November 2012

Orioles acquire Robinson, trade Andino to Seattle (updated with quotes)

Dealing with a surplus of middle infielders, the Orioles traded Robert Andino to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for outfielder Trayvon Robinson in a deal reached Tuesday afternoon.

The 25-year-old Robinson played 46 games for the Mariners last year, making 39 starts (all in left field) while batting .221 with 16 runs, four doubles, three homers, 12 RBIs and six steals. He appeared in 46 of the Mariners’ final 60 games after spending most of the early season with Triple-A Tacoma, where he hit .265 with nine homers and 41 RBIs to go along with a .740 OPS in 83 games.

“What we like about Robinson is his speed, his legs and power potential,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said of the trade, which gives the Orioles –who lost Endy Chavez and Nate McLouth to free agency this winter – some outfield depth. “[Robinson] plays good defense, particularly in left field. He needs to make a little better contact in the big leagues. He made good contact in the Minors and in Triple-A abut it hasn’t really translated yet.”

Robinson, who was acquired by the Mariners from the Red Sox in a 2011 Trade Deadline deal, got the phone call from Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik early Tuesday morning with the news. It wasn’t a surprise for Robinson, who is out of Minor League options –meaning he would have to clear waivers if he doesn’t make the big-league team this spring – and was in a Seattle organization filled with outfielders.

“The Orioles, they want me. I feel like there’s opportunity,” said Robinson, who spoke with MLB.com shortly after hearing from Duquette. “They are planning on giving me a look, giving me some at-bat, to try to help the team win. All I’m asking for is a chance; I think it’ll be a better situation.”

Baltimore has made it no secret adding an outfielder –to play left field in particular – was on the offseason agenda, and Duquette said trading for Robinson doesn’t rule out a return for McLouth. The Orioles are also expected to have Nolan Reimold –last year’s Opening Day left fielder – fully recovered from season-ending neck surgery.

“I think the important thing is the club addressed the need in the outfield, the need for additional outfield depth,” he said. “It’s a possibility [to sign another outfielder] but in Trayvon Robinson we have an outfielder that has speed and some power. He needs to improve his on-base capabilities.”

Robinson, who was glad to hear from his new GM so quickly, said he is comfortable anywhere in the outfield and credits Mariners teammate Chone Figgins with helping his development as a big leaguer this past season. A former Dodgers prospect, Robinson’s first roommate was current Oriole pitcher Steve Johnson –the pair have remained friends since –and he’s familiar with manager Buck Showalter having grown up a Texas Rangers fan and watching Showalter in the dugout from 2003-06.

“I know that he’s going to make you play the game right and that’s all I pretty much need to know,” Robinson said of his new manager.

“When we played against them, I felt they had a pretty good energetic team. For me, it’s a good fit. The way I play the game, I hustle, run into things and try to beat the opponent any way I can. The way they played against us, they didn’t quit. I don’t quit either. We’ll see what happens. I have a good feeling it’s going to be a good year again.”

Arguably no Oriole player matured more under Showalter than the 28-year-old Andino, who hit .211 with 41 runs, 13 doubles, seven home runs and 28 RBIs in 127 games for the Orioles in 2012. Andino — who assumed the bulk of second base duties in lieu of Brian Roberts the past three seasons — is best-known for delivering the walkoff RBI single to keep the Red Sox out of the 2011 playoffs and was a well-liked guy in the clubhouse. But the addition of Alexi Casilla, who was claimed off waivers earlier this season, crowded an infield picture that also features Roberts, Ryan Flaherty and Omar Quintanilla.

“Robert did a good job and helped us turn around the team,” Duquette said of Andino, who is also arbitration-eligible and could have been non-tendered at the end of the month. “We appreciated that. Casilla has plus-plus range. And plus-plus speed, which I think is additive to the ballclub.”

Odds and ends

*Teams must set their 40-man roster by midnight tonight in advance of the Rule-5 Draft which takes place on the final day of the Winter Meetings next month. Simply put, players left unprotected could be taken in the Draft with the O’s taking –and keeping — infielder Ryan Flaherty last winter.

There’s a pretty good basic summation of the rules here, and the Orioles currently have 39 players on their 40-man roster. So, expect some shuffling before tonight’s deadline.

In case you missed it, I caught up with Orioles prospect Mike Belfiore, who is a strong candidate to be added to the roster tonight. You can read that story on Belfiore, a left-handed pitcher acquired from Arizona to complete the Josh Bell trade, here. Infielder Jonathan Schoop is another near-lock to be added to the 40-man.

