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Showalter named finalist for AL Manager of the Year

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Showalter named finalist for AL Manager of the Year

Posted on 04 November 2014 by Luke Jones

After guiding the Orioles to their first division championship since 1997, Buck Showalter was named one of three finalists for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s American League Manager of the Year award.

The winner will be announced on Nov. 11 as Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia and Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost were named the other finalists on Tuesday. Voting was completed at the end of the regular season, meaning the playoffs do not factor into the decision.

The Orioles won 96 games in 2014 and advanced to the AL Championship Series for the first time since 1997 before they were swept by Kansas City. Baltimore swept the Detroit Tigers in the AL Division Series.

Showalter was named a finalist two years ago when the BBWAA named Oakland’s Bob Melvin as the winner. The Orioles manager previously received the honor in 1994 when he managed the New York Yankees and in 2004 when he was the skipper of the Texas Rangers.

Last month, Showalter finished second to Scioscia in this year’s Sporting News AL Manager of the Year award by one vote.

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Hardy, Jones, Markakis take home 2014 Gold Glove awards

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Hardy, Jones, Markakis take home 2014 Gold Glove awards

Posted on 04 November 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles were further recognized for their run of excellent defense over the last three years with shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis winning 2014 American League Gold Glove awards on Tuesday.

Hardy and Jones each won their third consecutive Rawlings fielding honors while Markakis won the second of his career and first since the 2011 season.

The Orioles and Kansas City Royals led the major leagues with three winners each in the 2014 season. Jones and Hardy are the first pair of teammates to win three consecutive Gold Gloves since Brett Boone and Ichiro Suzuki did it for the Seattle Mariners from 2002 through 2004.

Hardy joined Mark Belanger as only the second Orioles shortstop to win three straight Gold Gloves, but Belanger won six straight from 1973 through 1978. In 2014, the 32-year-old ranked seventh among all AL fielders in defensive wins above replacement (2.1) and ranked third among AL shortstops in fielding percentage (.978).

His three Gold Glove awards are second among active shortstops as only Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins (four) has more.

“This is a special award for me because of the fact that the opposing managers and coaches are the voters,” Hardy said in a statement released by the club. “Obviously, I have a lot of respect for them and their knowledge of the game. A lot of credit goes to [third-base coach] Bobby Dickerson, who puts in a lot of time and effort with us and puts us in a position to be successful.”

Jones led AL center fielders in games played (155) and ranked fourth in assists (seven) while posting a 0.8 dWAR. The 29-year-old won his first Gold Glove in 2009 and joins Paul Blair as the only Orioles outfielders to win at least four Gold Glove awards. Blair won seven straight from 1969 through 1975.

In 2014, Markakis led AL right fielders in games (147), putouts (295), and fielding percentage (1.000) while ranking second in assists (11). However, the veteran outfielder posted a -0.5 dWAR, which isn’t a great endorsement from a metric standpoint and could reflect his declining range.

Both Jones and Markakis offered credit to first-base coach Wayne Kirby for his work with the outfield.

“It is an individual award, but a lot of people contribute to it,” Markakis said. “Wayne Kirby is a great influence on the outfielders and does a great job preparing us and putting us in the right position to make plays.”

The Orioles have now won at least three Gold Gloves in three consecutive seasons for the third time in franchise history (1969-71 and 1973-76). All other major league clubs have combined for a total of three such streaks (St. Louis 2002-04, Philadelphia 1976-79, and Cincinnati 1974-77).

This year marks the 20th time the Orioles have had multiple Gold Glove winners in the same year and the 11th time in which the Orioles have had at least three Gold Glove winners in the same season. Seventeen different Orioles players have earned a total of 70 Gold Gloves since the award was created in 1957, the second-highest total for any team behind the St. Louis Cardinals (85).

The selection process is 75 percent votes submitted by managers and coaches and 25 percent defensive metrics. Manager and coaches may not vote for their own players and can only vote for the awards in their own league.

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Cruz receives qualifying offer from Orioles as expected

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Cruz receives qualifying offer from Orioles as expected

Posted on 03 November 2014 by Luke Jones

With Monday’s deadline upon them, the Orioles made a qualifying offer to free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz hours before other teams are free to negotiate with the slugger.

