The Orioles are closing in on a deal with outfielder Francisco Peguero, who was non-tendered by the Giants on Monday night and would add depth to Baltimore’s roster.
“[We’re] working on it,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said in a text message regarding Peguero.
The 25-year-old Peguero was designated for assignment last Wednesday. Entering last season, MLB.com rated Peguero as the 98th-best prospect overall, while Baseball America tabbed him as the Giants’ fifth-best prospect. While performing for Triple-A Fresno, Peguero sustained a June concussion that forced him to miss 12 games. He divided his season between Fresno and San Francisco, batting .316 in 70 games at Triple-A and .207 (6-for-29) in 18 games with the Majors.
It wasn’t immediately known on Wednesday afternoon whether Peguero’s deal –first reported by MLB Daily Dish– would be a Minor League contract or if it would involve adding him to the club’s 40-man roster, which was at 37 entering the day.
The Orioles remain interested in bringing back outfielder Nate McLouth, provided the price is right.
The typically stoic Jim Johnson paused for a few seconds in an effort to regain his composure, as the right-hander —unusually emotional following Monday’s trade to Oakland— jokingly blamed reporters for getting all choked up.
But Monday’s deal —a shocking swap that netted the Orioles Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later—was tough to process for the home-grown Johnson, who was the longest tenured player on the roster, a clubhouse leader and a strong advocate in the community.
“Obviously watching how the changes in the last couple of years [in the organization] being a big part of it, I’m sorry,” Johnson said as he paused to regain his composure. “You got to give a lot of credit to [manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette.
It’s been great playing there and for all my teammates. and watching that city transform the last couple years, I take great pride in that. Obviously, I have great memories looking back.”
Johnson was an integral part of the 2012 Oriole team that reached the postseason for the first time since ’97, as the right-hander went on to record the first of two consecutive 50-save seasons and was named to the American League All-Star team. Johnson, who took over the full-time closing role that year, was also the subject of fan ire in ’13 as he went 50-for-59 in save opportunities, leading the League in saves and blown saves in a season in which the O’s were eliminated from the playoffs in the final week.
He got word of the trade when flying out to San Diego, a trip scheduled for players union meetings, and by the time Johnson landed on the West Coast his phone was flooded with texts and phone calls.
“It’s obviously going to be tough, but I’m not concerned about the baseball stuff it’s the family stuff your mind goes to, your kids, your wife all that stuff,” said Johnson, who owns a home in Sarasota, Fla, where the Orioles hold Spring Training, and spearheaded the club's annual charity golf tournament. “But we got great friends and family, so we will let the baseball stuff work itself out. That’s the easy part for me [to adjust to], the baseball stuff.”
While Monday’s trade was a shock, Johnson’s name did surface in trade rumors earlier in the day and the right-hander said he was made aware by friends about some of the speculation that the Orioles could try to move him. The deal has been widely perceived as a salary dump given that Johnson stands to make more than $10 million in arbitration and Duquette referenced “reallocating of the resources” several times in describing the move.
“You are asking the wrong guy,” Johnson said when asked to opine on the reasoning behind the trade. “I have my own theories, but I’ll keep them to myself. You know what, at this time I’m not going to focus on…now is the time to focus on I had a great time, a great run, everything was great, but now I got to focus on helping the Oakland A’s. They are the team that wanted me; there is a reason why.”
Johnson had already spoken with A’s manager Bob Melvin and assistant general manager David Forst and said he’s heard good things abut his new organization.
“It’s a new chapter you know, something thats new to me but I’ll be fine,” Johnson said as he struggled to not get choked up again. “I’m also very thankful to my past.”
The Orioles made their first big move this winter late Monday night, trading All-Star closer Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for infielder Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later.
The deal comes on the heels of a frenzy of Johnson trade rumors earlier in the day, as Baltimore was aggressively shopping the arbitration-eligible right-hander given his second consecutive 50-save season that would have resulted in a salary around $10 million in 2014.
“These trades are difficult decisions, but sometimes you have to try to to reallocate resources so that the club can be strong in all the areas it needs to be competitive,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said of the move which frees up salary for the Orioles to be aggressive elsewhere in free agency. “That’s what the club is trying to address with this trade.
“Weeks is a talented player, versatile in several areas, a good base stealer with good on-base [percentage], especially against right-handed pitching…Jim Johnson has been with the Orioles his whole career and we appreciate the work he’s done. He came up through the system and we want to wish him a lot of luck and opportunity.”