*DeMarlo Hale has interviewed for the Blue Jays vacant bench coach position, a role that would be viewed as a promotion from his previous position as Orioles third base coach. Toronto, which hired John Gibbons for a second go-around as manager, is certainly having quite a newsy winter so far. Hale has been offered a contract by the O’s for 2013–as have all of manager Buck Showalter’s coaches — and they’d like to keep him on staff. Losing Hale to a divisional rival, particularly because it’s not a managerial gig, wouldn’t go over to well with some in the O’s organization.

*The Rays have released their Spring Training schedule and there’s a few dates with the Orioles:

March 2- Orioles @ Rays
March 14 – Rays @ Orioles
March 22- split squad with O’s @ Rays
March 28-  Rays @ Orioles

The O’s released last year’s spring schedule on Nov. 29 and are aiming for a similar timeframe this year.

Johnson, Jones, Showalter honored with Legacy Awards

Three Orioles were among those honored when the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum announced its annual Legacy Awards on Friday in closer Jim Johnson, outfielder Adam Jones and manager Buck Showalter.

The Legacy Awards, established by the NLBM in 2000, recognizes the best Major League baseball players, managers, and executives, with awards given in the name, and spirit, of Negro Leagues legends such as Charleston, Doby, Bell, Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard. The Legacy Awards honors both on- and off-the-field achievement and are presented to recipients from both the American League and National League.

Johnson was named the AL recipient of the Hilton Smith Award for reliever of the year, along with Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel for the NL, while Jones was the sole winner of the John Henry “Pop” Lloyd Award for baseball and community leadership:

Showalter, along with Reds manager Dusty Baker, was selected as the C.I. Taylor Award for manager of the year.

The full list of awards, which includes Angels rookie Mike Trout as AL MVP, can be found here. The Legacy Awards will be presented on Saturday night, Jan. 12, at the Gem Theater, just across the street from the museum in Kansas City.

Os trade market, coaches, MLB.com internship, etc..

*The Orioles are telling teams their priority in the trade market is for first base, designated hitter (which could be grouped together, obviously) and left field and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said there are several clubs that they match up with. This brings up a few questions, most notably, where does that leave Mark Reynolds?

The team has until Nov. 30 to offer Reynolds –who is arbitration-eligible– a contract or reach another agreement that keeps him in Baltimore. Otherwise, he will become a free agent and be free to sign anywhere. Reynolds lives in Arizona in the offseason  and would likely factor in the allure of living home during Spring Training –and perhaps returning to the National League — if he does land on the open market, which has a pretty weak class of first baseman as it stands right now. If the O’s let him get to free agency, it’d be hard to imagine a scenario where Reynolds would resign in Baltimore. It’s not impossible, I just don’t see it happening if it gets that far.

The O’s being in the market for a left fielder also begs the immediate question about Nolan Reimold, who is recovering from season-ending neck surgery. The sense right now remains that Reimold will be a full-go in Spring Training, and it will be interesting to see how the Orioles go about adding outfielders. The club is still talking to free agent Nate McLouth about a potential return, although nothing is imminent there.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter prefers to rotate the DH-spot in a perfect world and the team hasn’t been in talks with retaining the free-agent Jim Thome, who is still undecided (at least, publicly) as to whether he will play in 2013.

*All of Showalter’s coaches have been invited to return in 2013, with negotiations on each specific agreement going on right now. It’s not known whether there will be any multi-year deals for a staff that includes pitching coach Rick Adair, bench coach John Russell, third base coach DeMarlo Hale, hitting coach Jim Presley, first base coach Wayne Kirby and bullpen coach Bill Castro.  The expectation is director of pitching development Rick Peterson, who interviewed but did not get the Red Sox pitching coach position, will also remain with the organization in his current role.

*Speaking of Showalter, he joined MLB Network earlier today and you can watch that entertaining clip here.

*MLB.com  has a reporter internship program, which is how I got started in this business. I highly recommend it for college students trying to break in to sports writing. Details here: http://bit.ly/W2iuzU

Chen, Minors signings

A few notes in case you missed it earlier or on Twitter…

*Orioles pitcher Wei-Yin Chen and his wife, Yi-Wen, are the proud parents of a baby boy, Karsten, born this morning at 8:07 a.m in California. It is the couple’s first child. Chen also has decided that he won’t pitch in this spring’s World Baseball Classic, which was expected, and  took to his Facebook page to defend the decision, which reportedly caused some discontent in his native Taiwan. Chen cited wanting to spend time with baby Karsten and focusing on getting ready for his second Major League season as the reasoning for skipping the WBC.

