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Orioles designate struggling Rule 5 pitcher Cortes for assignment

Posted on 10 April 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles’ peculiar attempt to carry three Rule 5 picks on their 25-man roster didn’t make it through the second week of the season.

After giving up his second grand slam in only his fourth appearance in Monday’s 7-1 loss to Toronto, left-handed pitcher Nestor Cortes has been designated for assignment. The Orioles recalled right-hander Yefry Ramirez from Triple-A Norfolk to take his roster spot, giving them another fresh arm for a bullpen still trying to recover from a taxing four-game series against the New York Yankees.

Cortes will now be exposed to waivers and would be returned to the Yankees, his original organization, if unclaimed by the other 28 teams. Should he clear waivers, the Orioles could attempt to work out a trade with New York to keep the 23-year-old in the organization.

His ability to change speeds and arm angles received favorable reviews early in spring training, but that didn’t translate to the regular season as Cortes allowed four earned runs, 10 hits, and four walks in 4 2/3 innings. With a fastball averaging only 88 miles per hour, Cortes did not appear to have much upside as the Orioles had hoped to carry him in the bullpen as their long man similar to how they used former Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland in 2013.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge,” manager Buck Showalter said. “If we could have gotten a little deeper in our games with our starting pitching, I think I could have protected him more. We were forced into some things. I still think he’s got a chance to be a good pitcher, and we’ll see where it takes us.

“Regardless of what division you’re playing in, it’s the big leagues. Like I said, they’re going to have to pitch.”

Unlike Cortes, Rule 5 right-hander Pedro Araujo has shown impressive flashes over his five appearances, striking out 11 batters in 7 2/3 innings. His underwhelming 5.87 ERA is a product of a poor April 3 outing against Houston in which he was charged with four earned runs while retiring only two batters. On Sunday, the 24-year-old pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings while striking out five in the 8-7 comeback win over the Yankees in 12 innings.

Araujo entered the season having pitched only two innings above the Single-A level, but he’s shown a low-to-mid-90s fastball to go along with an impressive slider and a good changeup.

Outfielder Colby Rasmus underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his left hip on Tuesday. Placed on the 10-day disabled list over the weekend, Rasmus was projected to be sidelined five to eight days, but the Orioles want to make sure there isn’t anything more serious going on with the same hip on which he had surgery in 2016.

Mark Trumbo began his rehab assignment with Double-A Bowie on Tuesday, serving as the Baysox designated hitter and batting third. Out with a quadriceps strain since mid-March, Trumbo could be activated as soon as this weekend’s Boston series if deemed ready to go.

Starting pitcher Alex Cobb remains on track to debut at Fenway Park on Saturday and will complete his workday with Bowie on Wednesday.

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Orioles call up top pitching prospect Harvey, set Cobb’s season debut

Posted on 09 April 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — On the same day the Orioles announced when Alex Cobb would make his much-awaited 2018 debut, they surprisingly promoted their top pitching prospect to lend a hand to a tired bullpen.

Originally scheduled to make his three-inning debut for Double-A Bowie on Monday, right-hander Hunter Harvey was summoned to Baltimore as manager Buck Showalter was dealing with the fallout of a four-game set against the New York Yankees that included two extra-inning affairs. The 23-year-old will be available to pitch in relief after Showalter said as many as five relievers wouldn’t be available in Monday’s series opener with Toronto. Six relievers combined to throw 186 pitches over 11 1/3 innings in Sunday’s 8-7 win over the Yankees.

To make room for Harvey on the 25-man roster, left-handed pitcher Tanner Scott was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk after pitching 1 2/3 innings on Sunday. Showalter admitted he’d prefer not using Harvey, but the Orioles needed more coverage behind starter Dylan Bundy with Rule 5 lefty Nestor Cortes and right-hander Mychal Givens being the only relievers not to pitch Sunday.

Baltimore’s bullpen covered an incredible 26 innings over the four games at Yankee Stadium before calling on Harvey, who allowed three earned runs and nine hits over seven innings of Grapefruit League action and spent most of the spring in major league camp. The 2013 first-round pick is less than two years removed from Tommy John surgery, but he posted a 0.96 ERA in 18 2/3 minor-league innings late last season.

