Orioles’ front office as well as WBAL Broadcaster Keith Mills. Outgoing and athletic men and women ages 18 and older who are interested in serving as ballboys and ballgirls for the Orioles during the upcoming 2012 season are invited to try out for a position at Camden Yards beginning at 1:00 p.m. on March 4.

Those interested should dress casually, bring their own gloves, and use the Home Plate Plaza entrance to Camden Yards on the southwest corner of the ballpark. Resumes are also recommended. Complimentary parking will be available in Lot A.

In addition to being able to handle a glove and field ground balls, interested candidates should be personable, customer-service oriented and available to work the entire 2012 season.

Thoughts on Kim

A few quick thoughts on the controversy surrounding the Orioles signing of 17-year-old Southern Korean pitcher Seong-Min Kim…

A league source confirmed that the Orioles had signed Kim without going through the proper channels mandated by MLB. The Korean Baseball Organization complained, and rightly so, that that the matter must go directly through MLB and were angered because they claim they were not informed of the Orioles’ talks with Kim until he signed. So, they do have grounds to be upset.

It’s unclear how this happened exactly, but it could have been a result of Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette being away from the game for so long. Thus the apology statement issued by Duquette last night.

MLB is still reviewing the complaint and hasn’t made public a decision or course of action, and there’s a chance they could fine the Orioles or institute other disciplinary action. There’s also about an equal chance that they take Duquette’s apology, in which he stated there was an “unintentional breach of protocol” at face value and try to mend things with the Korean Baseball Association.  It’s unclear right now when and how this will all play out, but hopefully that sheds a little more light on what’s going on.  It’s also equally unclear what will happen in terms of the KBA’s plan to ban Orioles’ scouts from attending amateur games in the future.

Duquette issues apology to KBA

Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette issued an apology Friday night for what he deemed an “unintentional breach of protocol” in the club’s signing of 17-year-old South Korean pitcher Seong-Min Kim.

“On behalf of the Orioles organization, I offer a sincere apology to the Korea Baseball Organization and the Korea Baseball Association for the club’s unintentional breach of protocol in failing to tender a status check in the process of signing Seong-Min Kim,” Duquette said in a statement. “The Orioles respect Major League Baseball’s recruiting policies and the governing bodies and people that contribute to the growth of baseball around the world.”

The statement comes on the heels of a firestorm by the Korean Baseball Organization, which filed a letter of protest against the Baltimore Orioles to Major League Baseball –claiming the club broke protocol — on Tuesday. The KBA took its issue one step further Friday morning by announcing plans to ban Orioles’ scouts from attending its amateur games.

The KBO reportedly wants an explanation for why it had not been informed discussions were taking place between the Orioles and Kim, and a League source confirmed MLB is presently looking into the matter to determine a proper course of action. Although there is nothing preventing foreign teams from signing Korean amateurs, the process requires teams to make inquiries to the KBO first. Players from outside the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico are permitted to sign with Major League teams at age 16, but the KBA claims Kim was in violation of its rules by being in contact with a team prior to his final year of high school.

“MLB will let us know once they have decided upon a proper measure of response,” Michael Park, the KBO’s operations manager, told Reuters on Tuesday. “Poaching our players like this makes it difficult for [South Korea] to keep its scouting rules tight and to develop our youth sports programs.

“We only have 50 high school teams, and taking promising players away like this makes it very hard for Korean baseball to stay strong.”

Duquette –who has made it no secret he plans to ramp up the Orioles international efforts — told MLB.com earlier this week that the club was “cooperating with MLB to resolve this concern”. Friday’s statement is the first step in what the organization hopes is a process that can be resolved quickly and positively.

Kim had been pitching for the 18-and-under South Korean national team, but numerous outlets reported Wednesday that he is now barred from playing or coaching baseball in his home country. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound left-hander throws a fastball, curveball, changeup and slider and his signing with the Orioles was announced on Jan. 30.

At the time of his signing, Duquette was quoted in a news release as saying, “We are glad to sign a player that our scouts feel is one of the top amateur left-handed pitchers in South Korea. Kim has an excellent curveball and very good control.”

MLB has yet to issue a comment or publicly announce how it will handle the matter.

Duquette issues statement on Kim

Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette has issued the following statement regarding Seong-Min Kim.

 “On behalf of the Orioles organization, I offer a sincere apology to the Korea Baseball Organization and the Korea Baseball Association for the club’s unintentional breach of protocol in failing to tender a status check in the process of signing Seong-Min Kim. The Orioles respect Major League Baseball’s recruiting policies and the governing bodies and people that contribute to the growth of baseball around the world.”

I’ll have a full story coming shortly to update the entire situation.

Ayala signing, etc.

