January 2014

More on the Os international signings..

The Orioles added two international players to their organization on Thursday purchasing first baseman Carlos Diaz from the Mexico City Red Devils and signing free agent third baseman Jomar Reyes, two players that Baltimore invested substantial money into and claimed as big scores.

Diaz is a 17-year-old 6-2, 200-pound right-handed hitter from Baja California, Esenada, Mexico while Reyes, 16, is from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Both players had other clubs jockeying for their services —Reyes as many as six other suitors according to international scouting director Fred Ferreira— and will report to the organization’s Gulf Coast League.

“I think Fred has hit on two potential everyday Major League players who can hit in the middle of the lineup,” Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said in a conference call during an unusually quiet winter for the big league club. “We’ve been developing pitching through the Minor League system and these are two signings of two top quality position player prospects to add to the position player depth of our Minor League system.”

“[These are] very exciting signings of mine,” said Ferreira, who compared Diaz to Kendrys Morales because of his and Reyes to Clete Boyer. “Diaz puts on quite a show in any kind of batting practice and then he puts it in game situations. He’s not just a workout player. The kid can project a high ceiling. He’s got good actions around the first base bag. He’s a legitimate first baseman.

“Reyes is another very exciting player. I keep saying very because I truly mean this. They’re very exciting and I’m glad to get the great cooperation from Dan to get this thing done and get both of them signed.”

Duquette confirmed that the organization used money from the international ammeter pool to sign the players although he said the club still has resources available to them. Only a portion of the money they gave Diaz counts against them, since part of that went to Mexico City. Duquette also praised Ferreira for the find and indicated that given both players size they will move up in the organization’s system as quickly as their performance dictates.

“Fred does a great job identifying talent and acquiring the valuable contracts of the club,” Duquette said. “[He] is a value-based investment adviser and he does a nice job in identifying talent early and making a deal that makes economic sense for the team.”

Os sign a pair of international players

The Orioles added a pair of international players to the organization on Thursday, purchasing first baseman Carlos Diaz from the Mexico City Red Devils and free agent third baseman Jomar Reyes.

Diaz is a 17-year-old 6-2, 200-pound right-handed hitter from Baja California, Esenada, Mexico while Reyes, 16, is from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

I’ll have on a conference call with international scouting director Fred Ferrerria and EVP Dan Duquette later.

Machado expected to start baseball activities

Orioles third baseman Manny Machado has a doctors appointment later this week and if he passes –which is expected—the 21-year-old will be cleared to begin baseball activities.

Machado suffered a season-ending left knee injury running to first base at Tropicana Field in a late-September matchup against the Rays and Dr. Neal ElAttrache repaired a torn medial patellofemoral ligament during a 75-minute procedure on Oct. 14. The recovery time for the procedure was conservatively estimated at six months although the Orioles remain encouraged that Machado will be ready for Opening Day.

Getting the green light this weekend would certainly bode well for that, with Machado already rehabbing in Miami, Fla. with light weights, running and pool work. Manager Buck Showalter said earlier this winter that Machado would have to be playing in spring games by mid-March to pencil him in for March 31’s season opener against the Red Sox, a target date he’s very much on track for as it stands right now.

An American League All-Star in his first full season, Machado’s presence has been invaluable since his promotion from Double-A Bowie in August 2012. Until his injury, he had played in every game since his promotion, including the club’s first 156 games in’13.

Machado, who also won a Gold Glove, batted.283 with 14 home runs, 71 RBIs and an AL-leading 51 doubles.

Babe’s Birthday Bash to honor Jones adds other sports figures to lineup

A reminder from an earlier blog posting of mine that tickets are still available for the below. I’ll be there along with fellow media members Keith Mills and Steve Davis.

Maryland sports figures scheduled to be in attendance include former Baltimore Colts Bruce Laird, Pro-Bowl defensive back and strong safety (1972-1981); Tom Matte, Super Bowl champion running back (1961-1972); and Stan White, linebacker (1972-1979) and color commentator for the Baltimore Ravens on WBAL-AM. Another special guest is Joe Orsulak, former outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles (1988-1992) and co-host of Baltimore Baseball Tonight. Current Towson University Baseball Coach Mike Gottlieb, who has been with the program for 26 years and led the Tigers to their first Colonial Athletic Association Championship victory in 2013, will also attend.

Here’s my original post:
Orioles outfielder Adam Jones will be honored with the 2014 Babe Ruth Museum Community Service Award at the annual “Babe’s Birthday Bash” on Thursday, February 6, from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards. The event will also celebrate the 119th anniversary of Ruth’s birth in Baltimore on February 6, 1895, and commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ruth’s professional baseball debut in February 1914.