The move was expected even though the 34-year-old will decline the $15.3 million offer that now allows the Orioles to receive a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round should Cruz sign with another club. The veteran is reportedly seeking a four- or five-year contract while executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette would prefer signing him to a shorter deal since he’ll turn 35 next season.

Cruz officially has until Nov. 10 to decide whether to accept the qualifying offer.

The Orioles signed Cruz to a one-year, $8 million deal last spring after he rejected a $14.1 million qualifying offer to remain with the Texas Rangers last winter. The draft-pick caveat cooled the market for the right-handed hitter considerably, but the Orioles felt inclined to sign him after they had already surrendered their first-round pick to sign free-agent starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.

Cruz viewed the 2014 season as a platform to boost his value, and that’s exactly what he did by hitting 40 home runs to lead the majors while also setting a career high with 108 runs batted in. The Orioles have negotiated with Cruz’s agent, Diego Bentz, but the sides are reportedly far apart in discussions.

Baltimore declined to make a qualifying offer to right fielder Nick Markakis as the sides continue to work on a multi-year extension.

The five-day window clubs had to negotiate with their own free agents concludes at midnight on Tuesday morning. From that point, free agents may negotiate with any of the 30 major league clubs.

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Orioles pick up options on Chen, O’Day as expected

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Orioles pick up options on Chen, O’Day as expected

Posted on 30 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles offered no surprises in their decisions to exercise 2015 contract options for pitchers Wei-Yin Chen and Darren O’Day on Thursday.

And as expected, the Orioles declined options for right fielder Nick Markakis and catcher Nick Hundley, making both free agents. Of course, the organization continues to negotiate in hopes of reaching a long-term extension with the longtime outfielder, but Markakis will now receive a $2 million buyout. Hundley’s $5 million club option did not include a buyout.

After going 16-6 with a 3.54 ERA, Chen will make $4.75 million in 2015 as he’s been one of the Orioles’ most dependable starting pitchers with a 3.86 ERA in 86 starts over the last three seasons. The Taiwanese lefty originally signed a three-year, $11 million contract on Jan. 10, 2012.

The backbone of a strong Orioles bullpen over the last three years, O’Day — who will make $4.25 million next season — may have had the best season of his career in 2014 despite September struggles that crept into the postseason when he allowed four earned runs and two home runs in 2 2/3 innings. In the regular season, O’Day pitched to a 1.70 ERA in 68 appearances, but his 7.00 ERA in the month of September was concerning as he gave up three home runs to left-handed hitters.

The decision to pass on a mutual $17.5 million option for Markakis was expected, but assessing the 2003 first-round pick’s value is a tricky proposition with his offensive decline in recent years. The 30-year-old hit .276 with 14 home runs and 50 RBIs in 642 at-bats this season, but he’s posted slugging percentages below .400 in each of the last two years.

Acquired from the San Diego Padres in exchange for relief pitcher Troy Patton in late May, Hundley hit .233 with five home runs and 19 RBIs. It was always considered highly unlikely that the Orioles would pick up his option with starting catcher Matt Wieters expected back from Tommy John surgery next season.

With Chen and O’Day officially in the fold for the 2015 season, the Orioles have 32 players on their current 40-man roster.

The following members of the 2014 40-man roster are now free agents: Markakis, Hundley, Alexi Casilla, Nelson Cruz, Kelly Johnson, Andrew Miller, Johan Santana, Joe Saunders, and Delmon Young.

Clubs have five days of exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents before other teams are allowed to make offers beginning on Nov. 4.

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Orioles outright right-hander Meek to Norfolk

Posted on 29 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles cleared an additional spot on their 40-man roster Wednesday by outrighting right-handed relief pitcher Evan Meek to Triple-A Norfolk.

The 31-year-old can refuse the assignment and become a free agent after going 0-4 with a 5.79 ERA in 23 appearances for the Orioles and 2-0 with 16 saves and a 1.94 ERA in 39 appearances for the Tides in 2014. Signed to a minor-league deal last offseason, Meek made the Opening Day roster before struggles landed him back in the minors.

A former All-Star selection with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010, Meek allowed the walk-off single to retired New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter in his final game at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 25.

