Tag Archive | "Orioles"

Sizing up the 2015 Orioles roster entering spring training

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Sizing up the 2015 Orioles roster entering spring training

Posted on 15 February 2015 by Luke Jones

Only a few 25-man roster spots figure to be up for grabs as the Orioles report to spring training this week to begin preparations for the 2015 season.

Manager Buck Showalter frequently warns against being fooled by a player’s performance in March, but a number of individuals will be competing for a job to help Baltimore defend its 2014 American League East title. As we’ve learned throughout the Showalter era, roster flexibility is a must, so it’s critical to remember which players have minor-league options that could impact their standing on the big-league roster at any given time.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently in the major league camp at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are currently on the projected 25-man roster. An asterisk indicates a player who is a non-roster invitee.

PITCHERS (28)
LOCK: Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Wei-Yin Chen, Tommy Hunter, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brian Matusz, Bud Norris, Darren O’Day, Chris Tillman, Wesley Wright
BUBBLE: Kevin Gausman, Miguel Gonzalez, Ryan Webb, T.J. McFarland, Jason Garcia, Logan Verrett,
LONG SHOT: Tim Berry, Dylan Bundy, Oliver Drake, Eddie Gamboa, Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright, Dane De La Rosa*, Hunter Harvey*, Mark Hendrickson*, Steve Johnson*, Chris Jones*, Chaz Roe*
Skinny: By their merits, both Gausman and Gonzalez should be locks for the 25-man roster, but the current logjam in the starting rotation — and Jimenez’s albatross of a contract — could bump one to the bullpen or even to Triple-A Norfolk at the start of the season since both have a minor-league option remaining. A trade is always possible, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette also wants rotation depth in the event of an injury or two. As for the bullpen, Brach, Matusz, and Webb are all out of options and Garcia and Verrett are Rule 5 selections, making a trade or two a distinct possibility to clear roster space.

CATCHERS (6)
LOCK: Matt Wieters, Caleb Joseph
BUBBLE: Steve Clevenger, J.P Arencibia*,
LONG SHOT: Ryan Lavarnway*, Brian Ward*
Skinny: Based on what Wieters and the Orioles are saying, the three-time All-Star selection could very well be ready for Opening Day, but it will be interesting to see which direction the club goes in if he needs a few more weeks to strengthen his surgically-repaired elbow. Joseph showed enough behind the plate to feel good about him being Wieters’ backup, but Clevenger and Arencibia could be battling it out to be Joseph’s backup to begin the season. Arencibia showed promising power in Toronto, but his career has gone downhill dramatically over the last couple years.

INFIELDERS (11)
LOCK: Chris Davis (suspended for Opening Day and does not count toward current 40-man roster), Ryan Flaherty, J.J. Hardy, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop
BUBBLE: Rey Navarro, Jimmy Paredes
LONG SHOT: Christian Walker, Michael Almanzar*, Paul Janish*, Chris Parmelee*
Skinny: The Orioles’ fascination with Navarro is curious as they were willing to give him a big-league contract while other teams pursued a minor-league agreement. Paredes showed nice ability at the plate late last year, but his defensive limitations won’t help his chances in Showalter’s eyes. Baltimore expects more at the plate from Schoop this year, but his excellent work in the field makes him a lock to be on the roster with Flaherty occasionally spelling him at second base. Machado has been fully cleared, so there isn’t as much uncertainty with his status for Opening Day as there currently is with Wieters.

OUTFIELDERS (11)
LOCK: Alejandro De Aza, Adam Jones, Steve Pearce, Travis Snider, Delmon Young
BUBBLE: David Lough
LONG SHOT: Alex Hassan, Henry Urrutia, Dariel Alvarez*, Nolan Reimold*, Matt Tuiasosopo*
Skinny: At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much drama here, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see changes in the outfield as the year progresses. The Orioles hope De Aza settles into a regular leadoff role and Snider is a solid replacement for Markakis in right field, but the likes of Hassan, Urrutia, Alvarez, and Reimold will be on call at Norfolk for opportunities. Lough is out of options and provides speed and defensive ability off the bench, but it will be interesting to see if he can build on a .941 on-base plus slugging percentage in 64 plate appearances in the second half of 2014. Truthfully, Jones in center field is the only sure thing.