“Baltimore is a second home to me and I am honored to have the opportunity to do my part to help this community,” Jones said in a press release announcing the award.

The Babe Ruth Museum Community Service Award was created to honor Ruth’s memory by recognizing an active or former professional athlete or individual with ties to the Maryland sports community, who has demonstrated a strong devotion to Baltimore and the State of Maryland by giving back to the community. Previous recipients include O.J. Brigance and his wife Chanda, Matt Stover, Edwin Mulitalo, Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora, Nick and Christina Markakis and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.

“Since joining the Orioles in 2008, Adam has been such an active part of the Baltimore community,” said Mike Gibbons, executive director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation. “We are proud to recognize Adam’s efforts in making our city a better place, both on and off of the field, and look forward to honoring him on the same night we celebrate Babe.”

The evening will include unlimited ballpark inspired food and beverages, a silent auction, appearances by local professional and amateur athletes, free parking at Camden Yards and admission to Sports Legends Museum’s galleries. Tickets to Babe’s Birthday Bash are $45 each for members of the Museum; $55 apiece for the general public when purchased in advance; and $60 at the door. Ten or more tickets purchased together are discounted at $40 each. Tickets are available at http://www.missiontix.com/babesbash. For more information on the Bash, call 410-727-1539 ext. 3033.

Final landing spot for Cruz remains unclear

A good summary of where things stand right now for Nelson Cruz. As my colleague Jesse Sanchez notes, the Orioles have been linked to Cruz and will continue to be as long as he’s available. However, the priority is on adding a starting pitcher and it seems Baltimore is allocating most –if not all–of its resources there. Things could change, but it doesn’t appear Cruz is very high on the Orioles, either.

Here’s the story…

Jesse Sanchez/MLB.com

The Rangers have given away Nelson Cruz’s old jersey number to free agent acquisition Shin-Soo Choo, but have not completely ruled out the idea of bringing the one-time fan favorite back to Texas on a club-friendly deal.
There is some speculation that Cruz, 33, who is seeking a multi-year deal, might settle for a one-year contract with his former club if he cannot land a large deal with another team. The Mariners and Orioles are among the teams that have been linked to the right-handed slugger.
Overall, Cruz hit .266 with 27 home runs and 76 RBIs in 109 games and 413 at-bats for the Rangers last season. He had a .327 on-base percentage and a .506 slugging percentage before he was suspended by Major League Baseball for 50 games for violating the Basic Agreement and its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program as a result of the league’s Biogenesis investigation.
Teams interested in Cruz must also consider that the veteran turned down the Rangers’ qualifying offer of $14.1 million in November, which means Texas would receive a Draft pick as compensation if he signs elsewhere.
“I’ve had a lot of discussions with Adam Katz, his agent,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said at FanFest last weekend. “There’s an economic factor tied to that, as well as losing your Draft pick. Would I like to have him here? Absolutely. I’d love to have Nelson Cruz in this lineup. But how much do you have to pay him, how many years is it going to be and are you willing to lose another Draft pick? Those are the things you have to factor.”
Zduriencik added that he’s not expecting any more “major moves” this offseason, but his club could still have a need for a right-handed bat in the lineup, even with newly acquired outfielder Corey Hart on the roster. As it stands now, the Mariners have four left-handed-hitting outfielders — Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, Abraham Almonte and Logan Morrison — with Franklin Gutierrez and utility man Willie Bloomquist as the only right-handed options.
The Mariners could add to their estimated $85 million payroll, but some suggest the club would prefer to opt for a shorter deal with a player like Cruz — especially after signing Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million deal this winter. The team still owes about $150 million to staff ace Felix Hernandez.
The Orioles have expressed interest in Cruz and could potentially slot him into the designated hitter role, but the team’s payroll constraints and the need for another starting pitcher work against Cruz. Like the Rangers and the Mariners, the Orioles could offer a shorter deal to Cruz in order to keep their payroll — currently around $80 million — under $100 million and still sign a pitcher.
The Rangers are prepared to move on without Cruz. The team is expected to start Choo in left field, Leonys Martin in center field and Alex Rios in right field with Michael Choice providing roster depth.

Notes on WBAL, O’s farm system and Manto

A few notes…

*Jeff Manto, who recently rejoined the Orioles organization, as the new Minor League hitting coordinator will be inducted into the International League (Triple-A) Hall of Fame. He played in 298 big league games, hitting 31 home runs for the Indians, Phillies, Orioles, Red Sox, Mariners, Tigers, Yankees, and Rockies. Manto was selected in the 14th round of the 1985 draft by the California Angels and reached the Triple-A level in 1989, hitting 30 homers in his first two IL seasons with Richmond and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre

In 1994, despite being traded midseason, Manto led the IL in home runs (31) and RBI (100), earning MVP honors. His best season in the Majors came with the Orioles in 1995 when he hit .256 and with 17 home runs and 38 RBIs in 89 games. That season he made history by going deep in four consecutive plate appearances between June 8-10.

