Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said earlier this week the organizations would be willing to go multiple years on a free agent pitcher in the right scenario.
And while the club has extended a two-year contract to Grant Balfour, the sticking point in negotiations regarding the free agent closer —who will turn 36 at the end of the month— so far has been the length of the deal.
Industry sources confirmed to MLB.com on Thursday that Balfour has several offers on the table and the Orioles, who have been heavily rumored to land the right-hander all week, still believe they are in a favorable position to land him.
Duquette acknowledged on Wednesday that the organization had made several offers to free agents, including starters, relievers and at least one left-handed hitter and the O’s remain optimistic they can start to address those needs quickly following an uneventful Winter Meetings.
Balfour went 1-3 with a 2.59 ERA in 65 games for the A’s last season, pitching 62 2/3 innings and compiling 38 saves. The Orioles, in need of a closer after trading Jim Johnson earlier this month —because they were unwilling to pay a salary of more than $10 million to him— would try to reallocate that money with a deal that comes in at an average annual rate less than that.
The Australian native has 10 years of big league experience, the past three with Oakland and the four prior to that with Tampa Bay. Balfour made his debut with Minnesota in ’01 and owns a career 28-17 record with a 3.27 ERA in 463 games, over 473 innings.
Seeking to add to their roster for the third consecutive year, the Orioles selected third baseman Michael Almanzar and Julio Borbon in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft.
Borbon, who was taken in the Minor League portion of the Draft from the Cubs Double-A roster, has Major League experience and the Orioles had interest in claiming him off of waivers during the 2013 season.
“Borbon believe it or not is a left-handed hitter outfielder that fills a need that we were looking for in our big league team,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. “He’s had some good contribution in the Major League[s], getting on base with his bat, playing defense and also with his legs. So we like these players, they grew up around baseball. They have tools, one is a left-handed hitter one is a right-handed hitter. We think they can both help our team.”
Borbon is a former first-round Draft pick who is a .272/.318/.347 lifetime hitter in 288 big league games. He played in one game for the Rangers and 72 for the Cubs last season, batting .200/.282/.276 and has dropped off the last few years. The Orioles, who could possibly invite the 27-year-old to Major League camp, will try to help Borbon capture his old form.
“Sometimes just a change of scenery, new environment new atmosphere, sometimes guys flourish when they kind of get that second opportunity,” director of Minor League operations Kent Qualls said. “So, we are excited to bring him into spring training and let our staff work with him and see what we got.”
Almanzar, who has also played first base, is from the Red Sox organization and spent the 2013 season with Double-A Portland. He played in 131 games and posted a .268/.328/.432 line including 16 homers and 81 RBIs.
The 23-year-old was signed by Boston as an undrafted free agent in ’08 and hails from Santo Domingo. Almanzar, a right-handed hitter, was one of nine selections in the Major League portion of Thursday’s draft and will cost the Orioles $50,000 and a 40-man roster spot.
“I’m kind of excited that we added two players today who have the capability and skill to help our Major League team,” Duquette said.
“[Almanzar] has had a lot of experience having signed young, he got a healthy bonus when he signed and he has made good progress in all areas of his game the last two years. 12 and ’13, so we will see how he does. It’s a challenge for him to go to the big leagues and perform. But he performed all year in Double-A with the bat.”
The Orioles have been able to keep their last two Rule 5 Draft picks on their Major League roster, in Ryan Flaherty and T.J. McFarland.
The Orioles haven’t done anything of note in Orlando, but reliever Ryan Webb did pass his physical in Baltimore and spoke with the media on a conference call last night.
Here is what Webb had to say…
[on choosing to sign with Baltimore] “They were one of the first ones to reach out to me and my agent. That’s always a good sign. And it was literally hours after I was non-tendered by the Marlins. It’s a good feeling when somebody’s on you that quick. They’ve paid attention to me and probably wanted me for a while. Obviously, the defense there is amazing and that was a big part of my decision in the end. You always want to play behind a very good defense like the Oriole have. Their lineup is incredible. I think they’re going to compete in that division and I want to help make them a playoff team.
Looking at Jim Johnson obviously leaving and the type of pitcher he was, it’s always good to see sinker ball guys like that that are kind of looked upon favorably by the front office and the manager. He was obviously an excellent closer there for the last few years, and there’s lots of similarities with the types of pitchers we are. I think going into an atmosphere where the manager looks at sinkerballers as a positive, good thing, made me more comfortable with my decision.”
[on his role with the Orioles:] ”I haven’t really thought of it. I’m going to go into Spring Training and I’m going to work as hard as I can. That kind of decision is up to Buck. I’m just going to go in with an open mind and whatever role they want me to paly, I’m going to compete my best and I’m going to be happy with whatever role that is because I want to play on a winning team. I don’t want to go in and be the best guy on the worst bullpen. I want to be a guy in one of the best bullpens in the league. I learned that a long time ago. It’s a lot more fun to win and have a good bullpen and a good group of guys behind you than stick out for being one good guy in a bullpen that falters. So, I’m just looking forward to having guys around me who are competing just as hard.”
