Jurrjens, Saunders, player development changes etc. (updated)

*I’ll have a full story up Orioles.com shortly on the agreement with right-hander Jair Jurrjens and where he fits in, but the 26-year-old –who is expected to be in Major League Spring Training– is an interesting addition to an already-crowded rotation picture.

Jurrjens –a low risk, but possible high-reward signing—is right on par with the philosophy of executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who stated at the press conference announcing his (and manager Buck Showalter’s) contract extensions that he was still actively looking to add pitching. An All-Star in 2011, Jurrjens went 3-4 with a 6.89 ERA last year and he was non-tendered by the Braves this winter, effectively becoming a free agent. The club isn’t commenting on the signing and it’s not expected to be officially announced before Monday.

So, how much of a chance does Jurrjens have at cracking the Orioles rotation? Miguel Gonzalez wasn’t even signed until March last year and he’s considered a favorite to remain in the rotation after an impressive rookie campaign. There’s a lot of competition, particularly for the fifth spot –with Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Gonzalez and Chris Tillman strong candidates to be in the rotation– but it’s certainly not out of the question.

Steve Johnson deserves to get a chance given how well he performed in his rookie season and it’s unknown how the trio of once highly-touted up-and-coming arms –Brian Matusz, Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta – will bounce back from disappointing starting campaigns. Duquette has said Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland will get a look as a starter and Tommy Hunter –who could also be in the bullpen- will also be stretched out to start this spring. Top pitching prospects Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy will be in camp but, while it’s entirely plausible they end up in Baltimore during the season, they aren’t expected to crack the Opening Day rotation.

*The club has continually remained in contact with free agent lefty Joe Saunders and while Jurrjens’ agreement doesn’t necessarily close the book on adding the veteran Saunders, it reduces the need to add another pitcher and could limit what the Orioles –who have limited payroll flexibility—can offer.

*A reminder that Spring Training tickets go on sale tomorrow morning. You can find all the related info to that here.

*Congratulations to Showalter, who received the American League Manager of the Year award at the 74th annual awards dinner of the Boston Chapter, Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWA), which was last night.

*The Orioles announced several changes within their player development department on Friday afternoon, adding Kent Qualls and promoting current employees Brian Graham and John Stockstill. Qualls has been named Director of Minor League Operations, where he will oversee the business operations of player development. Graham has been promoted from coordinator of Minor League instruction to director of player development. Stockstill, as director of player personnel, will now also oversee international and domestic professional scouting.

*And a non-baseball item, but a pretty deserving cause. Back on My Feet, which is a national nonprofit organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness get back to independent living and employment, has rolled out a new website and is trying to spread the word. The Baltimore BoMF chapter is one of the strongest in the country and let’s continue to prove that by clicking on the new site and giving the organization a little social media love.

7 Comments

Great Blog first off…. I like the Jurrjens pick alot. He comes at low risk for a few years and also opens to be able to move other pitchers who haven’t really workout here with something in return.

I would like to see the line up to be clean and smooth this season…. Also I would like tosee them add Brian Wilson to the pin too….

My ideal bullpen would look like so…. Starters- Hammel, Chen, Tillman, Gonzalez, & Jurrjens….. Bench – O’Day, Strop, Patton, Matusz, Wilson, J. Johnson,

I would send Steve Johnson, Bundy, and Kevin to tripple A for more prep work, look what it did for Brian before coming back!

Just my point, I enjoy your blogs…. Keep up the great work!

Thanks, Chris. Much appreciated! –Britt

HOT DAMN!! Jurrjens is comin!!

Agree with Chris on Jurrgens BUT we still need someone to replace Reynolds and a bona fide 2nd baseman. Glad to see D.D. came off vacation for a few hours!

Thanks Britt and Jason…. I also agree 2nd base is a huge question mark with B Rob not 100%. I like the idea of bringing Kelly Johnson in at secondto compete atleast. Losing Reynolds killed me but i love Chris Davis, the guy has a lot of heart and will do a good job on first..

When I made my post earlier today, I miss Kelly Johnson on the free agent list. By all means Mr. Duquette, check him out. If he wants too much, then look into Miguel Cairo.

As far as the 2nd base spot, I was scanning the free agent list on MLB.com and I see that Miguel Cairo is still out there. How about a minor league deal for him and put him at AAA for insurance. I don’t think that would be too costly or too much of a risk. He’s 39 but can still play some. Come on Duquette, take another chance. I would love to see Brian Roberts come back but there are still too many question marks hanging around there.

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