Feeling a roster crunch due to a short bench and the desire to keep Rule 5 selection T.J. McFarland, the Orioles have traded right-handed relief pitcher Luis Ayala to the Atlanta Braves.
In exchange, Baltimore receives minor league pitcher Chris Jones, who will be assigned to Double-A Bowie. The deal frees up a roster spot for outfielder Chris Dickerson, who will join the club in Boston for Wednesday’s game and was not on the 40-man roster while beginning the season at Triple-A Norfolk.
Injuries to second baseman Brian Roberts and outfielder Nolan Reimold had left the Orioles short-handed as they tried to carry McFarland on the 25-man roster. Trading Ayala not only gives them a fourth bench player immediately with Dickerson but makes the long-term prospects of keeping McFarland more reasonable.
Ayala was 6-5 with a 2.81 earned run average in 68 games for the Orioles over the past two seasons, but he became more expendable with the decision to move former starter and right-handed pitcher Tommy Hunter to a bullpen role. The club had been shopping the 35-year-old right-hander since the end of spring training when it became apparent that executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter wanted to keep the 23-year-old McFarland around.
The veteran reliever allowed 44 percent of inherited runners to score in 2012, his worst full-season mark since the 2004 season when he pitched for the Montreal Expos (45 percent).
Dickerson provides the club another left-handed bat off the bench despite only having the ability to play the outfield. The 31-year-old spent the last two seasons with the New York Yankees, hitting .266 with three homers and 12 runs batted in in 72 plate appearances. He is a career .266 hitter with 11 home runs 47 RBIs, and 27 stolen bases in 599 plate appearances over five seasons with Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and New York.
He went 3-for-15 in six games with Norfolk this season and will wear No. 60.
The Orioles lacked any other roster flexibility in the bullpen considering all current members are either out of options or a Rule 5 selection other than left-hander Brian Matusz and right-hander Darren O’Day, two arms Showalter would obviously like at his disposal.
The 24-year-old southpaw Jones is 24-20 with a 3.58 ERA over seven minor league seasons with the Cleveland Indians and Braves. He posted a 3.90 ERA in 45 appearances in relief for Double-A Mississippi last year.