Johnson led the Majors with 101 saves over the past two seasons and he converted 50 of 59 in 2013, with his nine blown saves making him the subject of fan ire in the second half of last season. An All-Star in ’12, Johnson went 18-26 with a 3.11 ERA in six seasons with the Orioles and was the second-longest tenured active player —behind Nick Markakis— as well as a clubhouse leader.
Duquette, who spoke with Johnson after the trade was made, said it’s always a difficult personally to make these trades and thanked Johnson for his diligence the past few years. As for who will close games for the Orioles, the organization will continue to look externally although Duquette didn’t rule out promoting a current member of the bullpen, similar to what they did with Johnson who took over the ninth-inning duties full time at the end of 2011.
In Weeks, the Orioles got a former first-round selection of the A’s —in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft— and a versatile infielder who could help fill their hole at second base. Week played in just eight games for Oakland in 2013 and hit .271 with 19 doubles, 10 triples and 40 RBIs in 130 games for Triple-A Sacramento. He was also tied for the team lead with 17 stolen bases in 19 attempts.
Weeks had a stellar rookie season in 11, batting .303 with 26 doubles and 36 RBIs in 97 games for the A’s and Duquette said he’s also capable of playing shortstop, center field and designated hitter if need be.
The Orioles, in addition to rotation help, are in need of a DH, left fielder and second baseman and Monday’s trade helps give them some breathing room to compete for free agents.
“The personal part of it is tough because Jimmy was originally drafted and signed into the organization and solely played for the Orioles and that makes it difficult,” Duquette said. “But the way these things work a lot of times its about resource allocation. Jimmy deserves a lot of credit [for the team’s success], he did a nice job for the Orioles and gave his best over the course of his career.”
Baltimore, which agreed to contracts with outfielders Nolan Reimold and Steve Pearce on Monday, tendered deals to their other six arbitration eligible players: Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Bud Norris, Troy Patton, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. The team did not offer contracts to Eddie Gamboa and Jason Pridie, which removes them from the 40-man roster.
The Orioles agreed to a one-year deal with Nolan Reimold on Monday night and will tender contracts to their other eight arbitration-eligible players in advance of the midnight deadline.
Reimold, 30, is recovering from his second neck surgery this winter and will make a base salary of $1.025 million, up from $1 million in a 2013 season in which he played in just 40 games, batting .195/.250/.336 with five homers and 12 RBIs. The Orioles have gotten favorable reports about Reimold’s rehab progress and didn’t want to lose him by non-tendering him.
The other eight Orioles who will be offered contracts for 2014 on Monday are closer Jim Johnson, relievers Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, Troy Patton, starter Bud Norris, first baseman Chris Davis, catcher Matt Wieters and first base/outfielder Steve Pearce. Of the group, Johnson —the subject of trade rumors earlier in the day— stands to make the most in coming off his second consecutive 50-save season.
Johnson is projected to earn more than $10 million in arbitration, and although the Orioles have not made public their payroll constraints, a trade that would absorb the bulk of that money could certainly help the organization be more aggressive on the free agent market. Davis —who made $3.3 million— will also command a heft raise coming off a season in which he hit 53 homers and 138 RBIs, winning the Silver Slugger Award for first baseman and finishing third in AL MVP voting.
All players who were tendered contracts remain under team control and will try to negotiate an agreement with the Orioles as both sides work to avoid an independent, and often contentious arbitration hearing.
The Orioles are expected to tender a contract to all nine of their arbitration-eligible players in advance of Monday’s midnight deadline, including outfielder Nolan Reimold who has missed most of the past two seasons with a pair of neck surgeries.
Reimold, who is progressing well in his offseason rehab, is part of a group that also includes closer Jim Johnson, catcher Matt Wieters, first baseman Chris Davis, outfielder/first baseman Steve Pearce, relievers Brian Matusz, Troy Patton and Tommy Hunter and starter Bud Norris.
While most of the decisions are no-brainers, Reimold and Johnson are interesting cases. Johnson is projected to make more than $10 million in arbitration on the heels of his second consecutive 50-save season, despite blowing nine games in 2013. The right-hander’s salary is a sizable chunk of the Orioles’ payroll and, unsurpsingly, news emerged Monday that his stay in Baltimore could be short-lived as FoxSports.com tweeted that the organization was trying hard to trade Johnson.