The Orioles now have 38 players on their 40-man roster, but that will change with a number of potential free agents to address such as Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, Andrew Miller, and Delmon Young.

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How far should Orioles go to re-sign Markakis?

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How far should Orioles go to re-sign Markakis?

Posted on 28 October 2014 by Luke Jones

It’s no secret that the Orioles want to keep Nick Markakis.

The organization’s first-round pick in 2003 and the regular right fielder since 2006, Markakis is the longest-tenured Oriole and offers some value that can’t be easily measured as a longtime leader in the clubhouse. But even as executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette engages in contract talks to keep the soon-to-be 31-year-old in Baltimore for the 2015 season and beyond, everyone has a price and determining Markakis’ overall value is a tricky proposition.

It was apparent a couple years ago that the Orioles weren’t going to exercise Markakis’ $17.5 million mutual option for 2015. Even as a favorite of manager Buck Showalter and his teammates, the right fielder’s numbers have declined in recent years as 2013 was his worst season and he still only produced a .729 on-base plus slugging percentage this year. He’s hit below .280 in each of his last two seasons and his slugging percentage has fallen below the .400 mark in back-to-back years as he doesn’t provide the same gap power he did as a hitter who once averaged 45 doubles or so.

A simple look at his numbers over the last four years — save a productive 2012 that was limited to 102 games due to injuries — suggests the Orioles should attempt to find an upgrade in right field, but it isn’t quite that simple with a player like Markakis. This winter’s crop of free-agent outfielders offers few options as good as Markakis, let alone better.

That reality not only means it would be challenging to find a player of his caliber, but demand could be substantial in the open market, further driving up his price. The Orioles could make the $15.3 million qualifying offer that would drive down demand from other teams who would then forfeit a draft pick to sign him, but Markakis could simply accept the qualifying offer — in addition to his $2 million buyout — and essentially be back where he was with the original mutual option.

Internal options to replace Markakis in right field include Steve Pearce and a variety of fourth-outfielder types such as David Lough, Alejandro De Aza, and 25-year-old outfield prospect Dariel Alvarez unless you’re going all in to re-sign slugger Nelson Cruz to a long-term contract.

So, how much is Markakis really worth?

The general consensus is that a win costs approximately $6 million on the open market and Markakis has averaged just over two wins above replacement (WAR) per season over the last five years if you eliminate a very productive 2012 cut short by injuries and a horrendous 2013, the two clear outliers in that period of time. If we’re to assume Markakis continues to be a 2.0 WAR player over the next few years — optimistic, but not unreasonable for a player in his early 30s — that would put him in the neighborhood of earning $12 million per year in a vacuum.

Of course, that’s a statistically-driven monetary value that doesn’t consider the intangibles that Markakis brings that can’t be easily quantified or the supply and demand of the open market in any given offseason.

What does each side expect from the other? Do the Orioles want Markakis to take a hometown discount after signing shortstop J.J. Hardy — who’s been a 3.65 WAR player per year since 2011 and is only slightly older — to a reasonable three-year, $40 million contract with a vesting option? Does Markakis expect the Orioles to split the difference between what the numbers suggest he’s worth per year and the $17.5 million option for 2015 that they declined? Does he expect to be paid as much as or more than Hardy even though the latter has been more valuable over the last four seasons?

Even though he’s one of the few Orioles to make Baltimore his year-round home in recent years, Markakis has never had the opportunity to test the free-agent market and perhaps he’s curious to see what other teams might offer.

If you’re the Orioles, a three-year contract worth somewhere between $34 million and $38 million would be acceptable if you can’t reap the benefits of a hometown discount. Perhaps a vesting fourth-year option similar to the one Hardy received — which is reportedly based on plate appearances — would be an attractive addition, but there has been too much decline in Markakis’ production in recent years to go much higher than that in terms of years or money unless you’re perfectly fine with overpaying.

Entering the 2015 season at age 31, Markakis should have plenty of solid baseball ahead of him, but the last five years suggest the best you’re reasonably going to get from him is worth roughly $12 million per year on the open market and that’s assuming he doesn’t decline further. Of course, his value isn’t based solely on the numbers, but you have to be careful not to overpay for intangibles and sentimentality.