“Physically, he’s fine. If not him, then who?” said Showalter, citing his preference to have a fresh right-handed pitcher against Toronto’s right-heavy lineup. “We had some options, but if you bring up a non-roster [pitcher] who’s out of options, you’re going to lose him going back [to the minors]. There’s a lot of variables there, but we think Hunter can serve a need here and potentially help him and the organization.”

Harvey hasn’t pitched above Single-A Delmarva in the minors, but other right-handers on the 40-man roster such as David Hess and Yefry Ramirez started minor-league games over the weekend, leaving them unavailable for Monday. The son of former major league closer Bryan Harvey was apparently the last fresh man standing.

While the length of Harvey’s stay in the big leagues likely won’t be long, Cobb is set to make his Orioles debut against Boston at Fenway Park on Saturday. In his extended spring start in Sarasota on Monday, Cobb allowed one earned run and six hits while striking out eight and walking one over six innings. He threw 93 pitches, making it clear that he’s just about ready to go from a pitch count standpoint.

The organization’s top free-agent acquisition in the offseason, Cobb will complete a bullpen session with Bowie on Wednesday before joining the Orioles on the road trip.

Outfielder and designated hitter Mark Trumbo is scheduled to begin his minor-league rehab assignment with Bowie on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Orioles will determine the next step for him after those games as the slugger could receive more minor-league at-bats or be activated from the disabled list in time for the Red Sox series.

Trumbo has been sidelined with a quadriceps strain since mid-March.

“He feels good. He’s going from 80-something degrees [in Sarasota] to 40 degrees [coming north],” Showalter said. “I’m going to let him make the call. It could be all the way through the weekend for that matter. I don’t know. When he feels like he’s ready, we’ll bring him.”

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 8-7 win over Yankees

Posted on 08 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles securing their first series victory of the season in a dramatic 8-7 win over the New York Yankees in 12 innings, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After pitching 14 2/3 innings the previous three days, the Orioles bullpen received the reins with two outs in the first. While allowing the offense to erase an early 5-0 deficit, six relievers combined to throw 186 pitches to cover 11 1/3 innings and allowed two runs. What an effort.

2. Brad Brach did quite a Don Stanhouse impersonation by loading the bases with no outs in the 12th, but he induced an Aaron Judge comebacker and a heady Caleb Joseph turned a 1-2-5 double play. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that, especially in such a critical spot.

3. After preserving a 7-7 tie with his difficult catch in the 10th inning, Craig Gentry capped off a three-hit, two-steal day with his game-winning RBI single off Adam Warren. The reserve outfielder has certainly pulled his weight early this season.

4. Not only did Richard Bleier pitch a third consecutive day for a taxed bullpen, but he tossed three scoreless frames to collect the victory. His post-game comments reiterated how easy it is to root for the 30-year-old.

5. You have to be impressed with the way Anthony Santander hit the go-ahead home run on a 3-0 pitch in the seventh. I’m not sure he’ll remain in the majors for good after his Rule 5 requirement expires next month, but he has definitely flashed potential.

6. Speaking of Rule 5 picks, Pedro Araujo not only kept the Yankees off the scoreboard over 2 1/3 innings, but he struck out five and allowed only one hit. I stand by my position on carrying two Rule 5 pitchers in the bullpen, but Araujo at least shows upside.

7. Fans in the Bronx booing Giancarlo Stanton just a handful of games into his Yankees career are silly, but he had a brutal series going 2-for-19 with eight strikeouts. He registered his second five-strikeout game in six days on Sunday. Ouch.

8. After grounding into a double play to short-circuit a rally in the third, Danny Valencia made amends by clubbing a two-run shot in the fifth to make it a one-run deficit. He needs to produce against lefty starters and did exactly that against Jordan Montgomery.

9. The tying run was charged to Tanner Scott in the seventh, but the rookie did a solid job over 1 2/3 innings in his 2018 debut. That inning likely would have gone to Mychal Givens if he hadn’t thrown 59 pitches on Thursday and Friday.

10. His team bailed him out, but Mike Wright trying to turn a double play on a comebacker instead of throwing to the plate was a bad decision and the throw was even worse. He completely crumbled after that in what was likely his last start before Alex Cobb is recalled.

11. Wright had a competitive outing against Houston, but Sunday’s performance has happened too frequently in his major league opportunities. He’s tried to make adjustments over the years with his two-seam fastball and mixing in a cutter, but I just don’t see the stuff or temperament of a major league starter.

