The Orioles’ agreement with Ubaldo Jimenez (pending a physical) is a substantial commitment for the organization, a four-year, $50-million pact that represents the longest deal they’ve ever given to a free agent starter.
While this will be discussed in the coming weeks in more depth, I wanted to opine a little bit about what his arrival means for the Orioles.
For starters, it signifies that the organization wants to win this year, a much-needed major move that helps the team’s rotation get significantly stronger. There’s a window of success right now for the Orioles, which is something that Duquette has acknowledged, and it’s going to be difficult -and pricey- to keep it intact. The O’s are trying to make the most of their lineup, which is one of the best in baseball, and a defense that is coming off a record-setting year. The key, as always, will be the pitching.
Jimenez, who went 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA in 32 starts for the Indians last season, will be immediately inserted into the rotation. Likely right behind Chris Tillman. Besides those two, Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez are locks, assuming they are both healthy, for two more spots and it was thought that Bud Norris was a solid candidate as well. But, Jimenez’s addition makes them a little more interesting.
Norris could very well still be part of the team’s rotation, but there’s a lot of competition for that fifth spot. Lefty Zach Britton is out of options so the team will try to find ways to keep him if he has a good spring, possibly in the bullpen. Norris is another potential bullpen guy -possibly even in the back end– if he doesn’t make the rotation. Jimenez’s acquisition almost assures top pitching prospect Kevin Gausman will start the year at Triple-A Norfolk and makes it a much tougher road for guys like Brian Matusz, who figures to be one of the lefties in the ‘pen, and Steve Johnson, who can still be sent to the Minor Leagues, to crack the rotation. New Oriole Suk-min Yoon is another guy who could come into play, though it’s hard to see him cracking the starting five out of camp.
The organization obviously sees Gausman as a starter long-term and there’s also the timeline for fellow pitching prospect Dylan Bundy, who could be a Major League option by June. Things could get more interesting as the season progresses.
That, of course, is assuming everyone is healthy. Gonzalez is currently dealing with minor back spasms and Chen is coming off offseason season to remove bone spurs in his knee, neither of which are expected to have any carryover into Grapefruit League games. But it’s worth monitoring.
Jimenez isn’t a savior and he’s had trouble with consistency. But he’s coming off a solid stretch in September going 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA in six September outings (all meaningful games with Cleveland in a tight Wild Card race) and he makes the competition for the fifth rotation spot that much harder. It could also strengthen the bullpen, depending on who the odd man out is. And given the Orioles recent pitching woes, that’s a really good thing.
Do they have enough in them to go out and make another move, say for a Kendrys Morales? Manager Buck Showalter said today he would prefer an every day DH and cautioned reporters that some of the better deals happen late in the spring. Stay tuned.
The Orioles have signed Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million deal pending a physical. You can read the rest of my story on that here.
SARASOTA– Patience could pay off for the Orioles, who sources confirmed are close to a deal with free agent Ubaldo Jimenez.
The news, first reported by MASNSports.com on Monday night, come on the heels of the official announcement for a three-year, $5.75 million deal for Suk-min Yoon, which was the club’s largest signing this winter. Jimenez would blow that out of the water.
The righty has been looking for a four year deal and sources confirmed that is in play in the negotiations, which MASN estimated around a $48 million total value.
Seeking a starter the entire winter, the Orioles were hesitant to give up a Draft pick although they will have to for Jimenez given that he declined a qualifying offer. Getting a deal done with Jimenez, which could be finalized before the morning, would be a huge boon for an organization that took a serious hit with a quiet winter.
The Orioles, who have also kept in contact with Ervin Santana’s camp, have payroll flexibility from trading away Jim Johnson and it’s possible they make another move after Jimenez. Jimenez has spent the past three years with the Indians, and is coming off a solid 2013 in which he went 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA in 32 starts.
Most Orioles fans are familiar by now with Kevin Gausman, who made his Major League debut last year after an impressive spring. Gausman was shuttled from Triple-A to the big leagues last year and found a niche in relief after a rocky start in the rotation.
He’s now using that experience in competing for the fifth starter spot this spring. Gausman’s love for mini-powdered doughnuts has been well-documented, but here’s a few more interesting tidbits about one of the Orioles’ top pitching prospects…
Favorite food: I would have to say any kind of hibachi. I think it’s more than just dinner, you know? You watch them make it and they flip broccoli toward you. So, I would say that.
Favorite movie: I like really awkward moments so I’d have to say Napoleon Dynamite.
Hidden talent if you have one: I really don’t have any talents. I’m talentless.
[MLB.com: I find this really hard to believe.]
I used to play the saxophone, that’s about it. I stopped [my] seventh-grade year.
