Posted on 31 July 2015 by WNST Staff
Posted on 31 July 2015 by Luke Jones
Trying to improve a woeful corner outfield situation that’s plagued them all season, the Orioles have found their man hours before Friday’s trade deadline.
The Orioles acquired Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Gerardo Parra in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Zach Davies. Baltimore designated right-handed pitcher Bud Norris for assignment to temporarily make room for Parra on the 25-man roster.
The 28-year-old Venezuelan is in the midst of a career season at the plate, hitting .328 with nine home runs, 31 RBIs, 24 doubles, and an .886 on-base plus slugging percentage in 351 plate appearances. Parra hits and throws from the left side and was also a two-time Gold Glove outfielder with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has repeatedly stated a desire to acquire a corner outfielder in recent weeks after failing to adequately replace veterans Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis last offseason. The Orioles have also engaged in trade discussions for Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Ben Revere.
While Parra represents an upgrade over the likes of Travis Snider, Nolan Reimold, and David Lough in the outfield, the acquisition does not come without some risk as the outfielder will be a free agent this offseason and is only a .279 career hitter with a career .738 OPS, leading one to wonder if some regression to the mean could occur over the next two months. One of the biggest differences in Parra’s 2015 campaign compared to the rest of his career has been an improved ability to hit left-handed pitching (an .819 OPS in 53 plate appearances against southpaws compared to a .604 career mark).
Manager Buck Showalter will likely look to use Parra at the top of the order — especially against right-handed pitching — as he sports a .369 on-base percentage this season.
Davies was 5-6 with a 2.84 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) spanning 101 1/3 innings. The 22-year-old right-hander was recently ranked as the No. 3 prospect in a thin Baltimore system by MLB.com.
It was widely known that the Orioles had little ammunition to make a major splash at the deadline with top pitching prospects Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey both currently injured. The departure of Davies further depletes a farm system in need of major retooling, but Parra does fill a need for a push for a third trip to the postseason in four years.
Posted on 30 July 2015 by Luke Jones
With the non-waiver trade deadline less than 24 hours away, the Orioles were engaged in discussions Thursday night trying to acquire corner outfield help in their push for their third playoff appearance in four years.
A source confirmed that executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was attempting to acquire Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Gerardo Parra. It is believed that the Orioles are offering right-handed pitching prospect Zach Davies, but it could take additional pitching such as Double-A Bowie right-hander Parker Bridwell to complete a deal.
Multiple outlets reported that the Orioles are also discussing a potential fit for Philadelphia outfielder Ben Revere. Entering Thursday, Revere was hitting .298 with a .335 on-base percentage and 24 stolen bases and would potentially serve as a leadoff hitter.
It’s no secret that the Orioles have lacked sufficient ammunition in their farm system to make a serious run at more notable outfielders such as Justin Upton and Carlos Gomez.
The left-handed Parra is having a career season at the plate with a .326 average, nine home runs, 24 doubles, and an .884 on-base plus slugging percentage entering Thursday’s action. However, he carries just a .737 career OPS, suggesting there could be some distinct regression to the norm over his final two months of play.
Previously with the Arizona Diamondbacks before being traded to Milwaukee last July, the 28-year-old is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. Parra is making $6.24 million in 2015, meaning any club acquiring his services would be on the hook for just over $2 million without any cash considerations in a trade.
Revere is under club control through the 2017 season.
Posted on 28 July 2015 by Luke Jones
BALTIMORE — With Nick Markakis in the midst of his return to Baltimore, the Orioles trotted out their fourth different leadoff hitter in the last five games for Tuesday’s contest against the Atlanta Braves.
After manager Buck Showalter moved Manny Machado down to third over the weekend, the All-Star third baseman returned to the top spot, the place in the lineup he’s now occupied 73 times during the 2015 season. Of course, the thinking with moving Machado down in the order was to create more run-producing opportunities for the 23-year-old, but the lack of an ideal option to replace him in the top spot is the bigger long-term problem.