*The Orioles have signed pitchers Daniel McCutchen and Dan Meyer to Minor League contracts, according to the MLB Trade Rumors website. McCutchen has a career 4.77 Major League ERA in parts of four seasons with the Pirates and has pitched to a 3.66 ERA, in 403 1/3 Triple-A innings. The 31-year-old Meyer hasn’t been in the Majors since 2010, with the Florida Marlins, and has spent the past two seasons in Triple-A and independent ball.

The case for Buck

MLB Network will television the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWA) Rookie of the Year Award for the American League and National League tonight live at 6 p.m. ET.  Tuesday’s award should have Orioles’ fans watching closely as the Manager of the Year for each League will be unveiled and Baltimore’s Buck Showalter is considered a heavy favorite to win the AL.

The case for Showalter is a strong one, and MLB.com columnist Anthony Castrovince does a nice job summing it up on Orioles.com here.

A few notes

*The Orioles posted a Jumbo Tron video during the final regular season homestand thanking fans for their support during 2012, and it was incredibly popular at the stadium. You can now watch it online on Orioles.com by clicking here.

*In case you missed it, Brian Matusz had surgery last month to to repair a rectus abdominis tear, an injury he pitched with for the final three months of the 2012 campaign. The 25-year-old left-hander is expected to be healthy for Spring Training and you can read more on that here.

*Orioles manager Buck Showalter is a finalist for the BBWA’s American League Manager of the Year. The award will be announced live on MLB Network on Tuesday. The rundown of the candidates and the schedule can be found here.

*Oakland A’s vice president and general manager Billy Beane has been named The Sporting News’ 2012 Major League Baseball Executive of the Year. The award was selected by a panel of 57 major league executives and Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette did not receive any votes.

*It’s Hot Stove Season which means the rumor mill is out in full force. I will address most of the players that have been linked to the Orioles in Friday’s inbox –including the next to no chance the O’s are in on free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton at all — and you can submit your own questions by emailing brittany.ghiroli@mlb.com and including your first name and hometown.

*The O’s have partnered with Von Paris Moving & Storage to provide assistance to the victims of Hurricane Sandy and encourage you to join in. Von Paris Moving & Storage will drive 2-3 large moving trucks with donations directly to the Union Beach, Belmar, Tom’s River, Hazlet and Seabright, New Jersey communities this weekend. You can help by bringing a donation to the Orioles Offices in the warehouse at Oriole Park between 9am and 5pm on Thursday or Friday. Fans may park temporarily in the North Warehouse Lot near the Orioles Team Store and go to the Baltimore Orioles Offices entrance, to the second floor reception desk to drop off donation items.

The items needed are:

Water – 1 liter or smaller bottles for easier transport
Food – Canned, pop-top preferred that is easy to prepare
Rice [5 and 10 pound bags]
Disposable Charcoal grills and charcoal
Matches [in zip log bags]
Powdered Milk, Baby Formula and bottles
Pet supplies and food
First Aid Kits – Items for the kits as well
Battery Operated Radios
Flashlights and batteries
Paper Cups, Napkins, and plastic utensils.
Non-Electric can openers and Utility Knifes
Duct Tape
Plastic zip lock bags
Personal Care items such as soap, toilet paper, feminine products, and wipes
Household items like garbage bags, disinfectant and bleach
Plastic Tarps
Portable Generators
Like New freshly laundered Clothes, especially baby and children
Blankets and sleeping bags
Coats
Shoes
Pack N Plays
Diapers
Like new furniture

Orioles promote Aloise, Bader and Hoppes

The Orioles announced a trio of front office staff promotions on Tuesday afternoon, naming Neil Aloise vice president of ticketing and fan services, Greg Bader vice president of communications and marketing and Mike Hoppes vice president of finance.

“We continually strive to improve the Orioles’ operations both on and off the field and provide our fans with the best experience possible,” executive vice president of business operations Doug Duennes said in a press release. “Neil, Greg and Mike have been loyal and valuable contributors to our business operations for many years and we are pleased to have them play such important roles in helping to grow our brand to the benefit of everyone who enjoys Orioles baseball.”

Aloise previously was the director of sales and fan services, a position he had held since 2007. He joined the organization in 1998 as a fan services representative and will now oversee all of the operational and customer service aspects of the ballpark experience, including ticketing, ballpark operations and food services.

Bader, formerly director of communications, began his Orioles career in 1994 as an intern in the public relations department and has served in a variety of roles including his most recent post since January 2007.  Bader will continue to oversee the team’s marketing, communications and public relations and will now manage the club’s community relations and programs and productions departments.

Hoppes, who had served as the organization’s director of fiancé since ’06, joined the Orioles in 1986 as a staff accountant and most recently served as the Director of Finance since 2006.  He will continue to oversee the team’s finance and accounting functions in his new role.