12. The Orioles entered this series struggling and were rarely even competitive at Yankee Stadium last year. They didn’t play perfectly and now return home with an exhausted bullpen, but that was an impressive statement this weekend. A 4-6 record doesn’t look so bad after being 1-5.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 8-3 loss to Yankees

Posted on 07 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles seeing their brief two-game winning streak stopped in an 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. This one didn’t look encouraging on paper considering the starting pitching matchup and how short the bullpen was after Friday night’s 14-inning win. Buck Showalter admitted after the game that he wasn’t going to use five relievers. It went how you’d expect.

2. Chris Tillman was OK through the first four innings and missed some bats with eight swinging strikes while throwing some effective breaking pitches, but he faltered in the fifth and sixth. The real problem is this is about the best you get from the right-hander going back to last year.

3. It was apparent that Tillman had lost his command to start the sixth inning after a shaky fifth, but Showalter was clearly trying to steal extra outs with his bullpen so short. Ideally, you could have turned a 3-3 game over to the bullpen to start that inning.

4. Even after falling behind 5-3, the Orioles wasted a golden opportunity in the seventh as Yankees reliever David Robertson struck out Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop with runners at second and third. Baltimore was 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position on Saturday.

5. Sonny Gray’s curveball was really working as he completed six innings for the win. It will be interesting to see if he can stay healthy and be consistent enough to realize the enticing potential he showed in Oakland a few years ago.

6. Of course, forcing Gray to throw only 11 pitches over the first two innings set him up for a successful afternoon. Knowing how stretched New York’s bullpen was from Friday night, you’d think Orioles hitters would have tried to make him work more early on.

7. After a huge two-homer night on Friday, Machado followed that with a two-run double into the left-field corner in the third. I guess he heard everyone discussing his lack of an RBI over the first week of the season.

8. The hero from Friday night, Pedro Alvarez walked and hit an RBI double in his first two at-bats, finally giving the lineup some left-handed production that’s been sorely lacking so far. His lack of versatility is clear, but Alvarez can still hit right-handed pitching.

9. We hadn’t really seen Machado shine at shortstop so far, but his backhanded grab off a Tim Beckham deflection and strong throw to get Aaron Judge in the sixth was a beautiful play.

10. Jimmy Yacabonis didn’t make a good statement to stay in the major leagues after allowing three runs in the seventh inning. He couldn’t keep his club close and didn’t provide much length after throwing 27 pitches, prompting Showalter to use Nestor Cortes in the eighth.

11. After some poor baserunning the night before, the Yankees ran into four outs on the bases on Saturday. You’d like to see the Orioles take better advantage of that.

12. Perhaps his hip — which was surgically repaired in 2016 — has hindered his performance, but Colby Rasmus struck out 13 times in 23 plate appearances before going on the disabled list. It’s fair to wonder if he makes it back on the roster after he walked away from baseball last summer.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 5-2 win over Yankees

Posted on 06 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles snapping their five-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the New York Yankees, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The five runs plated in the seventh inning exceeded the club’s total in five of its first six games and came after the Orioles had only one baserunner in the previous five frames. It was a brutal opening week, but that was a good stop-the-bleeding win to begin the series.

2. After Orioles pitching surrendered an inexplicable 102 runs in 10 games at Yankee Stadium last season, Andrew Cashner set the tone with six strong innings as an Aaron Judge solo homer was the only blemish. It was the first quality start of the season from someone not named Dylan Bundy.

3. Cashner used five pitches effectively with his slider and changeup standing out in key spots. His declining strikeout rate was a major topic when he signed, but he’s struck out 10 in 11 innings. You’ll take that outing against the Yankees lineup any day of the week.

4. Adam Jones continued his hot start to the season with the big two-run homer off Masahiro Tanaka to give the Orioles the lead in the seventh. All three of his long balls in 2018 have given Baltimore a lead in the sixth inning or later.

5. Trey Mancini responded favorably to the leadoff spot with three hits, including a two-run single to right off Chad Green to extend the lead to 5-1. In a perfect world, you’d like to keep Mancini in more of a run-producing spot, but he’s the man for the job right now.

6. It was a cold night in the Bronx and Tanaka pitched well over the first six innings, but the Yankees starter still threw some hittable pitches that went unharmed until the seventh. Opposing pitchers continue to give Orioles hitters a heavy diet of off-speed and breaking stuff.