*The Orioles will broadcast 14 Spring Training games on WBAL Radio, starting with the spring opener at the Tampa Bay Rays from Port Charlotte on Friday, February 28 at 1:05 p.m., and includes the home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, March 1, along with seven additional home games in Sarasota. Three of the 14 broadcasts will feature 30-minute Pre-Game and Post-Game Shows.

MASN previously announced that they will broadcast six Orioles spring training games: March 1, 7, 8, 15, 17 and 24 as well.

The full WBAL schedule is below: 
Friday, February 28                at Tampa Bay Rays                 1:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 1                  Toronto Blue Jays                    1:05 p.m.
Sunday, March 2                     at Boston Red Sox                  1:05 p.m.
Tuesday, March 4                    at New York Yankees              7:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 8                  Boston Red Sox                      1:05 p.m.
Sunday, March 9                     Pittsburgh Pirates                   1:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 15                New York Yankees                  1:05 p.m.
Sunday, March 16                   at Toronto Blue Jays               1:05 p.m.
Monday, March 17                  Minnesota Twins                     7:05 p.m.
Saturday, March 22                at Tampa Bay Rays                 1:05 p.m.
Sunday, March 23*                Pittsburgh Pirates                   1:05 p.m.
Monday, March 24                  Boston Red Sox                      1:05 p.m.
Wednesday, March 26*          at Tampa Bay Rays                 7:05 p.m.
Thursday, March 27*              Tampa Bay Rays                     7:05 p.m.       
*- Includes Pre-Game and Post-Game Shows

*ESPN.com’s Keith Law ranked all of baseball’s Minor League systems and the Orioles come in at No. 10. The Os top five prospects are impressive and Law notes that again, with the biggest issue the organizational depth. You can read the rest of that story (ESPN Insider required) here.

Here is the O’s blurb..
10. Baltimore Orioles

Very top-heavy, but a strong front five, all on the top 100, due in no small part to a string of four straight solid first-round picks since the Matt Hobgood fiasco. (Hobgood, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 draft, has a 5.05 ERA in his career and hasn’t made it past Class A.)

Their depth is improving, though it’s still behind where it’ll need to be to keep the club competitive in the AL East, and more investment in intriguing international amateurs like Olelky Peralta will help bolster the system.

Colvin deal is off

The Orioles deal with Tyler Colvin has fallen through. According to a tweet from CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the club found a back issue during Colvin’s physical and wanted to reduce the contract to a Minor League deal. While Colvin could end up signing with Baltimore later this winter, he remains a free agent for now.

This is the second time this winter a physical has caused the O’s to back off of a player. The club opted to not sign closer Grant Balfour after agreeing to a two-year, $15 million deal. Seth Levinson, Balfour’s agent, charged that his client was healthy and that the O’s had just decided against signing him. Validating his charge, Levinson cited the findings of two doctors who found nothing out of order after looking at an MRI of Balfour’s right shoulder. Balfour, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Rays, indicated to reporters on Thursday that the rumors of a grievance filed against Baltimore could still be in play.

“It was a bit of a stressful thing, seeing that go down, knowing I was perfectly healthy,” Balfour said of the Orioles situation.



Os sign Savastano to Minor League deal

The Orioles have signed Scott Savastano to a Minor League contract, the club announced on Friday.

The deal does not include an invite to big league Spring Training and the versatile 27-year-old will instead report to Mino League camp at Twin Lakes Park.

Savastano, who came from Seattle’s Minor League system, has played right field, left field, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, catcher and designated hitter. Savastano batted .235/.293/.328 in 58 games with Triple-A Tacoma in 2013, wih three homers and 20 RBIs. He has spent all six seasons of pro ball in the Mariners system.

Catching up and looking ahead- Notes on prospects, Rodney, starters, Jones

Apologies that the blog has been a little slow the past week as I returned from my final vacation before the season starts. While there hasn’t been much that much news out of Baltimore, and Orioles.com had you covered with some of the smaller announcements, here’s a brief roundup of some recent happenings…

*The Orioles announced yesterday that they signed Aaron Laffey to a Minor League deal, first reported by my MLB.com colleague Anthony Castrovince, and the left-hander will add organizational depth. Laffey is not expected to be in big league camp. (More on that here.)

*With Grant Balfour off the board –signing a two-year, $12-million deal with the Rays– rumors surfaced yesterday that the Orioles were making progress in adding free agent Fernando Rodney. While it makes sense –Rodney is the best available closer and the O’s have money to spend- most of Thursday’s reports were exaggerated as the O’s interest in Rodney can be categorized as lukewarm right now. Things could change, but the emphasis is on adding rotation help in the final few weeks of the offseason.