One of the reported teams of interest are the deep-pocket Dodgers, who could absorb that salary and free up payroll for the O’s to make a move on the free agent market. It’s important to note that with nine arbitration-eligibles, and some due a significant raise, the Orioles payroll would already be close to $90 million even if they filled the rest of the big league roster at the league minimum rate. If the Orioles are going to address some of their holes -namely designated hitter, left field and the rotation— via free agency, freeing up some payroll would obviously allow them to explore some better options.
Teams have until midnight ET on Monday to decide whether to tender a contract their arbitration eligibles and even if the Orioles do that with Johnson they can still trade him later this winter. Monday’s deadline comes exactly a week before the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla.
The Orioles claimed infielder Cord Phelps off waivers from the Cleveland Indians on Monday afternoon, adding depth to the organization and bringing the 40-man roster to 38.
The 26-year-old Phelps has struggled to turn his Minor League success into anything at the big league level yet, posting a .159/.221/.248 line in 123 plate appearances in the Majors.
He is a career .286/.367/.471 Triple-A hitter and has primarily played second base over his career, a position that is a huge hole for the Orioles right now. With the departure of Brian Roberts –who has struggled to stay on the field when he was an Oriole– the O’s are actively trying to upgrade at second base and Phelps gives them another option there and as a potential utility player.
The switch-hitter also played first base and left field last season and has 40 games at shortstop under in his belt in the Minors.
Monday’s waiver claim was the second move for the Orioles, who also traded for Padres reliever Brad Brach to add another potential bullpen option.
The Orioles added a trio of young players to their 40-man roster on Wednesday, left-handed pitcher Tim Berry, catcher Michael Ohlman and knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa.
Berry pitched to a 1.84 ERA and a 2-0 record in the Arizona Fall League, and is coming off a solid season for Class-A Frederick. He went 11-7 with a 3.85 ERA in 27 starts, allowing 80 runs (65 earned) on 156 hits and 40 walks over 152 innings. Berry was ranked No. 12 among Orioles prospects to start the 2013 season.
Ohlman won the Carolina League batting title, hitting .313/.410/.524 in 100 games for Frederick, including 13 homers and 53 RBIs. He was ranked as the O’s 19th-best prospect to start the year, but his standing in the organization has grown considerably.
The 28-year-old Gamboa is the most surprising name of the three. In nine starts for Triple-A Norfolk, his first season as a knuckler, he went 2-5 with a 6.23 ERA.
The Orioles now have 36 players on the 40-man roster.
With Wednesday’s roster moves it’s important to note that it’s not free range for other clubs to take players not on the Major League roster. Players first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons. So, well-thought of pitchers like Eduardo Rodriguez and Mike Wright, for example, don’t need to be protected just yet.
For eligible players left off, clubs pay $50,000 to select someone in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, slated to take place on Thursday, Dec. 12. If that player doesn’t stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $25,000.
In other words, an international player or high school draftee signed in 2009, assuming they were 18 or under as of June 5 of that year, must be protected. A college player taken in the 2010 Draft is in the same boat.
The Orioles have taken a player in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft the past two years and been able to keep him on the roster for the entire season. As a result, both infielder Ryan Flaherty and left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland are now in the organization.
The Orioles added some more pitching depth on Wednesday afternoon, signing right-handed pitcher Edgmer Escalona to a one-year deal.
The 27-year-old Escalona went 1-4 with a 5.67 ERA for the Rockies last season, posting careers-highs in appearances (37), innings (46.0) and strikeouts (34). He has been pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League where he has a fourth-best 2.10 ERA over six starts (34 1/3 innings).
“He’s been a reliever in the big leagues and Colorado, right now he’s pitching as a starter so that he can develop the pitches he needs to be a good Major League,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said of how the organization views Escalona. “I think the club can decide in the spring. but the good news is he’s working on what he needs to work on to be a good Major League pitcher.”
Escalona went 1-5 with a 4.50 ERA in 78 relief appearances over four years for the Rockies, striking out 6.4 batters per nine innings. Escalona went 19-16 with a 3.85 ERA in 259 career relief outings over eight Minor League seasons in the Colorado system. He was signed September 8, 2004 as an undrafted free agent.
“He’s a big strong right-hander and has a good fastball,” Duquette said. “[He’s] working on developing pitches he needs to get lefties out.”
The move puts the Orioles 40-man roster at 33 players with the deadline for clubs to set their 40-man midnight ET on Wednesday in advance of the Rule 5 Draft. Duquette said the O’s will add a few more names before the day is through.