If I wasn’t a baseball player I’d be…: A historian. I was a history major at LSU. You know Ancient Aliens, the show? It’s on The History Channel, you can watch it. I want to do that, it’d be cool. Basically, they have historians come in and make up these ridiculous assumptions. It’s pretty cool.
Favorite offseason place: I went to Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean this offseason. So, probably that.
Prized possession: I have a ball signed by Ozzie Smith and the entire 2010 Aflac All-American game. It’s got like Bryce Harper and I think Manny [Machado] is on it. I guess that would be it. I have it, my mom got me this really corny frame, it’s like a baseball frame that has all these baseballs in it. It’s a home plate.
It was an early day in Sarasota with the team taking the field early to attend the charity golf tournament (formerly organized by Jim Johnson) later this afternoon.
*Position players report date is tomorrow, but they continue to come in early with Ivan De Jesus, Jr. arriving today along with Delmon Young. The only player on the 40-man roster not here yet is Rule 5 draft pick Michael Almanzar.
Asked if he had any new wrinkles for the first full-squad workout on Tuesday, Showalter said yes. Not surprisingly, he wouldn’t elaborate.
“I don’t want to get too predictable,” he said. “I got a few things, may not be noticeable. I’ve already had a couple.”
*One of the Orioles’ holes this season is the designated hitter position and –while there’s no frontrunner– Showalter isn’t necessarily pencilling that spot in to be a platoon.
“I’m not going to start telling somebody they can’t do something,” he said. “You always try to create a role where everybody knows, ‘Ok in this situation, this is where I’m going to be asked to contribute.’ That’s one reason why it kind of works out that way with a lot of places.
For instance, Delmon Young. This guy has hit left and right-handed pitchers. You go right down the board, if you look at Henry Urrutia’s numbers in the Minor Leagues. Steve Pearce. We got seven or eight of them we are considering…I wouldn’t say going into it we’ve already made that decision. We’ll see. We got some guys with a track record of hitting both of them.”
There’s also the possibility the Orioles add a DH, either with free agent Kendrys Morales, or a late-spring trade.
“It’s one thing to have the ability to acquire players during the offseason, monetarily or whatever, but it’s also a big feather in your hat to have the ability to do it later in the spring,” Showalter said. “Because what happens when you get down in this area here [late March], lot of people are seeing what their club looks like and they realize they have some excess.[I] can’t tell you how many times over the years, not just here, there’s been somebody like that available, but it didn’t fit into your payroll. So there’s always an advantage to having some flexibility with that.”
The Orioles payroll could be around $100 million, meaning there’s money there for them to add another player or two before Opening Day.
*The Orioles will announce officially the three-year deal with Suk-Min Yoon this afternoon, with a press conference slated for Tuesday.
*Miguel Gonzalez will not participate in the golf tournament, but he did play catch today. Gonzalez has been dealing with back spasms that started during Saturday’s workout and the hope is he’ll be able to get back up on the mound in the next two days. Showalter was still waiting to get the report on Gonzalez’s stuff on Monday.
*Players who threw bullpens today: Tommy Hunter, Bud Norris, Darren O’Day, Evan Meek, Troy Patton, Ryan Webb, Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Wei-Yin Chen, Tim Alderson, Brock Huntzinger, T.J. McFarland, Nick Additon and Tim Berry.
*Kelvin De La Cruz, who has been dealing with a sore hamstring, threw off a half mound today and assuming he feels OK, will go back to a regular ‘pen the next time out.
*Alfredo Aceves and Johnny Monell were late arrivals, due to weather issues, but both guys played winter ball and manager Buck Showalter said he wouldn’t count the tardiness against them.
Aceves is an interesting character, given his well-documented on-field blow ups with teammates and managers in Boston, he doesn’t seem like a “Buck” guy at first blush.
“I’ve learned through the years I make up my own mind about people,” Showalter said yesterday when asked about Aceves. “Some people are a product of their environment. I’m pretty confident about our environment.
“It’s very obvious – Dave [Wallace] and I were talking [Sunday] – whether it be PFPs and drills and this and that – when he gets on the mound and puts a baseball in his hand and he’s pitching, you see why he has been in demand. He had a number of offers and he came here.”
There are a lot of guys in camp who have played with Aceves, who is vying for a bullpen spot and has a pretty good chance to make the club as a non-roster invitee. Showalter said he made a favorable impression in an early meeting and that it’s a tough balancing act to trust the clubhouse environment created as well as protect it.
“That’s the weighing,” he said. “Protective of it, but you’re confident of it. Peer pressure is pretty good. My barometer of players is, if they don’t care what their teammates think, you’ve got a problem. That’s usually the indicator. But until you’ve walked a mile in a man’s shoes and been in some of his recent environments…
“There have been some good baseball people who have had this guy who have had some bumps in the road. I’m not blind to that. I’m not any smarter than they are, but I’m real confident that, if it’s there, we can find it.”