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Statheads and ex-jocks, can’t we all just get along?

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Statheads and ex-jocks, can’t we all just get along?

Posted on 11 February 2015 by Luke Jones

The spat between Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Charles Barkley and Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is just the latest example in the battle continuing to be fought across multiple sports.

The “old school” way of thinking versus statistical analysis.

Never mind that the mindsets aren’t mutually exclusive, you better choose one or the other in this fight!

Despite being a self-proclaimed baseball nerd — we’ll use that sport for our example — I’ve always maintained it’s up to the individual to decide how dedicated and in depth he or she wants to be as a fan. After all, we’re talking about sports and not matters of national security.

It’s supposed to be fun.

Embracing sabermetrics to adapt how I study the game in recent years hasn’t swayed my enjoyment in watching a perfectly-executed relay or a game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. Finding new ways to educate yourself about the game isn’t a mandate — however, it should be for those who work in the game and want to remain relevant — but it’s silly to criticize simply because we may not understand or be interested.

Admittedly, statistical analysis is heavy as it can quickly start to feel like a calculus lesson instead of a baseball discussion. With many of these advanced stats — OPS-plus, FIP, UZR, and WAR just to name a few — I’ve developed a functional understanding of what they mean and how to apply them without wasting brainpower remembering how to calculate them. It’s akin to enjoying the steak without dwelling on how it’s prepared at the butcher shop.

For anyone not convinced of the value of sabermetrics — but will at least humor me — I typically present three questions:

1. Would you rather have a .300 hitter or a .260 hitter?

Many — not all — traditional fans will go with the .300 hitter, which has long been viewed as a benchmark for greatness, but how much does batting average really tell us?

In this case, the .300 hitter could also be a free swinger who doesn’t walk often and hits for very little power. In contrast, let’s pretend the .260 hitter clubbed 60 extra-base hits and walked 80 times over the course of the season. Under such a scenario, the .260 hitter is likely to be the far superior option without getting into their value on the bases or in the field.

This is why on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) is embraced while batting average is being thrown aside by many statheads as a limited piece of information. If you want to take it a step further, OPS-plus takes into account how a hitter’s home ballpark — think of a pitcher’s park in Oakland compared to a hitter’s park — impacted his performance and allows for better comparison among players across the league.

2. Do you want a pitcher with a 3.70 ERA last year or one who had a 4.00 mark?

Again, many purists will point to the hurler with the lower ERA and be right in most cases, but is it always that simple?

What about the defense he played with in comparison to the group that was behind the other pitcher? What if one was really lucky or had great misfortune over a number of starts?

Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is complicated to calculate, but it uses the outcomes a pitcher solely controls (strikeouts, walks, hit by pitch, and home runs) to produce a value on the same scale as ERA. Its intent is to eliminate factors such as defense and bloop hits in trying to assess a pitcher’s effectiveness and to help predict his future performance.

As an example, the 2014 Orioles ranked seventh in the majors in team ERA (3.44), but they ranked 24th in team FIP (3.96). It reflects just how much Orioles pitching benefited from the exceptional defense behind it — which confirms what many purists witnessed with their own eyes, mind you — and how it would likely fare with an average defense.

3. Would you prefer the shortstop who made six errors or the one who made 12 last season?

This question is a good one as baseball fans have long been prisoners to a lack of data to truly assess defense. Hypothetically, a player could stand in one spot on the field all year and not commit an error, but that would make him quite poor defensively, wouldn’t it?

Sabermetrics are ever evolving when it comes to measuring defense, but numbers such as Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) are finally accounting for how much ground a player covers in the field. The measures aren’t perfect as there is fluctuation from year to year, but we’ve taken giant leaps from the days of simply quoting the number of errors, putouts, and assists a player collects.

To answer the above question, we need to know how the first player’s range compares to the second shortstop. If the latter gets to many more balls in the hole and up the middle, it’s logical to conclude he’s likely to commit more errors, but how many more outs will he also have created in the process?

Of course, the three above questions only scratch the surface of what’s out there in baseball.