Jimmy Paredes, David Lough, and Nolan Reimold received opportunities in the top spot while Machado hit lower in the order. Showalter has used six different players in the leadoff spot this year with two of them — Alejandro De Aza and Everth Cabrera — no longer with the organization.
“If you hit Manny first, who hits third?” Showalter said on Monday. “If you hit him third, who hits first? You take one away and then you’re trying to replace it. We put out there what we think is best. Guys know that we’re having some challenges there.”
Despite Reimold going 2-for-4 with a double and a walk in the No. 1 spot in Monday’s 2-1 win, Machado struggled in the third spot in the order, going 2-for-15 with four strikeouts and a walk. One certainly shouldn’t draw strong or permanent conclusions from that sample size, but it might have been the level of anxiousness Machado displayed in two at-bats on Monday that reinforced the idea that maybe it’s unwise to mess with a good thing.
Machado came to the plate with two runners on base in the eighth and 10th innings of Monday’s game and struck out each time, swinging at several pitches outside the strike zone. One of the biggest factors in the young infielder’s leap at the plate this season has been his improved plate disciplined with a career-high 42 walks in 423 plate appearances entering Tuesday’s game.
Did the move to the No. 3 spot alter Machado’s mindset?
“I actually asked him about that today. ‘Do you feel any different mentality there? Are you getting bigger?'” Showalter said prior to Tuesday’s game. “He said, ‘No, it’s just a [slump].’ Since he’s been here — up until the last two or three games — that’s as long as I’ve seen him engaged with a good approach where he was not letting them get him out other than [on] stuff within the zone. He was walking.
“You always think it’s a day away. It’s like he said today, ‘I’ve got to get back to what I was doing. It’s got nothing to do with where I’m hitting him in the order.’ Of course, what’s he going to say?”
Machado looks the part of a hitter who will eventually settle into the No. 3 spot for a long time, but it would be wise to leave him in the role where he’s thrived in 2015, especially with few other options inspiring confidence in the leadoff spot right now.
Posted on 24 July 2015 by Luke Jones
On Fridays, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Orioles or Ravens (or a mix of both).
Five questions …
1. Is it just me or should the Orioles be concerned about the remainder of J.J. Hardy’s contract? Baltimore’s announcement of a three-year, $40 million extension with the veteran shortstop on the eve of last fall’s American League Championship Series seemed like good news at the time, but it was fair to wonder if it was a sound investment in a middle infielder on the wrong side of 30 and wrapping up a season plagued by back issues that zapped his power. Hardy entered Friday’s game with a .345 slugging percentage, which would be the lowest of his career after he hit only nine homers and slugged .372 last season. To be fair, Hardy is hitting .263 with four homers and a .401 slugging percentage since June 9, but his lack of power is just one of many reasons the Orioles have struggled with offensive consistency all season and he’s still owed a total of $26.5 million in the next two seasons.
2. Is it just me or is it obvious why Ray Rice hasn’t gotten another shot in the NFL? The question really isn’t whether the former Ravens running back should get a second chance, but the fact that Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson have survived their own off-field transgressions would lead you to believe the 28-year-old is in line for an opportunity. Many — including myself — have discussed Rice’s poor 2013 season and his workload dating back to college as factors supporting the idea that his career might be decline, but it comes down to one factor and one factor alone — the surveillance video of him striking his wife being on display for the world at any moment. Photos and words describing an incident are heinous, but many have sadly become desensitized to those mediums. The video and its public release changed everything, however, as NFL owners have been unwilling to budge on Rice to this point.