[on playing at Camden Yards and in the American League East:] “I hear it’s a beautiful ballpark. I’ve never been there. I’ve been to a few of the stadiums in that league. I know it’s a tough division, but that kind of stuff really excites me. I want to pitch against the best, I want to pitch in games that matter. I want to pitch when every pitch counts. That kind of stuff really gets me going. So, I’m excited to come to a team where every inning is going to matter. I think as long as I keep the ball down in the zone and do what I’ve done, I don’t have to worry about the ballpark so much.”
[on if he was surprised about the non-tender:] “I was surprised at the non-tender. It was definitely not expected. Before I had time to even process what happened, I got calls from 14 or 15 teams, according to my agent, and Baltimore was one of the first and they were one of the most successful, so I was real comfortable with making that decision kind of early. The timing is right, I think, and I was very happy with my decision and I’m really excited to be with the Orioles.”
Seeking to add to their roster for the third consecutive year, the Orioles selected third baseman Michael Almanzar in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft.
Almanzar, who has also played first base, is from the Red Sox organization and spent the 2013 season with Double-A Portland. He played in 131 games and posted a .268/.328/.432 line including 16 homers and 81 RBIs.<p>
The 23-year-old was signed by Boston as an undrafted free agent in ’08 and hails from Santo Domingo. Almanzar, a right-handed hitter, was one of nine selections in the Major League portion of Thursday’s draft.
The Orioles have been able to keep their last two Rule 5 Draft picks on their Major League roster, in Ryan Flaherty and T.J. McFarland.
Almanzar will have to stay on the Orioles 25-man roster the entire season in order for them to keep him. He costs the organization $50,000 and is now part of the 40-man roster.
The Orioles are ramping up efforts to make a move, extending several offers to free agents on Wednesday and continuing trade discussions, although it remains to be seen if they will have anything to show for it when they board a plane back north on Thursday afternoon.
“We’ve got offers out to hitters, we’ve got offers out to pitchers that are both starters and relievers,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. “Our effort is there, we just haven’t closed a deal yet.”
The Orioles watched several pieces come off the board that they liked in the third full day of the Winter Meetings, including pitcher Bartolo Colon –who signed a to-year, $20-million pact with the Mets– and first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison who was traded to Seattle.
Is Duquette, who was confident earlier in the week the club would add players, feeling any pressure to make a move as the meetings wind down?
“We are gong to try to get something done,” he said. “Sometimes you can lay the groundwork [at the Winter Meetings] and make a deal a day or two after. That would be good. But we would certainly like to get something done here this week.”
Duquette said the market has pretty much set itself and he expected some trades around baseball later on Wednesday and the rest of the week. Whether any of those moves involve the Orioles –who have prioritized pitching and a left-handed bat– remains to be seen.
*The club has been busy preparing for the Rule 5 Draft and will take a player in the Major League portion on Thursday morning. They’ve kept their last two picks in T.J. McFarland and Ryan Flaherty.
*Director of player development Brian Graham will be honored by the industry as this year’s Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award winner at a dinner tonight. More on the award and Graham can be found here.
*New reliever Ryan Webb spoke to the media today on a conference call and said one of the reasons he signed with the O’s was that they were the first team to contact him after he was non tendered by Miami. I’ll have more from Webb up later on Orioles.com.
The Orioles have taken under consideration extending shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is signed through 2014.
“J.J. has had a couple really good years for the team,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said Wednesday, “and I think the interest is mutual between he and the Orioles and extending that relationship.”
It would be Hardy’s second extension with Baltimore as the Gold Glover heads into the final season of a three-year $22.5 million deal in July 2011, a deal that includes an eight-team no-trade clause. He is represented by LSW Baseball.
Hardy, one of the most well-liked Orioles in the clubhouse, was also an All-Star and Silver Slugger this year and hit .263 with 25 homers and 76 RBIs in 159 games.
Hardy was the subject of trade rumors earlier this winter, along with catcher Matt Wieters, although it’s highly unlikely the club moves either player. The Orioles have had extension talks regarding Wieters the past two springs and Duquette said they will touch base with his agent Scott Boras –who also represented Chris Davis– when they go through the arbitration process next month.
Boras held court with the media at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday afternoon and was asked about possible extension talks for Wieters and Davis.
“I’m sure that conversation will be with Peter [Angelos] and I some day, but certainly welcome to entertain it and look at it and talk,” he said.
As for the notoriously difficult Boras’ relationship with the Orioles?
“Dan [Duquette] and I talk frequently, if not two, three times a month. Had a meeting in September. We have a good working relationship and had one when he was in Boston,” Boras said. “He’s got great hair, too.”