Statistical analysis is about accounting for variables and answering questions. There isn’t one fancy statistic that should be viewed as gospel — or a number to which you become a “prisoner” in Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s words — in the same way that no person’s gut feeling or eyeball test is foolproof, either. Computers and numbers don’t play the games on the field, but they can tell us more about what’s happening and what is likely to happen next.

It’s possible to appreciate the human element as well as what the numbers say. In fact, we might even find that a statistic will confirm a gut feeling or an observation.

If more statheads were willing to explain their rationale and more traditionalists were open to learning, we wouldn’t have the embarrassing exchanges like we saw this week between an NBA general manager and one of the great players in league history.

There’s a place for both statistical analysis and traditional evaluation if we’re willing to embrace both.

And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a Hall of Famer to do it.

 

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Harvey, Alvarez headline list of invitees to Orioles spring training

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Harvey, Alvarez headline list of invitees to Orioles spring training

Posted on 10 February 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles released their 2015 spring training roster on Tuesday with a group of 15 non-roster invitees headlined by pitching prospect Hunter Harvey and Cuban outfielder Dariel Alvarez.

Harvey, the club’s first-round pick of the 2013 draft, received a clean bill of health early in the offseason after his first full professional season was cut short by a flexor mass strain in late July. He went 7-5 with a 3.18 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 87 2/3 innings for Single-A Delmarva last season.

Alvarez, 26, has been hyped by members of the organization this offseason in regards to his tremendous throwing arm in the outfield as well as the ability he showed at the plate last year. In 564 plate appearances split between Triple-A Norfolk and Double-A Bowie, Alvarez batted .306 with 55 extra-base hits.

Other familiar names among the non-roster invitees include the 40-year-old lefty reliever Mark Hendrickson, former Toronto and Texas catcher J.P. Arencibia, and outfielder Nolan Reimold, whose minor-league deal was officially announced Monday. Baltimore native and St. Paul’s product Steve Johnson was also invited to spring training after the 27-year-old right-hander re-signed a minor-league deal with the Orioles last month.

Notable absences from the group of non-roster invitees include pitcher Suk-min Yoon and outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, who advanced all the way to Double-A Bowie last season. Manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Sarasota last month that Yoon would not be invited to big-league camp.

On a personal note, it’s impossible not to think of this movie clip when the list of non-roster invitees is released every winter:

With first baseman Chris Davis allowed to play in spring contests despite having one game remaining on his 25-game ban for Adderall use, the Orioles are technically carrying 41 players on their 40-man roster this spring.

Pitcher and catchers will report to Sarasota on Feb. 19 while full-squad workouts begin on Feb. 25.

Below is the entire 2015 spring training roster:

40-MAN ROSTER

PITCHERS (22)
73 Tim Berry (L)
35 Brad Brach
53 Zach Britton (L)
49 Dylan Bundy
16 Wei-Yin Chen (L)
71 Oliver Drake
68 Eddie Gamboa
61 Jason Garcia (Rule 5 selection)
39 Kevin Gausman
50 Miguel Gonzalez
29 Tommy Hunter
31 Ubaldo Jimenez
17 Brian Matusz (L)
66 T.J. McFarland (L)
25 Bud Norris
56 Darren O’Day
30 Chris Tillman
64 Logan Verrett (Rule 5 selection)
58 Ryan Webb
63 Tyler Wilson
59 Mike Wright
40 Wesley Wright (L)

CATCHERS (3)
45 Steve Clevenger
36 Caleb Joseph
32 Matt Wieters

INFIELDERS (7+1)
19 Chris Davis (does not count toward 40-man limit)
3 Ryan Flaherty
2 J.J. Hardy
13 Manny Machado
43 Rey Navarro
38 Jimmy Paredes
6 Jonathan Schoop
18 Christian Walker

OUTFIELDERS (8)
12 Alejandro De Aza
57 Alex Hassan
10 Adam Jones
9 David Lough
28 Steve Pearce
23 Travis Snider
51 Henry Urrutia
27 Delmon Young

NON-ROSTER INVITEES

PITCHERS (6)
70 Dane De La Rosa
62 Hunter Harvey
34 Mark Hendrickson (L)
52 Steve Johnson
75 Chris Jones (L)
65 Chaz Roe