3. Is it just me or is it difficult to explain the Orioles’ dramatic struggles on the road? There are a slew of reasons why the 2015 season has been disappointing, but one of the biggest mysteries is why the Orioles have been so poor away from Camden Yards. Baltimore’s 19-30 road record entering the weekend series at Tampa Bay was the worst in the American League while a 27-18 home mark is in line with the success of the last few years. Few would have predicted the Orioles repeating their excellent 46-35 road record from 2014, but even a record in the neighborhood of .500 away from home would have them within striking distance of the Yankees. Alas, a mark of a good club is being able to hold its own on the road and Buck Showalter hasn’t seen that from the Orioles in 2015. Plain and simple, you can’t expect to contend when you play like a 100-loss team on the road.
4. Is it just me or is it time to take a look at Dariel Alvarez and Christian Walker in Baltimore? Instead of more discussion about a crowded outfield of underwhelming veterans, the Orioles should be making room for the 26-year-old Cuban outfielder, who has 13 homers for Triple-A Norfolk and has rebounded nicely after hitting .238 over the first two months of his 2015 campaign. It remains to be seen whether Alvarez profiles as anything more than a reserve outfielder in the majors, but his rifle throwing arm and power are skills worth evaluating while the Orioles continue to receive so little from their current options. It could also be time to take a look at Walker instead of continuing to run Chris Parmelee out to first base and while contemplating a trade of Chris Davis. The 24-year-old got off to a terrible start, but Walker has heated up over the summer and has four homers in his last 10 games.
5. Is it just me or is it difficult to believe the Ravens are entering their 20th season? As the great John Eisenberg penned earlier this week, seeing Forbes magazine rank the Ravens as the 24th most valuable sports franchise in the world was a pleasant reminder of how far the city has come in football perception. It was just two decades ago that Baltimore kids only dreamed of having an NFL team while their parents and grandparents shared stories of Johnny Unitas, Lenny Moore, and Bert Jones. Not only have the Ravens been profitable, but they’ve been a model of consistency on the field with two Super Bowl titles, four AFC championship game appearances, four division titles, and 10 playoff appearances in the last 15 years. While many opine that NFL owners didn’t support the city’s bid for an expansion team in the 1990s because the package was so attractive to owners pondering relocation, the current franchise value only reiterates how wrong the league was in not giving the ball to Baltimore over other cities.
Posted on 23 July 2015 by Luke Jones
The 2015 season isn’t over, but it’s time for the Orioles to look in the mirror and acknowledge what they’ve seen for almost four months.
A mediocre club.
No, Baltimore isn’t as bad as a 5-12 record in July would indicate, but we can’t be fooled again into thinking a run of 18 wins in 23 games last month is the real indication of who the 2015 club is when the Orioles have just one other winning streak of even three games outside that lone extended stretch of prosperity. They were bound to level off after their hot June in which they briefly climbed atop the American League East, but losing 14 of 19 is an unacceptable way for a streaking club to cool off — if not freeze entirely — if it wants to be taken seriously as a contender.
Trailing the New York Yankees by a season-worst seven games after being swept in the Bronx this week, the Orioles should not be in full-blown fire-sale mode with more than 60 games to go, but trying to be buyers with so few assets in their farm system would be irresponsible at this point. The truth is that with seven notable players set to become free agents this fall, the Orioles need to have more than just an eye toward the future with this year’s outlook not looking promising anymore.
For fans remembering the dark days of 14 consecutive losing seasons, this situation shouldn’t resemble the purge of 2000 that netted only Melvin Mora and what amounted to several bags of cheap fertilizer for the likes of B.J. Surhoff, Mike Bordick, Harold Baines, Charles Johnson, Will Clark, and Mike Timlin in a series of lousy trades. Baseball’s new qualifying offer system makes it clear that the Orioles shouldn’t trade Matt Wieters, Wei-Yin Chen, or Chris Davis for anything short of a return markedly exceeding the value of the draft pick they would receive for any of their departures as free agents.
In other words, this isn’t an endorsement to sell just because of frustration and a desire for change.
But executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette should look to move pending free agents for returns that could help position the Orioles nicely as early as next year. With a core of Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy, Kevin Gausman, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, and Zach Britton in place and secured beyond next season, the Orioles aren’t in a position where they need to completely rebuild, especially when remembering how much money will come off the payroll in the offseason.
Some forward thinking would help that cause, however, and the Orioles cannot have a repeat of the unimaginative and poor offseason that included problems beyond the obvious free-agent departures of Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Andrew Miller last winter.
If a club is desperate for an All-Star reliever like Darren O’Day and is willing to part with major league talent or prospects close to being ready for the big leagues — remember what the Orioles gave up for Andrew Miller last July? — Duquette should pull the trigger, especially if he isn’t willing to re-sign him after the season.
A contender willing to put together an impressive package for Chen, Wieters, or Davis should be heard and negotiated with. If you can somehow move what remains of the salaries of Bud Norris or Tommy Hunter, you do it without giving the compensation much thought.
The Orioles shouldn’t feel an intense need to dump all of these players, but trading at least a couple could provide some nice pieces for the near future and may not even completely destroy whatever chance the current team still has to make a run at a wild card. If Buck Showalter’s club is going to rebound from a 46-48 start, the substantial improvement is going to come from within more than anything Duquette might be able to add as a buyer at this point.
Maybe adding a couple young players to the mix is what the Orioles need.
Why not take a look at what 26-year-old Cuban outfielder Dariel Alvarez has to offer? He really couldn’t be much worse that what the Orioles have received from the corner outfield spots so far this season.
If you sell high on Chen, reward 22-year-old pitcher Zach Davies with an audition in the rotation after his strong season at Triple-A Norfolk. Or do the same for Tyler Wilson or Mike Wright.
Over the last couple months, we’ve continued to remember last season as justification for why this year’s Orioles could still turn it around.
But after a disastrous July got even worse in three days of frustration at Yankee Stadium, it might be time to make a few moves to brighten the future instead of continuing to look back at a past further dimming in the rear-view mirror.
Posted on 22 July 2015 by Luke Jones
The Orioles placed Steve Pearce on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday to make room for starting pitcher Kevin Gausman in the second game of a three-game set against the New York Yankees.
Pearce is dealing with a left oblique strain and hadn’t played since Saturday’s win in Detroit. He will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam before rejoining the Orioles in St. Petersburg for their weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays. He would be eligible to be activated from the DL as early as Aug. 3.
Wanting the 24-year-old Gausman to receive regular work over the All-Star break, the Orioles optioned the right-hander to Triple-A Norfolk on July 7. He made two starts for the Tides, allowing two earned runs and nine hits while striking out 11 and walking four in 11 innings of work.
With the disappointing Bud Norris now in the bullpen, Gausman is expected to receive an extended opportunity in the Baltimore rotation to begin the second half.
The 32-year-old Pearce has been unable to duplicate the magic of his 2014 campaign in which he posted a .293 average with 21 home runs and a club-high .930 on-base plus slugging percentage. He has hit a disappointing .227 with seven homers and 24 RBIs in 193 plate appearances, but his numbers have remained solid against left-handed pitching with a .270 average and .747 OPS against southpaws.
Since June 1, Pearce is hitting .292 with a .779 OPS in 69 plate appearances.
Much speculation about the Orioles’ roster move to create space for Gausman centered around the struggling Chris Parmelee and the seldom-used Nolan Reimold, who are both out of minor-league options. Since homering three times in his first two games for the Orioles last month, Parmelee is hitting .192 with one homer and a .568 OPS in 81 plate appearances while serving as the primary first baseman against right-handed pitching.
Reimold is hitting just .235 with a .728 OPS in 57 plate appearances.
In other roster-related news, the Orioles officially released left-handed reliever Wesley Wright after he was designated for assignment last week.
Posted on 20 July 2015 by Luke Jones
The trade deadline is in sight and the names reportedly being linked to the Orioles are enticing.