7. A bullpen that’s already carrying two Rule 5 picks and trying to survive without All-Star closer Zach Britton can hardly afford to have Mychal Givens struggling. The right-hander has now been scored upon in each of his last two outings to put further strain on the bullpen.

8. After cleaning up Givens’ mess in the seventh, Darren O’Day found trouble of his own an inning later by issuing a walk and hitting two batters before escaping unscathed. He sure seems to love pitching with the bases loaded, doesn’t he?

9. Brad Brach issued a walk before striking out Brandon Drury and Brett Gardner to collect the save. I do have reservations about Brach as a closer, but some of the reaction to his blown save on Opening Day was over the top. No current options are going to be Britton.

10. Chris Davis collected his second hit of the season in his final at-bat, but he looks lost at the plate right now. You expect him to strike out and to even be victimized by the shift, but he’s not making any hard contact, hitting a slew of weak grounders.

11. Colby Rasmus singled as part of the five-run seventh, but he’s looked as lost as Davis, striking out 11 times in 20 plate appearances. Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander did deliver an RBI double, but the Orioles need to start getting something from their veteran left-handed bats.

12. Before going hitless with two strikeouts, Manny Machado reiterated his desire to play shortstop beyond 2018 and took a dig at the New York media about the Aaron Judge tampering controversy. He’s not wrong, but I’m not sure that’s the best idea if he envisions wearing Yankee pinstripes.

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Davis out of Orioles leadoff spot after poor start

Posted on 05 April 2018 by Luke Jones

The Chris Davis leadoff experiment has been scrapped just a week into the 2018 season.

Off to a 1-for-21 start at the plate, the first baseman was lowered to fifth in the batting order as the Orioles began a four-game set against the New York Yankees on Thursday. Davis was not in Wednesday’s lineup with left-hander Dallas Keuchel on the hill for Houston — third baseman Tim Beckham batted first instead — but left fielder Trey Mancini was leading off with right-hander Masahiro Tanaka starting the series opener for the Yankees.

Manager Buck Showalter said all along that he wasn’t committed to Davis hitting first for the long haul and had hoped it would spark a good start after his difficult 2017 campaign. The lefty slugger struck out four times in Tuesday’s loss to the Astros and struck out in his only at-bat as a pinch hitter on Wednesday to lower his batting average to .048.

Showalter went out of his way on Opening Day to mention that he’d used Mancini as his leadoff hitter in a few spring games, but the reviews weren’t favorable, leading him to go with Davis.

“I didn’t like Trey there. I tried [it],” Showalter said last Thursday. “You could tell Trey was a little uncomfortable with it. Anytime a player kind of embraces things [like] it’s as much his idea as somebody else, those usually get a good return.”

Mancini is 3-for-20 with a home run to begin the season.

Below is the new-look Baltimore lineup for Thursday evening:

LF Trey Mancini
SS Manny Machado
2B Jonathan Schoop
CF Adam Jones
1B Chris Davis
3B Tim Beckham
DH Colby Rasmus
RF Anthony Santander
C Chance Sisco

SP Andrew Cashner

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Rule 5 obsession again hurting Orioles’ chances to win

Posted on 04 April 2018 by Luke Jones

The Orioles do this to themselves.

Year after year, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette champions the Rule 5 draft as a cheap way of acquiring young prospects. It sounds fine in theory in December and we hear the encouraging reviews of these players during spring training, but the Orioles inevitably find themselves in predicaments in which both their roster and their ability to compete are compromised during the season.

And for what?

The greatest Rule 5 success story of the Duquette era has been Ryan Flaherty, a versatile utility man who was worth a total of 1.6 wins above replacement over his six seasons with Baltimore. Carrying a position player has proven to be easier as the Orioles were able to qualify for the playoffs with Flaherty in 2012 and outfielder Joey Rickard in 2016, but does the upside of a Rule 5 pick really justify the roster headaches?

Was it worth it having T.J. McFarland hamstring the bullpen in 2013 and Jason Garcia clogging it up in 2015? McFarland at least made some useful contributions as a long reliever in 2014, but Garcia was never heard from again as he struggled at Double-A Bowie the following two years. Neither is with the organization anymore.

That brings us to the present with the Orioles not only trying to satisfy the remainder of outfielder Anthony Santander’s Rule 5 requirement from last season, but they’re currently carrying two Rule 5 pitchers in their bullpen.

Two.