CATCHERS (3)
15 J.P. Arencibia
60 Ryan Lavarnway
74 Brian Ward

INFIELDERS (3)
67 Michael Almanzar
1 Paul Janish
41 Chris Parmelee

OUTFIELDERS (3)
79 Dariel Alvarez
14 Nolan Reimold
48 Matt Tuiasosopo

 

MANAGER/COACHES
26 Buck Showalter (manager)
54 Dom Chiti (bullpen)
47 Scott Coolbaugh (hitting)
55 Einar Diaz (assistant hitting)
11 Bobby Dickerson (third-base coach)
24 Wayne Kirby (first-base coach)
77 John Russell (bench)
37 Dave Wallace (pitching)

ADDITIONAL SPRING STAFF
9 Brady Anderson
72 Rudy Arias
85 Sean Berry
14 Mike Bordick
88 Kevin Bradshaw
83 Scott Beerer
76 Brian Graham
91 Mike Griffin
81 Jose Hernandez
89 Miguel Jabalera
86 Ron Johnson
78 Gary Kendall
80 Jeff Manto
16 Scott McGregor
84 Alan Mills
87 Rick Peterson
82 Jett Ruiz
17 B.J. Surhoff
90 Don Werner

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Orioles reportedly exploring exhibition game in Cuba

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Orioles reportedly exploring exhibition game in Cuba

Posted on 09 February 2015 by Luke Jones

With the United States recently improving diplomatic relations with Cuba, the Orioles are reportedly interested in playing an exhibition game in the country for the first time in 16 years.

According to ESPN, the Orioles and the Boston Red Sox have both expressed a desire to play in Cuba, but it appears unlikely that it will happen this spring as Major League Baseball is still trying to sort out what the nations’ improved relations will mean for the sport. President Barack Obama announced late last year that the United States would restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana.

Of course, owner Peter Angelos helped orchestrate a two-game exhibition with the Cuban All-Star team in 1999, which included the Orioles playing a game in Cuba in late March as well as hosting an exhibition contest against the Cubans at Camden Yards in May of that same season. Coordinating a trip this time around wouldn’t figure to be nearly as challenging with travel regulations already being eased by the U.S.

The Orioles won the first game in Cuba before the visitors prevailed in the second contest played in Baltimore. It was the first time in four decades that a major league team had played a game in Cuba.

Under current executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, the Orioles have tapped into Cuba’s baseball talent over the last few seasons, most notably signing outfielders Henry Urrutia and Dariel Alvarez along with a couple others.

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De Aza last man standing in Orioles’ busy arbitration season

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De Aza last man standing in Orioles’ busy arbitration season

Posted on 08 February 2015 by Luke Jones

Orioles outfielder Alejandro De Aza is the last man standing on a docket that included 11 arbitration-eligible players to address this winter.

Most attention understandably has been placed on the free-agent departures of outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis and lefty reliever Andrew Miller, but the Orioles will have given more than $21 million in raises to De Aza, pitchers Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris, Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter, and Brian Matusz, outfielder Steve Pearce, infielder Ryan Flaherty, first baseman Chris Davis, and catcher Matt Wieters this winter. It’s the reason why Baltimore’s payroll is estimated to rise from $107 million in 2014 to a projected $120 million despite minimal additions this offseason.

While the ongoing MASN dispute raises fair questions about owner Peter Angelos’ willingness to expand the payroll any further, the high volume of arbitration cases adds context to the losses of Cruz, Markakis, and Miller. Simply put, the Orioles are now paying the price for the cheap and productive labor they’ve received from the likes of Tillman, Gonzalez, Britton, and Pearce over the last couple seasons.

While the sting of this winter’s losses is apparent, the Orioles will be faced with even more difficult decisions next offseason when De Aza, Pearce, Davis, Wieters, Norris, and left-hander starter Wei-Yin Chen all become free agents.

De Aza is set to become the first Orioles player to go to a hearing since pitcher Brad Bergesen in 2012. The club has an impeccable record in arbitration cases, going 7-0 in cases handled by Russell Smouse, and hasn’t lost a hearing since pitcher Ben McDonald defeated the Orioles 20 years ago.

The left-handed hitter is projected by most to become the Orioles’ new leadoff hitter and asked for $5.65 million while the organization countered at $5 million. De Aza made $4.25 million last year in splitting time between the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore.