San Diego outfielder Justin Upton.
Milwaukee outfielder Carlos Gomez.
Jay Bruce and Johnny Cueto of Cincinnati.
Even the mighty Cole Hamels in Philadelphia.
Despite being just 46-45 less than two weeks away from the trade deadline, the Orioles remain in the thick of the American League East race and trail the first-place New York Yankees by just four games entering a three-game set in the Bronx on Tuesday. Any of the aforementioned names would certainly help a club lacking corner outfield talent and needing better starting pitching than it received over the first four months of the season.
But the sound of snapping fingers should bring the Orioles back to reality.
After an offseason in which veterans Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis departed via free agency and the Orioles completely whiffed in their plan to replace them, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette now faces the task of trying to improve a corner outfield situation that’s largely been a wasteland in 2015. But he’ll keep coming back to the same problem while engaging in discussions with other clubs about potential trade targets between now and July 31.
What exactly do the Orioles have to offer in return?
Opposing clubs will immediately bring up Kevin Gausman’s name, but are the Orioles in a position to trade the 24-year-old away when there are already questions about the starting rotation now and for the long haul with Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris set to become free agents?
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop has often been targeted by opposing clubs, but the 23-year-old is too valuable as part of a core group that will be expected to lead the way with the likes of Matt Wieters and Chris Davis possibly — if not likely — departing as free agents following the season.
What about Dylan Bundy?
The 22-year-old right-hander remains shut down with a right shoulder issue and is unlikely to pitch again this year. On top of that, he’s out of minor-league options next year and would need to remain on any club’s 25-man roster despite having thrown all of 167 innings in the minor leagues. His value has never been lower, but he’s still young enough that it wouldn’t make sense to move him unless another club is willing to buy high despite these concerns.
Hunter Harvey drew plenty of interest at the deadline last year, but the 20-year-old pitcher is in the midst of a throwing progression and is an injury risk with a right flexor mass strain — an injury that sometimes leads to Tommy John surgery — until he proves otherwise. Again, not exactly a situation that screams for other teams to buy high on him.
There’s a substantial drop-off in upside after these currently-injured names.
That’s not to say the likes of outfielder Dariel Alvarez, catcher Chance Sisco, and pitchers Zach Davies, Mike Wright, and Tyler Wilson wouldn’t offer some appeal to other clubs, but it’s difficult envisioning any of them headlining a trade for an impact outfielder or pitcher. And with so many pending free agents this winter, the Orioles need to be careful selling off the few pieces they currently have in their farm system for rental players or veterans with limited ceilings, the only commodities they’re likely to be able to afford at the deadline.
It’s certainly nice to hear the Orioles are interested in a high-impact outfielder — and pending free agent — like Upton or a legitimate top-of-the-rotation starter like Johnny Cueto, but those options just don’t seem realistic unless the Orioles are willing to trade Gausman or Schoop — or both.
Perhaps Duquette will find a poor man’s Andrew Miller — hopefully for a price far less than an Eduardo Rodriguez this time around — or a spark plug reminiscent of Nate McLouth in 2012, but the reported interest in high-profile names feels hollow if the Orioles are going to be honest with themselves.
Duquette and the organization are trying to make up for what they failed to do last winter.
And they have very little to offer in order to do it, making it far more likely that the Orioles will need to count on what they already have rather than any hope of finding a real difference-maker.
Posted on 19 July 2015 by Luke Jones
With Kevin Gausman set to make Wednesday’s start against the New York Yankees, the Orioles will be faced with their latest decision to make room on the 25-man roster.
Manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Detroit that it is likely to be a position player since a seven-man bullpen that now includes Bud Norris is without a pitcher holding a minor-league option. Even if the Orioles could option a reliever, you can only go with a short bullpen so long in this modern age of baseball.
So, who will be the next position player to go?