Orioles odds and ends

*The Orioles Minor League Free Agent list on Baseball America came out today and it’s listed below in full. The names that jump out as possibilities to return and resign with the organization are outfielder Lew Ford, infielder Steve Tolleson and left-handed pitcher Zach Phillips. Ford was signed out of independent ball in part because of the familiarity with him by some of the coaches/front office personnel, and Tolleson is also well thought of by the Orioles and manager Buck Showalter in particular.

The trio all rejected their outright assignments which were announced Friday.

Here’s the list:
RHP: Eric Beaulac (HiA), Matt Bischoff (HiA), Greg Burke (AAA), Brandon Erbe (HiA), Robert Hinton (AA), Oscar Melendez (HiA), Kyler Newby (AA), Joel Pineiro (AAA), Oscar Villarreal (AAA), Bobby Wilkins (LoA)
LHP: Zach Phillips (AAA), Rich Rundles (AAA), Pedro Viola (AAA)
C: Chase Weems (SS)
1B: Rhyne Hughes (AA), Billy Rowell (SS)
2B: Travis Adair (HiA), Ryan Adams (AAA)
SS: Blake Davis (AAA), Steve Tolleson (AAA)
OF: Josh Barfield (AA), Scott Beerer (AAA), Lew Ford (AAA), Jamie Hoffmann (AAA), Antoan Richardson (AA)

*In Arizona Fall League action, Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop singled in a pair of runs to help the Solar Sox rally back for a win Monday night. More on that here.

*It being awards season and all, shortstop J.J. Hardy  — fresh off his first career Rawlings Gold Glove Award — was named the Orioles’ Defensive Player of the Year in awards given by Wilson and announced Sunday night on MLB Network.

Angels outfielder Mike Trout was named the American League Defensive Player of the Year, while Michael Bourn earned the same honor in the National League, leading the Braves to be named Wilson’s Defensive Team of the Year.

Each team had one player selected as its top defensive player for 2012 in a set of awards in its inaugural year. Unlike the Gold Glove Awards, which are voted on by Major League managers and coaches, these winners were determined by statistical metrics, using the same “shredder system” seen on the sabermetrics-heavy show “Clubhouse Confidential,” along with input from MLB Network analysts.

*If you need an easy way to keep track of free agents this offseason, MLB.com’s Hot Stove Tracker is up and running here. You can browse by team, position, etc and sort your way through an always-interesting time of year.

*Baseball’s general manager meetings start this week in Palm Springs, Calif. and many deals that happen later in the winter are started over the few days the GMs convene, which this year is Nov. 7-9. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette had just taken over in Baltimore prior to last year’s GM meetings and obviously he will be a lot better equipped this time around to hit the ground running. MLB.com has a group of reporters present and any Orioles-related news/rumors will be on Orioles.com.

Casilla, Adams, AFL etc.

Lots of coverage on Orioles.com, but here’s an overview of some of the moves and news today..

*The Orioles claimed infielder Alexi Casilla off waivers from the Minnesota Twins, a move that gives them some depth with the uncertainty surrounding second base. The 28-year-old Casilla played in a career-high 106 games for Minnesota in 2012, batting .241/.282/.321.  He also stole 21 bases in 22 attempts. A switch-hitter, Casilla has a career .250/.305/.334 line parts of seven seasons with Minnesota.

Casilla is expected to compete for the club’s second base job along with Ryan Flaherty –who will play winter ball in the Dominican Republic — Robert Andino, Omar Quintanilla and Brian Roberts, who is rehabbing from season-ending hip surgery.

*The Orioles outrighted outfielder Lew Ford, infielder Steve Tolleson and left-handed pitcher Zach Phillips to Triple-Norfolk, which takes them off the 40-man roster. They also reinstated Roberts, pitchers Oliver Drake, Stu Pomeranz and Tsuyoshi Wada, and outfielder Nolan Reimold from the 60-day disabled list.
Those moves give the Orioles 39 players on the 40-man roster.

*Orioles infielder Ryan Adams has received a 25-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy, the League announced on Friday afternoon.

Adams, who is currently on Triple-A Norfolk’s roster, tested positive for an Amphetamine in violation of baseball’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. The suspension will be effective at the start of next season.

While he is no longer on the Orioles 40-man roster, Adams –who was designated for assignment in September – was at the time the test was administered. The 25-year-old Adams dealt with injuries this season and appeared in 65 games for the Tides, hitting .224/.312/.353. He played 29 games with the Orioles in 2011, posting a .281/.333/.326 line.

*The Orioles have two players named to the roster for the Arizona Fall League’s Rising Stars Game on Saturday: pitcher Mike Belfiore and Jonathan Schoop. You can read more on that here.

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