*The Orioles annouced earlier today plans to have Fan Fest on February 1. More details to come for the day-long event, which will again be held at the Baltimore Convention Center.
*MLB.com’s senior writer Jim Callis takes a look at Dylan Bundy and why O’s fans should still be optomistic about the right-hander’s future despite coming off Tommy John surgery. You can read that here.
*Major League Baseball announced earlier today that the Houston Astros will host 2014′s Civil Rights Game on May 30 versus the Orioles. Details for that can be found here.
*In case you missed it, I covered some of the Orioles’ recent trade rumors in Friday’s inbox (you can read that here) and will do some again this Friday. Got a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and city for possible inclusion in this week’s inbox.
Major League Baseball announced today that the Houston Astros will host the Civil Rights Game on May 30 against the Baltimore Orioles.
Astros.com reporter Brian McTaggart, who is live at the press conference announcement, has all the details for you below..
The Civil Rights Game and its ancillary activities are a series of events developed by MLB to pay tribute to those who fought on and off the field for equal rights for all Americans. The eighth installment of the game will be televised nationally on MLB Network.
“I am pleased to announce the Houston Astros, who have demonstrated a substantial commitment to supporting diversity throughout our industry, as the hosts of Major League Baseball’s 2014 Civil Rights Game,” Commissioner Bud Selig said. “The Civil Rights Game and its surrounding events are an opportunity not only for our game to honor those who have fought for equality throughout American history, but also to remind us that the battle against injustice continues. As a social institution that features unprecedented diversity of all races and ethnicities throughout our sport, we are proud to join the Astros in remembering this important era in history.”
Some of the events surrounding the Civil Rights Game include the MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon, the Baseball & Civil Rights Movement Roundtable Discussion and a youth baseball and softball event.
In addition to the 2014 Civil Rights Game at Minute Maid Park, several events will take place throughout the week, including:
• Baseball & the Civil Rights Movement Roundtable Discussion, May 29: A group of prominent participants will discuss the pivotal role baseball played in the civil rights movement and the game’s continued presence as a social institution in American society.
Previous panelists have included Martin Luther King III, human rights activist and eldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Sharon Robinson, MLB educational programming consultant and daughter of Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson; Dolores Huerta, activist and co-founder of the United Farm Workers; Ambassador Shabazz, Ambassador-at-large for Belize and eldest daughter of Malcolm X; Branch Rickey III, Pacific Coast League president and grandson of the late Branch Rickey; Thomas Tull, Chairman & CEO of Legendary Entertainment and producer of the featured film “42″; Arte Moreno, principal owner of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; Kenny Williams, executive vice president of the Chicago White Sox; Baseball Hall of Famers Barry Larkin, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and Dave Winfield; Dodgers legend Don Newcombe; Hall of Fame journalist and MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons; and MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds among others.
• MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon, May 30: The MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon will honor the recipients of this year’s MLB Beacon Awards, which recognize individuals whose lives are emblematic of the spirit of the civil rights movement.
Past recipients of MLB Beacon Awards include: Baseball Hall of Famers Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks; and also Buck O’Neil, Newcombe, Bo Jackson, Muhammad Ali, Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Ruby Dee, Aretha Franklin, Morgan Freeman, John H. Johnson, Billie Jean King, Spike Lee, Congressman John Lewis, Carlos Santana, three of the founding members of Earth, Wind & Fire, and Vera Clemente, MLB Goodwill Ambassador and wife of the late Baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.
Keynote speakers at previous MLB Beacon Award events have included Commissioner Selig, President Bill Clinton, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Julian Bond and Michael Wilbon.
• Youth Clinic, TBD: The youth baseball and softball clinic is an event designed to give young players locally the opportunity to interact with and learn from current and former players. The clinic will take place at the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy, which attracted approximately 1,300 participants in 2013. Interactive aspects will include batting cages, pitching machines and baserunning stations.
The Civil Rights Game began in Memphis, Tenn., in 2007, centering on an exhibition game between the Cardinals and Indians. After another exhibition game in Memphis in ’08, the Civil Rights Game moved to Cincinnati (2009-10), then Atlanta (2011-12) as regular-season games, and last year was hosted in Chicago by the White Sox.
While much of the South was deeply affected during the civil rights movement with violence threatening the well-being of many, Houston played a vital role in achieving peaceful desegregation, making it a crucial part of the overall civil rights effort.