Orioles vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette just held court with the media. I’ll have a full story up on Orioles.com now, but here are the highlights…
Duquette said the team is looking to add a left-handed hitter here at the meetings. It’s a priority for them and if they could, they’d add two. Obviously, they also want to find a designated hitter and upgrade their pitching staff.
As for second base, the Orioles seem to like what Ryan Flaherty has done for them.
“We got really work out of Flaherty at second base, not only defensively but he hit the ball well the second half of the season,” Duquette said. “He made better contact, he made more consistent contact and he also played pretty good defense.”
Does that close the door on a possible return for free agent Brian Roberts?
“No, not necessarily,” Duquette said. “But I think we have some good options with the people we have.”
The additions of Chord Phelps and Jemile Weeks, both switch-hitters who have spent time at second base, were also moves to address that vacancy according to Duquette. Top prospect Jonathan Schoop is an option, but the organization feels he would benefit from some more Minor League time.
On the pitching front, the Orioles have offers out to relievers and starters on the market, a bunch that were made over the weekend. Not suprisingly, they won’t participate in the posting of top Japanese pitcher Mashiro Tanaka.
As for the Jim Johnson money, which Duquette said would be “reallocated elsewhere” at the time of the trade, that will go towards adding pitching depth.
“We are going to use it to hire players,” Duquette said. ”And if we were to trade for a player that had a significantly salary some of it would go to that, but specifically we are going to utilize it to add some depth to our pithing staff. It’s real easy to think about it that way, you take the money and redeploy it to other pitchers.”
Johnson was projected to make more than $10 million in arbitration and while the Orioles did approach him about a potential extension, some of the figures thrown out there regarding what his camp was demanding weren’t close to being true. As for who will replace Johnson, the Orioles still remain interested in acquiring a free-agent closer and have interest in John Axford and Chris Perez.
“There’s a lot of pitchers that are closers on the market and I think some of them will sign for significantly less than 10 million a year,” Duquette said.
Reliever Ryan Webb, who will take his physical early this week, has a power sinker and keeps the ball down and is expected to be a late-inning option.
“That sound like another pitcher the Orioles have had recently?,” Duquette said, coyly comparing the right-hander to Johnson. “Same type of profile. doesn’t have the experience.”
The Orioles seem pretty unlikely to make a splash to sign a top free agent pitcher.
“If people are expecting the Orioles to go out and sign a significant pitcher, I think it’s more realistic to look for good pitchers to come up through the farm system,” Duquette said.
“Frankly I think we have more starting pitching depth going into this year than we’ve had the last couple years. We have some qualified starters already on the team and some pitchers in the Minors ready to supplement our team. That wasn’t the case last year.”
A lot of opposing teams have expressed interest in Mike Wright and the Orioles are also high on Tim Berry and Eduardo Rodriguez and their potential to help the big league club.
Greetings from the Winter Meetings in Disney World, where I found my hotel and room without getting lost in the sprawling resorts here. (No small feat, trust me).
Baseball is back at the Swan & Dolphin resort this week and with such a busy offseason already –at least around the league– it remains to be seen how much actual news will come out of the next four days in Florida.
For the Orioles, it’s a crucial time coming off a week in which the organization made its first big move –trading closer Jim Johnson– for “resource allocation” that is waiting to be spent. Will the O’s, who have a length list of holes to fill, find any magic in Florida?
The team remains committed to adding a closer on the free agent market and it’s been widely reported that they have interest in John Axford.
You can add former Indian Chris Perez to that list. Perez, originally a product of the Cardinals farm system, was released by Cleveland in September and he could be a decent buy-low option. Perez had some injuries and off field issues last year, but FanGraphs shows his velocity started to come back toward the end of the year and owns a career 3.41 ERA in six seasons. The 28-year-old right-hander saved 25 games last year, 39 in 2012 and 36 in ’11, so he’s certainly got closing experience.
On the starting front, the Orioles weren’t willing to go near the $30-million over three years to retain Scott Feldman (which is what the Astros signed him to) and were prepared for him to leave given the way the free agent market for starters have developed this winter. Perhaps they revisit the idea of bringing back Jason Hammel now.
Who else is left? Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santanta are two names that have been kicked around in discussions although they’d have to weigh that again giving up a Draft pick because both guys declined their qualifying offers to test the market.
The Orioles best money spent in free agency would probably be on a bat but they’d have to shell out some serious money to get an impact guy, such as Nelson Cruz or Shin-Soo Choo. Last year’s power-filled lineup went through a lot of slumps last year, and adding some players known to get on base is another priority.
In addition to the news and all the rumors, MLB.com will hand out its Greatness in Baseball Yearly (GIBBY) Awards here in Orlando and Orioles manager Buck Showalter will meet with the media to discuss the team’s offseason needs and other moves. Stay tuned for a daily recap of all things O’s on Orioles.com and, I’ll be using my blog and Twitter to supplement coverage and help provide insightful news, thoughts and analysis in the most timely and accurate manner possible.
I’d also like to hear from you about what moves the Orioles are/aren’t making these next few days. Who should they aggressively pursue? Who is an expendable trade chip?
Fans are encouraged to take part by filling the comments section at Orioles.com this week and joining the discussion on Twitter with suggestions for getting the club back to the postseason.
By the end of the week, we should know a lot more about what direction the Orioles are headed in.
The Orioles continued to revamp their bullpen on Friday morning, with an industry source confirming the club has reached an agreement for a two-year dal with right-hander Ryan Webb.
Webb, whose signing was first reported by Grantland, was non-tendered somewhat surprisingly by the Marlins earlier in the week as the club decided to not pay him $1.5 million next season. With Baltimore, Webb –pending a physical–will make $4.5 over two years as the O’s try to upgrade a bullpen that couldn’t sustain 2012′s success.
Webb is a solid setup man gets a lot of ground balls and he posted 2.91 ERA in 66 innings for the Marlins in 2013. The 27-year-old owns a career 3.29 ERA in 276 innings and joins an O’s relief corps that includes late-inning relievers Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter. Baltimore, which traded away closer Jim Johnson on Monday, is still in the market to add a closer.
The O’s are also expected to make the deal for former Giants outfielder Francisco Peguero official on Friday. Peguero will get a Major League contract.
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.