A club that sported the worst starter ERA in the majors in 2017 and one that is without two-time All-Star closer Zach Britton for at least the first two months of the season thinks it’s a good idea to carry two pitchers who have little business being in the major leagues right now. And it took all of five games for this bizarre Rule 5 fascination to cost the Orioles a potential win.

Manager Buck Showalter shouldn’t be absolved for his decision-making in Tuesday’s 10-6 loss in Houston as he could have avoided using both Miguel Castro and Richard Bleier in Monday’s 6-1 defeat, but that only delays the inevitable as this type of scenario would have played out at some point very soon. When starters consistently fail to pitch deep into games, you’re not going to survive with what amounts to a five-man bullpen. Whether it was Tuesday night, Wednesday afternoon, or next week, Pedro Araujo and Nestor Cortes were going to find themselves pitching in a game with the outcome still in doubt.

Trying to hide one Rule 5 pick in the bullpen is difficult enough, but carrying two eliminates any margin for error as we saw when Mychal Givens allowed the go-ahead two-run home run to Josh Reddick in the sixth inning. Showalter removing starter Mike Wright was the right call after he’d given the Orioles a solid five innings and 82 pitches in his first competitive outing since March 22. Regardless of the result, you’d rather see Givens against the heart of the Astros order rather than Wright facing it a third time.

The likely plan was for Givens to pitch the sixth and seventh before turning to Darren O’Day and Brad Brach for the final two innings. Instead Givens’ struggles opened the door for both Araujo and Cortes to put the game out of reach. One could still argue using O’Day or Brach for the seventh inning, but Showalter has always been reluctant to use his top arms when the Orioles are trailing and such a strategy would have merely pushed the bullpen shortage to the following day.

You just aren’t going to win with starters pitching only four or five innings and backing them up with only five relievers you trust. The math simply won’t add up as the cumulative impact of needing to cover 13 innings in the previous three blowout losses put the Orioles in bad position on Tuesday. Again, Showalter could have handled his bullpen differently the last two nights, but Araujo and Cortes are going to have to pitch when it matters from time to time if they’re to remain on the 25-man roster.

And that’s the major problem.

The Orioles deserve praise for stepping up to sign starting pitcher Alex Cobb in late March, but you can’t say you’re truly all in on 2018 with two Rule 5 picks straining your bullpen while you’re already trying to survive the absence of your best reliever. Such a path comes across as trying to prove you’re smarter than everyone else rather than doing what it takes to win.

And history suggests the long-term payoff with both Araujo and Cortes won’t be worth it anyway.

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Orioles may move up Cobb’s 2018 debut date

Posted on 03 April 2018 by Luke Jones

Just a few days after saying Alex Cobb wouldn’t make his Orioles debut before April 14, Buck Showalter has apparently changed his tune about his new starting pitcher.

The manager is now leaving open the possibility of Cobb making his 2018 debut against Toronto on Monday if his five-inning simulated game goes well in Sarasota on Wednesday. It’s a moving target after the 30-year-old missed virtually all of spring training and didn’t sign his four-year, $57 million contract with Baltimore until March 21.

“Most of it’s going to come from what Alex is telling us,” Showalter told reporters prior to Tuesday’s game in Houston. “He’s very mature about it. It’s like I told him, regardless of how someobody else is doing it, we’re going to do what’s best for him, which is what’s best for the organization. If anything, we’ll err on the side of caution. We think we already have.”

Former Orioles and Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta is in a similar position after only signing with Philadelphia on March 12 and is scheduled to make his season debut on Sunday.

Baltimore would prefer not rushing Cobb to a competitive environment before making sure he’s ready physically, but the early performance of the starting rotation hasn’t helped matters with Andrew Cashner, Kevin Gausman, and Chris Tillman all pitching poorly in their first outings of the season. Mike Wright was making his 2018 debut against the Astros on Tuesday and figures to be the odd man out of the rotation once Cobb is activated.

Showalter also confirmed top pitching prospect Hunter Harvey will begin the season at Double-A Bowie with the goal of completing three innings per outing and gradually increasing that workload as the year progresses. This leaves more innings available to him later in the season if he progresses rapidly enough to be promoted to the majors.

“That is where he is going to start so the innings are there,” Showalter told reporters in Houston. “I don’t think you’re going to see him make a seven-inning start anywhere except Baltimore.”