After being acquired a day before the waiver trade deadline on August 30, De Aza hit .293 with three home runs and 10 runs batted in over 89 plate appearances with the Orioles to close the regular season. He also hit .333 with three doubles and three RBIs in 21 postseason at-bats.

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Who will be the Orioles’ breakout performer in 2015?

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Who will be the Orioles’ breakout performer in 2015?

Posted on 05 February 2015 by Luke Jones

With Orioles closer Zach Britton agreeing to a $3.2 million contract on Wednesday, it was a reminder of just how far the left-hander has come over the last 12 months.

The sinkerballer entered last year’s spring training out of minor-league options and not even assured of a roster spot, but the 27-year-old instead emerged to become one of the best closers in the American League. Britton wasn’t the only breakout performer for the 2014 AL East champions as journeyman Steve Pearce hit 21 home runs and posted a hefty .930 on-base plus slugging percentage, but the Orioles will be looking for at least one or two players to emerge unexpectedly if they’re to advance to the playoffs for the third time in four years.

Who will be a breakout performer for the Orioles in 2015? (choose up to two)

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With that in mind, below are six candidates who could fit that description of “breakout performer” in 2015:

RHP Kevin Gausman
Skinny: The 24-year-old did a fine job establishing himself as a legitimate major league starter last year by going 7-7 with a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is predicting Gausman to take a major leap in 2015, which would have him vying for the top spot in the rotation along with Chris Tillman. The 2012 first-round pick’s high-90s fastball and split-fingered changeup are nasty pitches, but further developing his circle change or slider would make the 6-foot-3 right-hander downright scary. After pitching 166 2/3 innings including the minors and the postseason last year, Gausman could still face a slight issue with an innings limit, but that would mean he’s having great success in the rotation.

2B Jonathan Schoop
Skinny: The Curacao native played Gold Glove-caliber defense as a rookie, which is why he stayed in the lineup despite a .209 average and a .598 on-base plus slugging percentage. Schoop showed promising power with his 16 home runs, but his plate discipline (13 walks in 481 plate appearances) must improve to make him a more dangerous offensive option. Considering he had only 270 at-bats at Triple-A Norfolk in 2013, Schoop’s offensive struggles weren’t surprising, but his .191 average in the second half was lower than his .221 mark in the first half. Beyond the natural progression of a young player, the Orioles hope his .749 OPS in August and improved patience in the playoffs (three walks in 24 plate appearances) were signs of better things to come.

OF Travis Snider
Skinny: The Orioles didn’t give up much for the 27-year-old outfielder, but they hope his strong second half for Pittsburgh in 2014 is evidence that things have finally clicked for the 2006 first-round selection after years of disappointment. Considered a solid fielder, Snider hit .288 with nine home runs and posted an .880 OPS in 188 plate appearances in the second half to help the Pirates to a postseason appearance. A left-handed hitter with power potential profiles well playing his home game at Camden Yards, and it appears likely that manager Buck Showalter will give Snider every opportunity to win the starting right field job. If the 2014 version of Snider comes to Baltimore, it would go a long way in easing the pain from the departure of Nick Markakis.

OF David Lough
Skinny: Many wrote off the speedy outfielder after he hit only .159 in the first two months of 2014, but Lough quietly batted .337 over his final 99 plate appearances, which obviously came sparingly over the final four months. The 29-year-old will be right in the mix with the likes of Snider, Alejandro De Aza, Steve Pearce, and Delmon Young for a corner outfield job this spring, and his speed gives an added dimension that the roster sorely lacks. No one questions his ability in the field as he was regularly a late-inning defensive replacement last year and manager Buck Showalter places a high premium on defense, giving Lough an edge over his competitors if he can prove his strong second half at the plate was a sign of his true ability and not just an aberration.

OF Dariel Alvarez
Skinny: The 26-year-old Cuban native has been discussed a great deal by the Orioles this offseason as the organization raves about his strong throwing arm in the outfield. He walked only 21 times in 564 plate appearances split between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk, but Alvarez showed good power with his 55 extra-base hits in the process of being named to the 2014 MLB Futures Game. Outsiders aren’t as high on Alvarez as a major league prospect as the organization is — his advanced age is a factor — so it will be interesting to see how quickly he might receive an opportunity in the majors should the projected cast of corner outfielders fail to get the job done.