Replacing Markakis wouldn’t be easy in terms of finding a leadoff hitter and replacing his leadership in the clubhouse, but the Orioles shouldn’t overpay for those qualities, either, with other players and other needs to address this offseason and in the coming years.

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Bundy, Harvey headline Orioles’ top 10 prospects list

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Bundy, Harvey headline Orioles’ top 10 prospects list

Posted on 27 October 2014 by Luke Jones

With the 2014 season officially wrapping up in the next few days, Baseball America released the Orioles’ top 10 prospects list Monday with a familiar name once again at the top.

For the third straight year, pitching prospect Dylan Bundy was named the organization’s No. 1 prospect by the publication after the 21-year-old right-hander bounced back from last year’s Tommy John surgery. Bundy made nine starts split between short-season Single-A Aberdeen and Single-A Frederick, going 1-3 with a 3.27 ERA in 41 1/3 innings.

Bundy’s numbers were less impressive at Frederick as he posted a 4.78 ERA in six starts spanning 26 1/3 innings, but the Orioles were encouraged with his overall health despite a minor lat strain that brought his season to an end in mid-August. With a regular offseason ahead of him, Bundy is expected to compete for an opportunity to crack the Orioles’ pitching staff at some point during the 2015 season.

Another pitcher, 2013 first-round pick Hunter Harvey, was ranked as the Orioles’ No. 2 prospect after an impressive season at Single-A Delmarva in which he went 7-5 with a 3.18 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 17 starts covering 87 2/3 innings. A flexor mass strain cut the right-hander’s season short, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has said the 19-year-old will not need surgery.

After making his major league debut in September, first baseman Christian Walker was the top position player on the Orioles’ list at the third spot and impressed with his 53 extra-base hits split between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk that earned him the organization’s minor league player of the year award. The Orioles still want to see Walker improve more defensively, but his strides in 2014 have made him a candidate to potentially take over for Chris Davis if the first baseman departs as a free agent after next season.

Catcher Chance Sisco and outfielder Dariel Alvarez rounded out the top five as Sisco won the South Atlantic League batting title for Delmarva and Alvarez was named to the Futures Game. Alvarez, 25, has a chance to contribute for the Orioles in 2015 as he possesses strong defensive skills and stroked 55 extra-base hits split between Bowie and Norfolk this past season.

Below is the Orioles’ top 10 list released by Baseball America with the affiliate to which they’re projected to be assigned for the start of 2015:

1. RHP Dylan Bundy – Double-A Bowie
2. RHP Hunter Harvey – Single-A Frederick
3. 1B Christian Walker – Triple-A Norfolk
4. C Chance Sisco – Single-A Frederick
5. OF Dariel Alvarez – Triple-A Norfolk
6. RHP Zach Davies – Triple-A Norfolk
7. LHP Tim Berry – Triple-A Norfolk
8. RHP Mike Wright – Triple-A Norfolk
9. OF Mike Yastrzemski – Double-A Bowie
10. INF Jomar Reyes – Single-A Delmarva

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Orioles outright pitcher Steve Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk

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Orioles outright pitcher Steve Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk

Posted on 24 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles announced they’ve outrighted right-handed pitcher Steve Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk, leaving the St. Paul’s product’s future with the organization up in the air for the time being.

The 27-year-old Johnson can refuse the assignment and elect to become a minor-league free agent, but it remains to be seen what he elects to do after an injury-riddled season in which he pitched only 47 2/3 innings while dealing with shoulder problems. He underwent surgery on Sept. 24 to remove a bone spur in his shoulder and is expected to be cleared well ahead of spring training.

The thought behind making the move now was that it would have been more difficult sneaking Johnson through waivers when he is presumably healthy at the end of spring training compared to now as he recovers from the surgical procedure. He is out of minor-league options.

Johnson is the son of former Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson and made his major league debut in 2012. In parts of two major league seasons, Johnson has gone 5-1 with a 3.67 ERA in 21 appearances (five starts) covering 54 innings.

Though not blessed with impressive velocity, Johnson has averaged 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings at the major league level and profiles as a solid long reliever if his injury concerns are behind him.

