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.