RHP Mike Wright
Skinny: The 6-foot-6 right-hander is all but certain to begin the year at Triple-A Norfolk, but Wright has been regularly mentioned by Showalter over the last year or two as a pitching prospect to watch. The 2011 third-round pick struggled at Norfolk for much of last season until his final seven starts when he posted a 0.95 ERA in 47 2/3 innings. Wright possesses a low-90s sinker along with a solid slider and a changeup, a repertoire that makes him a fringe starting candidate who is probably better suited to pitch out of the bullpen in the majors. The Orioles wouldn’t appear to have a relief role for him going into the season, but he’s a darkhorse candidate to get the call should the 25-man roster suffer injuries in the rotation or the bullpen in 2015.

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Orioles come to terms with closer Britton

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Orioles come to terms with closer Britton

Posted on 04 February 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles resolved their penultimate arbitration case of the winter by coming to terms with left-handed closer Zach Britton on Wednesday.

According to MASN, the 27-year-old will make $3.2 million in base salary after emerging as the club’s closer a year ago. In 76 1/3 innings, Britton posted a 1.65 ERA and converted 37 of 41 save opportunities for the American League East champions.

With Britton working out of the bullpen for the first time after a few underwhelming seasons as a starter, his sinker reached the mid-to-high 90s working in relief as hitters struggled to square up his pitches. Britton finished the 2014 campaign ranked fourth in the American League in saves and became the 10th different Orioles pitcher to record a 30-save season in club history.

He made only $521,500 last season after he entered spring training with no assurance of even being on the 25-man roster and was out of minor-league options. When the sides exchanged figures earlier this offseason, Britton asked for $4.2 million while Baltimore countered with $2.2 million, meaning they split the difference as is often the case.

Outfielder Alejandro De Aza is the only remaining arbitration case for the Orioles to settle this offseason.

 

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Orioles agree to terms with right-handed pitcher Gonzalez

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Orioles agree to terms with right-handed pitcher Gonzalez

Posted on 03 February 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles took care of another arbitration-eligible player by agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez on Tuesday.

According to CBSSports.com, the right-hander will receive a $3.275 million base salary for the 2015 season. Gonzalez, 30, went 10-9 with a 3.23 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) spanning 159 innings last year.

He made only $529,000 last year before entering his first arbitration-eligible offseason. Earlier this winter, Gonzalez filed for $3.95 million while the Orioles offered $2.5 million when exchanging arbitration figures.

Though he temporarily became the odd man out of the starting rotation when Ubaldo Jimenez returned from the disabled list last August, Gonzalez had the best ERA of any of the Orioles’ six starters in 2014 and has been one of the club’s most consistent starters over the last three seasons. Gonzalez has posted a 30-21 record with a 3.45 ERA in 75 games (69 starts) since making his major league debut in 2012.

The Orioles have two arbitration cases left to resolve: closer Zach Britton and outfielder Alejandro De Aza. If the sides don’t come to agreements, arbitration hearings will be held later this month.

 

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Orioles sign Reimold to minor-league deal, trade Lombardozzi to Pittsburgh

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Orioles sign Reimold to minor-league deal, trade Lombardozzi to Pittsburgh

Posted on 03 February 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles made several roster moves Tuesday headlined by the return of outfielder Nolan Reimold to the organization.

According to MASN Sports, the 31-year-old agreed to a minor-league deal that includes an invitation to spring training. Once considered one of the better young players in the organization, a series of injuries including two spinal fusion procedures prevented Reimold from ever reaching his potential in Baltimore.

Upon working his way back to full strength last summer following a second neck surgery, Reimold was placed on waivers by the Orioles and claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays last July. The right-handed hitter batted .212 with two home runs and nine runs batted in in 60 plate appearances before once again being waived in late August. Reimold finished the season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, hitting .294 with a homer and four RBIs over 18 plate appearances.

In six major league seasons, Reimold has posted a .251 average with 44 home runs and a .762 on-base plus slugging percentage in 1,134 career plate appearances.