He was 0-3 with a 6.23 ERA in 17 starts this season between Norfolk (13), Single-A Aberdeen (three), and the Gulf Coast League Orioles (one) while dealing with the shoulder ailment.

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Markakis, Jones, Hardy named Gold Glove finalists

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Markakis, Jones, Hardy named Gold Glove finalists

Posted on 23 October 2014 by Luke Jones

In what’s become an annual occurrence, the Orioles have multiple players vying for this year’s Rawlings Gold Glove awards.

Center fielder Adam Jones, right fielder Nick Markakis, and shortstop J.J. Hardy were all named finalists at their respective positions Thursday as the awards will be announced on Nov. 4 on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. with the ceremony to follow in New York on Nov. 7. The Orioles had six finalists last year, but the long-term absences of Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis in 2014 led to their names being taken out of consideration.

The selection process is roughly 75 percent votes submitted by managers and coaches and 25 percent defensive metrics. Manager and coaches may not vote for their own players and can only vote for the awards in their own league.

A three-time Gold Glove winner, Jones was named a finalist along with Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. and Chicago’s Adam Eaton in the American League. The 29-year-old made six errors and had seven assists while accumulating 0.8 defensive wins above replacement (dWAR) this season. In contrast, Bradley committed one error and had 13 assists while posting a 2.0 dWAR, and Eaton committed four errors and had nine assists with a 1.8 dWAR.

The 2011 Gold Glove winner, Markakis will compete with fellow right field finalists Kole Calhoun of Los Angeles and Kevin Kiermaier of Tampa Bay. Markakis did not commit an error all season while collecting 11 outfield assists. However, he posted a -0.5 dWAR, which isn’t a great endorsement from a metric standpoint and could reflect his declining range.

Calhoun had one error and nine assists with a -0.1 dWAR while Kiermaier committed six errors and had five assists while posting a 1.6 dWAR.

The two-time defending Gold Glove winner at shortstop, Hardy will compete with Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar and Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez for the honor. The 32-year-old committed 13 errors while posting a 2.2 dWAR. Escobar made 16 errors and had a 0.7 dWAR while Ramirez had 15 miscues and a 0.7 dWAR.

Seventeen different Orioles players have earned a total of 67 Gold Gloves since the award was created in 1957, the highest total of any AL team and second most behind the St. Louis Cardinals’ 84.

Here is the full list of AL Gold Glove finalists:

C: Alex Avila, Yan Gomes, Salvador Perez
1B: Miguel Cabrera, Eric Hosmer, Albert Pujols
2B: Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia
SS: Alcides Escobar, J.J. Hardy, Alexei Ramirez
3B: Adrian Beltre, Josh Donaldson, Kyle Seager
LF: Michael Brantley, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon
CF: Jackie Bradley Jr., Adam Eaton, Adam Jones
RF: Kole Calhoun, Kevin Kiermaier, Nick Markakis,

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Showalter finishes second in Sporting News AL honor

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Showalter finishes second in Sporting News AL honor

Posted on 21 October 2014 by Luke Jones

After guiding the Orioles to their first American League East title and AL Championship Series appearance since 1997, manager Buck Showalter finished second for the Sporting News’ AL Manager of the Year award on Tuesday.

Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia won the award after guiding his club to the best record in baseball with 98 wins. Voting was done by major league managers prior to the start of the postseason with Scioscia receiving six votes and Showalter getting five. Seattle Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon finished third with three votes.

Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams won the NL honor after guiding his club to the best record in the Senior Circuit.

“You know what those [awards] are? That’s which team surprised the most,” said Showalter last week when asked about the possibility of winning. “If you had a vote from managers and coaches, you’d see a whole different guy get it every year. That’s all a reflection on your players and how good they played and how much they surprised people. Sometimes, the best jobs are done when you’re supposed to win. That’s why I have so much respect for those guys.

“I’d like to have that next year. I’d like to have us expected to win.”

Showalter won the publication’s AL honor in 2012 after guiding the Orioles to a 93-69 record and their first postseason appearance in 15 years. However, he lost out to Oakland manager Bob Melvin that year in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s vote, which is typically recognized as the most prestigious award.

The BWAA will announce its Managers of the Year on Nov. 11.

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