Agent Scott Boras just held court with the media for about 25 minutes and briefly touched on two of his Oriole clients, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters.
[on having extension talks with Dan Duquette about either guy]
“I’m sure that conversation will be with Peter [Angelos] and I some day but certainly welcome to entertain it and look at it and talk.”
[on his relationship with the Orioles]
“Dan and I talk frequently, if not two, three times a month. Had a meeting in September. We have a good working relationship and had one when he was in Boston. He’s got great hair, too.”
Duquette said earlier this week that they aren’t actively discussing an extension with either player, noting that now is not the time for that stuff.
For the Orioles on Tuesday there was plenty of smoke, but no fire. Despite the frenzy of rumors in the morning involving the Orioles adding closer Grant Balfour, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette confirmed there has been no formal offer extended to the free agent.
“A lot of speculation has been way beyond the activity,” Duquette said of the rumblings involving his club.
“We did make some progress [in regards to free agent pitchers] in that we have a pretty good idea what the market is there, but we have a lot more work to do. We have a lot more work to do to actually build our pitching staff.”
Duquette said the Orioles do have an offer out—but it’s not to a closer— and any speculation that the club has or is close to a deal is “not accurate.”
The Orioles, who spent a good chunk of the day going over preparations for the Rule 5 Draft, also ramped up efforts to secure a left-handed hitter on Tuesday. Duquette said they are looking at trade scenarios and free agents and the Marlins’ Logan Morrison —along with a few other Miami outfielders— and free agent Jason Kubel are two names that they’ve been tied to.
The O’s have also been linked to numerous free agent starters, including Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, and Duquette said he’d be willing to beyond two years in the right situation.
“I guess it depends on the pitcher. What the price is and what the risk is,” he said. “I think you have to look at each one closely and see if it works for your team.”
The Orioles did officially add a pitcher Tuesday, with reliever Ryan Webb passing his physical and agreeing to a two-year pact. Besides the Rule 5 Draft, the Orioles remain optimistic they will leave with another player before departing Orlando on Thursday.
“We are working on a couple pitching options, hopefully we will be able to do some good there,” Duquette said.
In addition to Balfour, the Orioles remain interested in Chris Perez and John Axford for their closer opening.
Last year’s Rule 5 Draft pick T.J. McFarland, coming off a successful winter ball stint, will attend the Orioles mini-camp in January and compete for a starting rotation spot this spring, manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday.
Showalter also hopes to have starter Wei-Yin Chen at the four-day camp, although baseball’s rules dictate that the team can’t invite any players and it has to go through the League and their agent first. Chen had surgery to remove bone spurs around his right knee in October and the organization is hoping to get a handle on where he is physically as soon as possible.
As for Nolan Reimold, who the organization re-signed for $1.025 million at the non-tender deadline, Showalter said he wasn’t sure if the left fielder would be a full-go by the team Spring Training starts.
“Basically, what keeps coming out of [vice president of baseball operations] Brady [Anderson] is that [Reimold] is further along than he was last year at this time,” Showalter said of Reimold, who is recovering from a correct neck procedure that marked the second consecutive season-ending operation. “What that means, I don’t think anybody knows until we get into the rigors of the baseball full activity. But we’re going to take another shot with him.
“In today’s world, it’s probably pretty cheap when you look at the going rate of things. If Nolan comes back 100 percent, we’ve got something, a pretty good deal, so I’m pulling for him. It’s been a long, tough road for him. When you look at what he’s gone through and how it happened and the whole nine yards, he got injured diving into the stands trying to help his club win.
“The organization, Mr. Angelos, has been very loyal to Nolan in not just closing the door on him. I’m proud of that.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter held court with the media Tuesday afternoon, speaking for nearly 30 minutes on a variety of topics including his desire to bring back second baseman Brian Roberts, which the organization has remained in contact with.
Roberts, a free agent this winter who has spent his entire career with the Orioles, has attracted other suitors in a thin market that’s already seen high-price Robinson Cano jet for Seattle. Despite his difficulty staying on the field the past few seasons, Roberts —who will likely get a one-year deal— could help the Orioles fill their hole at leadoff and help stabilize second base, a position executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette indicated earlier this week that could go to Ryan Flaherty.
Is Flaherty ready to be a full-time player?
“Could [be],” Showalter said. “The way they do the metrics they profile him out as hitting 20 home runs at second base and playing pretty good defense. That’s a pretty good combo. We have Jemile [Weeks], we have the potential of [prospect] Jonathan Schoop. First and foremost, we have the potential of Brian Roberts. So, I like our options.”
The switch-hitting Roberts was able to stay healthy in the season’s final few months and Showalter said in a perfect world the Orioles roster would include him this spring.
“It’s not always a perfect world, it’s got to fit for him,” he said. “There’s some decisions that have to be made when people start changing salaries and fits…I think Dan [Duquette] has got it wired. conversations that need to be had will be had.”