*In honor of Presidents Day, MLB.com spoke to each club’s president (or high-ranking official) for a Q&A. You can read mine with EVP Dan Duquette here.
The 27-year-old Brad Brach is next in the daily spring series. Brach was traded to the Orioles on November 25, in exchange for minor league RHP Devin Jones, after he was designated for assignment by the Padres five days earlier. The right-hander is competing for a bullpen spot this spring.
Favorite food: Pizza and ice cream. I’ve got a sweet tooth. Being from New Jersey, I like the thin-crust, New York style. I don’t have a favorite topping. On the West Coast [with the Padres] there was just this one place I liked.
Favorite movie: Remember the Titans. I remember first watching it in high school. There’s a lot of movies I like, but that’s my favorite.
Hidden talent: I like to sing, but I’m not very good at it. I would never do it in front of people. I was in chorus in eighth grade, that’s about it. I also had a CD made with these two other guys growing up. It was a rap song. It wasn’t very good.
If I wasn’t a baseball player, I’d be… A high school history teacher and coach. I played basketball, too, so I’d coach basketball and baseball.
Favorite offseason place: I’d have to say Nashville. And also somewhere warmer, my parents live in Arizona. Nashville is one of those places when you first go there, I hadn’t ever really seen live music. And there’s live music everywhere and everyone is really good. You think, ‘How am I ever going to leave here?’ And that’s how they got me.
Prized possession: Probably my wife [singer/song writer Jenae Cherry]’s first CD. I think it was back around 2010.
As a reminder, I’ll be taking one to answer per day in Spring Training so if you don’t see yours it doesn’t mean I forgot about it. I’ll try to get to everyone, either on the blog or responding personally if I run out of time. Questions may be edited for spelling/grammar, accuracy and brevity and should be tagged with #QOTD on Twitter or in your email body (send to email@example.com). I’ll include first names only.
I’ve read already about Jonathan Schoop looking good. Is he the favorite to land the second base job at this point? I had hoped Ryan Flaherty would get a chance.–Dan
Flaherty should get a chance. There’s been a lot of early talk about Schoop, who has added some muscle, and the organization’s top prospect is coming off a long season that started with the World Baseball Classic and ended with the Arizona Fall League. But the organization also likes Flaherty and the thought is Schoop, who missed time last season with a back injury, would be best served developing more in Triple-A first.
Flaherty is considered the leading candidate coming in to camp, with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette telling reporters this winter that the projections for him over a full season are 20-plus homers. Not bad for a second baseman. Flaherty hasn’t really had consistent playing time since arriving two winters ago as a Rule 5 pick and this is really the chance for the Orioles to see what they have in him. A big “Buck guy”, Flaherty won’t simply be handed the job. The O’s have plenty infielders in camp along with Schoop, including Jemile Weeks, who is on the 40-man roster. Alexi Casilla returns from a year ago and there’s also Chord Phelps, but it’s really Flaherty’s job to lose at this point.
What could change things is if Manny Machado is not ready for Opening Day. Manager Buck Showalter has said that the versatile Flaherty won’t play third base early in camp and the club has other options there for the start of spring games. But that thinking could change if it looks like Machado won’t be ready.
Manny Machado reported to camp on Sunday for his first workout in an Oriole uniform, taking ground balls and batting practice as he continues to rehab back from offseason knee surgery.
Machado reiterated what he said at last month’s FanFest about being uncertain if he would be ready for Opening Day until he gets cleared to play in games. That’s the last step right now, with Machado basically able to do everything but run the bases. He’s been on the field for the past two weeks, hitting for more than a month and fielding for the past couple weeks, but it’s been a challenge to hold himself back.
“I think it’s the hardest part,” said Machado, who has done some lateral stuff, but mostly straight-away hitting and fielding. “The way I have to approach things now is kind of mentally do the things right. I’m training my body now, training my mind to do certain things while [I] run and cut…at the same time, I got to think ‘I can’t overdo it’. I don’t want to overdo it at this point, so close and how far I’ve come. I don’t want to go out there and run the bases or slide or dive for a ball and try to mess this..It’s hard. it’s hard to hold myself back.”
Machado, who has been working out in Miami, field balls on the team’s turf field with shortstop J.J. Hardy, shifting from side-to-side and getting on one knee at one point.
“We are following the doctors protocol,” manager Buck Showalter said of the rehab plan. “He is supposed to take ground balls straight on, hit, he can run straight on, but we are not going side-to-side, we are not turning bases…most of this I’m going to rely on Manny. Because we are real close to the point where structurally he’s fine. He’s got one more sign-off I think by the doctors.”