The Orioles signed veteran reliever Luis Ayala to a one-year deal with an option on Friday, and the club also made official a pair of non-roster invitees in infielder Nick Johnson and catcher Dane Sardinha.

Outfield prospects L.J. Hoes and Xaviery Avery, who both spent last season with Double-A Bowie have also received invites to big league Spring Training.

Ayala, 34, has spent seven seasons in the big leagues, and he was 2-2 with a 2.09 ERA in 52 appearances for the Yankees last season.  The right-hander had an ERA above 5.00 in 2008 and ’09 — a span in which Ayala pitched for four different teams — and did not pitch in the big leagues in 2010. But his success with the Yankees last year prompted multiple clubs to show interest in him this winter, and he will compete for a back-end of the bullpen job with Baltimore.

Ayala along with new acquisition Matt Lindstrom could both be used as setup man to Jim Johnson, who is all but assured the closer role given Kevin Gregg’s struggles last season. The Orioles have ideally wanted to slot Lindstrom in the seventh inning, and are hoping to find an arm to handle the eighth and bridge to Johnson.

Johnson will add depth at the first base position, while Sardinha will do the same at catcher. Given the Orioles’ wealth of pitching additions, the team will need several catchers at big league camp and Sardinha –who is more of a long shot to make the club – figures to compete for a spot at Triple-A.

To clear room for Ayala on the 40-man roster, outfielder Matt Angle was designated for assignment. The 26-year-old Angle batted .271/.347/.344 in 108 games for Triple-A Norfolk in 2011 before joining the Orioles for 31 games.

Report: South Korea to ban O’s scouts

BALTIMORE — The Korean Baseball Organization, which officially filed a letter of protest against the Baltimore Orioles to Major League Baseball on Tuesday, took their issue one step further Friday by announcing plans to ban the organization’s scouts from attending its amateur games.

South Korea’s amateur baseball governing body told the Associated Press that they planned on informing MLB of the decision on Friday. The KBO is alleging that the Orioles broke protocol by signing 17-year-old pitcher Kim Seong-Min. According to a baseball source, MLB is investigating the organization’s claim, which was filed as an official complaint to the League office on Tuesday.

The KBO told Reuters on Tuesday it wanted an explanation for why it had not been informed discussions were taking place between the Orioles and Kim.

“We have sent an official complaint to MLB,” said Michael Park, the KBO’s operations manager. “We were told they will look into the case. … They are investigating whether the Orioles did sign Kim to a contract.”

Although there is nothing stopping foreign teams from signing Korean amateur players, the process needs to be done after making inquiries to the KBO first, the organization said to Reuters.

“We are cooperating with MLB to resolve this concern,” Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said in a text message to MLB.com.

Kim, who had been pitching for the 18-and-under South Korean national team, is a 5-foot-11, 180-pound left-hander who throws a fastball, curveball, changeup and slider. His signing with the Orioles was announced Jan. 30, with Duquette quoted in the press release as saying, “We are glad to sign a player that our scouts feel is one of the top amateur left-handed pitchers in South Korea. Kim has an excellent curveball and very good control.”

Park declined to comment on Duquette’s statement.

“The MLB will let us know once they have decided upon a proper measure of response,” Park said. “Poaching our players like this makes it difficult for [South Korea] to keep its scouting rules tight and to develop our youth sports programs.

“We only have 50 high school teams and taking promising players away like this makes it very hard for Korean baseball to stay strong.”

Os agree to terms with Johnson on Minor Lg deal

The Orioles have agreed to terms on a Minor League contract with first baseman Nick Johnson, a source confirmed on Thursday.

Johnson, who will get an invitation to big league Spring Training, gives the Orioles some added depth at first base –a position they are incredibly thin at in the Minors Leagues – beyond projected starter Chris Davis.  The 33-year-old Johnson has played nine seasons in the Majors, last appearing with the New York Yankees in 2010, and has dealt with a litany of injuries over his career.  Johnson signed a Minor League contract with the Cleveland Indians last season and spent most of the year with Triple-A Columbus.

In an offseason where executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has steadily added depth to help supplement the organization’s lack of top prospects in the upper tiers of the Minors, Johnson’s signing is the latest low-risk move. Johnson’s career .401 on-base percentage –a statistic Duquette and manager Buck Showalter place added emphasis – was a factor in the signing as was the uncertainty surrounding Chris Davis, who will get every opportunity to show the Orioles that he can be an everyday Major League first baseman. Davis was acquired in a midseason trade with Texas, but was slowed by a shoulder injury upon coming to Baltimore.

Johnson is a career .270 hitter with a .443 slugging percentage, including 91 homers and 387 RBIs, in 794 Major League games. MASNSports.com was the first to report Johnson’s signing.

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