Balfour, who was rumored to be filing a grievance against the Orioles after a two-year, $15-million deal fell through, indicated to several Rays reporters that something may still happen there.

“I’m not going to comment on it. We’ll see what happens,” he said. “I’m here to stay. I have a contract with the Rays, and anything else that’s going to happen on that part will be taken care of, and we’ll move forward. That’s not going to affect anything I’ve got going here. I’m moving on. I’m glad to be here, really happy to be here. That stuff is going to be taken care of by other people on my behalf.”

*So, who is left on the free agent starting pitching front? The biggest, and most likely, three names for the O’s are Bronson Arroyo, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana. A.J. Burnett is also still out there, although he reportedly isn’t returning the Pirates calls, so it’s looking more and more likely that he will retire.

The Orioles have had rumored interest in all three of those guys and –while they have money to spend– price will be a factor as well as the length of the contract. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said earlier this winter that he would be willing to go three or more years on a free agent arm in the right scenario. Is this that scenario?

Right-hander Matt Garza signed a four-year, $52-million deal with the Brewers yesterday so the rest of the starting market could move quickly. Both Jimenez and Santana would cost the Orioles a  draft pick, due to declining their qualifying offers,  while Arroyo would not.

*MLB.com released its list of the Top 100 Prospects on Thursday, with the Orioles represented in the trio of Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Eduardo Rodriguez. You can read the full article here and check out my recent stories on Gausman and Rodriguez, both in the news section of Orioles.com.

*Finally, the always-quotable Adam Jones was in New York earlier this week for Tuesday’s “Going to Bat for B.A.T.” Dinner at the Marriott Marquis. Jones talked about the Orioles outlook, football and his competitiveness, below…

(on the O’s offseason so far) “If you know me, my expectations are always high. I know one thing, we’re going to be ready to grind and show up to play every day. You just need 25 men who are ready and willing to reach a common goal.

We’re returning our entire defense, except [Nate] McLouth, we had a great defense last year, that’s what kept us alive. We’ve got to get better on the mound, situational hitting, getting on base. It’s an overall team game, that’s why you have Spring Training, to go back to the drawing board.”

(on the competitive balance in the AL East) “The last two years we had good years. We went to the playoffs and then finished eight games above .500 last year. The last two years have been amazing in the city of Baltimore. Now, you’ve got to get better. I know our fans are happy we put a better team on the field the last couple of years, but our fans are hungrier — they want that ring in the city of Baltimore. As a team, that’s how your fans should be talking. We need that kick in the pants sometimes. We go out and play for them every game.

Mickey Mantle or Joe DiMaggio, I think, said, I play hard every day, because there’s a young kid in the stands and it might be his only chance to see me play. I remember reading that, that’s why I bring it every day.”

(on his Super Bowl pick) “Broncos or Seahawks? I need to see Peyton Manning win his second one. He’s my favorite player, and I think to solidify his career. He’s the greatest regular season QB ever, but to solidify him as a top-five QB ever, I think he needs that second ring.”

(On Richard Sherman’s comments) “That was awesome. Passion. The only thing I probably wouldn’t have done is put your hands to your throat and say [Colin] Kaepernick choked…but I probably would have done that, too, in the heat of the passion. Those are rivals. They don’t like each other. You don’t see New York and Boston shaking hands after a game. That’s the sport we’re getting away from. Nowadays, everyone wants to hug. I don’t want to hug you. After the game, You just kicked the crap out of me. I don’t want to talk to you. And if I kick the crap out of me, I don’t want you to talk to me. That’s old school. That’s the part that we’re losing in all sports, is the old school. Everything is ticky-tack now.

People are friends. But at the end of the day, if my mom was on the mound, I’d take her deep.”

Orioles sign Luis Vizcaino & Brock Bond to Minor League deals

The Orioles announced on Tuesday that they have signed pitcher Luis Vizcaino and infielder Brock Bond to Minor League contracts.

Both players will report to Minor League Spring Training at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota, Fla.

The 39-year-old Vizcaino last pitched in the Majors in 2009, as part of the Cleveland Indians. The right-hander had a 1.40 ERA and 25 saves for Yucatan in the Mexican Winter League last season and is a career 35-30 with a 4.33 ERA in parts of 11 big league seasons.

Bond is a switch hitter who owns a .300/.398/.377 line in seven Minor League seasons with the Giants. Bond was drafted in the 24th round of the 2007 Draft and was in his first Major League Spring Training with San Francisco last spring, but failed to make the club. The 28-year-old spent the season at High-A instead, hitting .240/.339/.324.