The Orioles also traded infielder Steve Lombardozzi to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for cash considerations. The Atholton High product hit .288 in 73 at-bats at the beginning of last season before spending the rest of the 2014 season at Triple-A Norfolk where he batted .270 with a .618 OPS.

The organization wasn’t enamored with Lombardozzi’s limitations defensively as well as his lack of power.

Baltimore dealt minor-league catcher Michael Ohlman to the St. Louis Cardinals for cash. A strong 2013 season that included 13 home runs for Single-A Frederick put Ohlman on the Orioles’ prospect radar, but he posted a .627 OPS at Double-A Bowie last year and was designated for assignment last week to make room on the 40-man roster for outfielder Travis Snider.

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Who should lead off for Orioles in 2015?

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Who should lead off for Orioles in 2015?

Posted on 03 February 2015 by Luke Jones

With spring training only a couple weeks away, Orioles manager Buck Showalter has a number of issues to sort out as it relates to his everyday lineup.

Most attention has centered around replacing outfielders Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz — Steve Pearce, Alejandro De Aza, David Lough, Delmon Young, and the newly-acquired Travis Snider are among the candidates — but identifying who will lead off in the Baltimore lineup is anyone’s guess at this point. However, it’s not a question over which the skipper is panicking in early February.

“Somebody’s going to lead off Opening Day, I bet you,” quipped Showalter, adding that he’s more concerned with having a strong bottom of the order than with who’s hitting first. “Our guys don’t talk about it a lot. I’ve told you many times, [you could] just take your best hitter and hit him first to get more at-bats.”

It’s that very mindset that led to Markakis first becoming a regular leadoff hitter during the 2012 season even though he stole only six bases over his final three seasons with the Orioles. No one would confuse the Orioles with a track team after they stole a league-worst 44 bases in 2014, so speed isn’t a prerequisite for replacing Markakis at the top of the order.

Among their current candidates, who should lead off for the Orioles in 2015?

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Of the possible options currently on the roster, De Aza carries the most experience hitting in the leadoff position with 296 career starts there, but Showalter said Saturday it would be wrong to simply assume it’s his job to lose this spring. His career .334 on-base percentage in the top spot of the order is just a touch higher than his career .330 OBP overall, but De Aza told reporters he feels comfortable leading off if that’s what the Orioles want him to do.

His production in 2014 spiked when he was traded to the Orioles at the end of August, but De Aza is eager to rebound from a campaign he called the worst of his career as he hit only .252 with eight home runs, 41 runs batted in, and a .700 on-base plus slugging percentage combined with the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore. He would also represent one of the Orioles’ speedier options as he stole 17 bases last season.

“I can’t just go there and tell them that I want to be leadoff or they’re just going to give me the leadoff spot,” said De Aza, who added that Showalter hasn’t talked to him about the job to this point. “I’m just going to work hard, and they’re going to make the best [decision] for the team.”

Showalter acknowledged he’s had some “radical” thoughts about his lineup throughout the offseason, mentioning Lough, Pearce, Jonathan Schoop, Adam Jones, and even Chris Davis as potential candidates to be the leadoff hitter, but nothing is set in stone. Acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates last week, Snider carried a .356 on-base percentage in the second half of 2014, and the Orioles hope that’s a sign of better things to come for the former first-round pick who’s struggled to realize his potential at the major-league level.

But if the Orioles are looking for a unconventional option who might also be the best one, Pearce led the club with a .373 OBP and worked the count as well as any hitter in the lineup a year ago. Even if the 31-year-old won’t match his lofty power figures of 21 homers and a .556 slugging percentage in 383 plate appearances in 2014, he has a career .335 OBP in parts of eight major league seasons as well as a .371 career OBP in the minor leagues.

Like Markakis, Pearce won’t offer much in terms of speed, but Showalter acknowledged the traditional leadoff hitter appears to be an endangered species in today’s game. In all likelihood, the Orioles will use a committee approach in Grapefruit League action until one or two hitters settle into the role depending on the opposing starter on a given night.

“They know things are going to change a little bit from time to time depending on who we’re facing,” Showalter said. “The conventional leadoff hitter like Brian [Roberts] was for a long time and like Rickey Henderson was for a long time, how many of them are there [today]?. How many guys can stay in the lineup against left-handed and right-handed pitching and be there every night?”

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