Much of the discussion from when the organization parted ways with Delmon Young earlier this month still applies now, but the continuing struggles of first baseman Chris Parmelee appear to have landed him in a vulnerable position. Since homering three times and going 5-for-9 in his first two games with the Orioles, Parmelee was hitting just .183 with a .216 on-base percentage and a .338 slugging percentage in 74 plate appearances entering Sunday’s game.
Parmelee started two of the three games against Detroit over the weekend, but the fact that Showalter has lowered him to ninth in the order speaks volumes about how much the 27-year-old has struggled. Meanwhile, Steve Pearce — who has platooned with Parmelee at first base — is hitting .292 with a respectable .779 on-base plus slugging percentage since June 1.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see outfielder Nolan Reimold designated for assignment as he’s hitting just .224 and is not playing much, but Parmelee is clearly in more danger than he was the last time the Orioles needed to part ways with a position player.
Machado continues rolling
Can we put to rest any concerns about the aftermath of Manny Machado participating in the Home Run Derby?
The 23-year-old hit his 20th home run of the season on Saturday night, becoming the youngest Orioles player to hit his 20th of a season since Cal Ripken did it just a few days after his 23rd birthday in August 1983. In his first two games after the All-Star break, Machado went 3-for-6 with a homer, a double, and four walks.
Facing All-Star lefty David Price in the third inning of a scoreless game, Machado hammered a slider an estimated 434 feet down the left-field line, an impressive display of power against one of the finest pitchers in all of baseball. For those wondering what Machado can aim for in terms of Orioles players age 23 or younger, Boog Powell holds the highest single-season homer total with 39 in 1964.
Eclipsing the big first baseman would be difficult, but Machado appears to have a solid chance to hit more home runs this year than he did in his first three seasons combined (33). As frustrating as the 2015 season has been at times for the Orioles, watching the young third baseman blossom into a superstar has been a blast.
How good was Chris Tillman on Saturday night?
After allowing a leadoff single to Ian Kinsler and walking No. 3 hitter Victor Martinez in the bottom of the first, the tall right-hander retired 23 hitters in a row in what was arguably the best start of his major league career. His eight strikeouts were a season high as he masterfully used his high fastball to help induce 18 swinging strikes from Tigers hitters.
Tillman’s game score of 87 was not only tied for the 24th best in the majors this season, but it was the highest of his career, even surpassing his shutout in Kansas City last May. Saturday’s win also marked his sixth career outing in which he allowed no more than one hit.
The 27-year-old lowered his season ERA to 4.96 with his eight shutout innings. His ERA against non-Toronto clubs is now 3.14, illustrating how skewed his numbers are by a horrendous 15.00 ERA in four starts against the powerful Blue Jays. It’s not an excuse for pitching so poorly against a division rival, but any remaining talk about Tillman potentially losing his spot in the rotation should cease when you acknowledge how good he’s been against everyone else.
Posted on 17 July 2015 by Luke Jones
The Orioles failed to come to terms with 2015 second-round pick Jonathan Hughes before Friday’s signing deadline.
The right-handed pitcher was the 68th overall pick out of Flowery Branch (Ga.) High, but he will instead attend college at Georgia Tech. As compensation for not coming to terms with Hughes, Baltimore will receive the 69th selection in the 2016 amateur draft.
At 6-foot-2 and 184 pounds, Hughes possesses a fastball that sits in the low 90s along with a slider, curve, and changeup, a repertoire that made him an attractive prospect to the Orioles. The slot in which he was drafted carried a bonus-pool value of $907,000.
Hughes is the highest Orioles draft pick to go unsigned since pitcher Wade Townsend in 2004, but the organization was able to sign 35 of their 41 selections in the 2015 draft.
In other news, the Orioles have signed veteran left-handers Dana Eveland and Andy Oliver to minor-league deals. The 31-year-old Eveland spent part of the 2012 season in Baltimore, pitching to a 4.73 ERA in 32 1/3 innings.