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 6-1 loss to Houston

Posted on 02 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles losing their third straight game in a 6-1 final at Houston, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The starting pitching has allowed 14 earned runs in 13 innings since Dylan Bundy’s season-opening gem, but Baltimore could have pitched quite well over the last three games and still lost them all with the lineup remaining scoreless in 27 innings against opposing starters in 2018. Absurd.

2. Chris Tillman must start showing meaningful signs that he’s moving closer to being more like the pitcher he was prior to last season. He followed a poor statistical spring with a season debut that looked  like his 2017 body of work. A $3 million leash shouldn’t be very long.

3. His average fastball velocity was 89.7 miles per hour after averaging 90.7 last season. In the process of throwing 84 pitches, Tillman recorded two swinging strikes and not a single strikeout. Again, not good.

4. Pitchers can succeed with underwhelming stuff if they’re able to hit their spots on the edges of the strike zone. Tillman just wasn’t hitting Caleb Joseph’s target nearly enough to expect any prolonged periods of success.

5. Charlie Morton’s transformation over the last couple years has been nothing short of remarkable. The 34-year-old’s fastball velocity has spiked substantially from his Pittsburgh days to go along with a nasty curve that was on full display for the Astros last October.

6. Trey Mancini’s home run prevented the Orioles from being blanked for the second straight game. At least they’re swinging it fairly well in the ninth inning when there’s been next to no hope for a comeback?

7. Derek Fisher’s triple to center in the fourth was a good example supporting those opinions of Adam Jones needing to move to a corner spot sooner than later. He had to run a long way, but that’s one Jones runs down a few years ago.

8. Jonathan Schoop collected his second hit of the season to raise his average to .118. In case you needed a reminder of how meaningless spring numbers can be, Schoop posted a 1.081 on-base plus slugging percentage in the Grapefruit League. Of course, he’s not alone.

9. You can nitpick the location choice on an 0-2 count, but Jose Altuve flicking a 98 mph fastball from Miguel Castro that was seven inches off the outside corner for a run-scoring double was impressive. The Astros second baseman and 2017 AL MVP is fun to watch.

10. We’re clearly looking at very small sample sizes, but only one Orioles regular is currently above the Mendoza line. Six are hitting .118 or worse. Goodness.

11. Dan Duquette may need to start working the phones to trade international signing bonus slots for some runs if this continues much longer.

12. On a brighter and much more significant note, Orioles Hall of Famer and former Astros first base coach Rich Dauer throwing out the first pitch was quite a moment. His presence at Minute Maid Park after what he went through these last several months borders on the miraculous.

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Veteran outfielder Saunders signs minor-league deal with Orioles

Posted on 02 April 2018 by Luke Jones

After showing interest on numerous occasions in the past, the Orioles have signed veteran outfielder Michael Saunders to a minor-league contract.

The 31-year-old spent time with Pittsburgh and Kansas City this spring and will now try to get his career back on track at Triple-A Norfolk. The addition of Saunders offers the Orioles another lefty-hitting outfield option after the likes of Colby Rasmus, Alex Presley, and Jaycob Brugman joined the organization this offseason.

Saunders had an excellent first half of 2016 with Toronto to earn a trip to his first All-Star Game, hitting .298 with 16 home runs, 42 runs batted in, and a .923 on-base plus slugging percentage. However, his career has taken a nosedive since then as he’s batted .191 with 14 homers and an anemic .618 OPS in his last 448 major league plate appearances. This will be his fifth different major league organization since the end of 2016.

In nine major league seasons primarily as a part-time player, Saunders owns a .232 average with 81 home runs, 263 RBIs, and a .701 OPS in 2,747 career plate appearances with Seattle, Toronto, and Philadelphia.

Upon announcing the Saunders signing, the Orioles made note of his impressive career numbers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards that include a .310 average with 10 homers and 24 RBIs in 84 career at-bats. He leads all active players (minimum 20 games) with a 1.129 OPS at Camden Yards.

Of course, he had the benefit of feasting on Baltimore pitching as part of that comfort level, making those numbers less significant.

The Orioles also announced they’ve traded right-handed relief pitcher Stefan Crichton to Arizona for a player to be named later or cash considerations. They also traded right-hander Jesus Liranzo to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for left-handed pitcher Luis Ysla, who will be assigned to Double A Bowie.

Crichton and Liranzo were two of four pitchers designated for assignment last week to make room on the 40-man roster.

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