That will come around mid-March and will go a long way in determining if Machado is ready to play in spring games. If that’s the case, he would be eligible to be ready for Opening Day. Any later than that would put that it in question.
Typically, players always want to push the agenda. But Showalter —who has purposely stayed away from bothering Manny about his knee— didn’t seem worried about that with Machado.
“I don’t think Manny will do that,” he said. “I think he’s got the right amount of caution here, I do.”
“I think at some point whenever it is we are going to get [from the doctors], ‘OK, turn it loose’. and his body will tell him and he will tell us [when he’s ready.]”
Machado, who had played every game since his August 2012 debut before he suffered the season-ending surgery in the final week, said he’s preparing just as much mentally as he is physically to be fully ready for the Orioles in 2014.
“I want to be perfect when I go out there, I don’t want to be out there half[way],” Machado said. “I want to be 110 percent, perfect. Everything i do has to be perfect to go out there and start playing.
“I’m going to try to play as many games as I can. If I miss the first week or two weeks, once I get going, I’m not going to stop. ”
Showalter echoed that sentiment about his young All-Star, who won a Gold Glove in his first pro season.
“My big thing, I do not want a setback,” Showalter said. “Shame on us. Or shame on Manny. It’s one of those things where he may say, ‘I’m ready to go.’ And [then it’s] ‘fine you got another two days’. That’s what I don’t want to happen.”
Manny Machado reported to camp on Sunday and took batting practice, which you can watch here: http://Instagram.com/p/kfABENBQBK/
Machado spent some time shagging balls in the outfield after that and took ground balls at third base along with shortstop J.J. Hardy. Machado, recovering from offseason knee surgery, has been cleared to run –but not cutting and doing corners– as well as to hit and field. He shifted from side to side and got on one knee at one point during the field session with third base coach Bobby Dickerson, which took place on the team’s turf field.
“We are following the doctors protocol,” manager Buck Showalter said of Machado’s rehab plan. “He is supposed to take ground balls straight on, hit, he can run straight on but we are not going side-to-side, we are not turning bases…most of this I’m going to rely on Manny. Because we are real close to the point where structurally he’s fine. He’s got one more sign-off I think by the doctors.”
That will come around mid-March and will go a long way in determining if Machado is ready to play in spring games. If that’s the case, he would be eligible to be ready for Opening Day. Any later than that would put that in question.
Typically, players always want to push the agenda. But Showalter didn’t seem worried about that too much with Machado.
“I don’t think Manny will do that,” he said. “I think he’s got the right amount of caution here, I do.”
“I think at some point whenever it is we are going to get, ok turn it loose. and his body will tell him and he will tell us…”
“My big thing, I do not want a setback,” Showalter said. “Shame on us. Or shame on Manny. It’s one of those things where he may say, ‘I’m ready to go.’ And [it’s] fine you got another two days. That’s what I don’t want to happen.”
*The big news of the day was Manny Machado reported to camp and took batting practice and ground balls. Machado is still not cleared to run the bases or participate in any games and won’t see the doctor again until mid-March. You can read more on that here.
*Pitcher Alfredo Aceves and catcher Johnny Monell have both reported to camp after weather-related issues caused the pair to be late arrivals. Aceves is competing for a spot in the bullpen while Monell is vying for the backup catcher job. Both guys played winter ball, so they aren’t behind at all when it comes to being ready.
*Zach Britton has made throwing to a moveable target a big part of his spring routine, and he will continue to make establishing that sinker a priority. You can read more on that unusual drill here.
*Pitchers who threw bullpens today were: Aceves, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Edgmer Escalona, Steve Johnson, Mike Belfiore, Kevin Gausman, Liam Hendriks, Eduardo Rodriguez, Josh Stinson and Mike Wright.
*There’s only five players missing from Orioles camp with a ton of early reports. Delmon Young, Francisco Peguero, Alex Gonzalez, Ivan De Jesus and Xavier Paul.
*Suk-Min Yoon passed his physical, but no official announcement from the team yet. Given the golf tournament on Monday afternoon, it’s an early day for the O’s, it’s more likely that the press conference would be Tuesday.
*Miguel Gonzalez did not take his scheduled bullpen on Sunday as the right-handed pitcher —who exited Saturday’s workout with back spasms— will give it another day or two to let the area calm down.
“My lower back tightened up a little bit on the run down covering first [base],” Gonzalez said. “I haven’t been stretching as much as I was used to. The second day out. I feel pretty good now. I feel a lot better than I did yesterday.”
Gonzalez, who threw a bullpen on Friday, will continue to get treatment on the area and play it by ear in terms of getting back up on the mound. The right-hander had a minor back issue before one of his starts last year, but was still able to pitch.