Tag Archive | "Orioles"

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Twelve Orioles thoughts ahead of an Opening Day not to be

Posted on 25 March 2020 by Luke Jones

With Major League Baseball remaining shuttered ahead of what was supposed to be Opening Day on Thursday, I’ve offered a dozen Orioles thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. We all know there are much bigger problems in life right now, but it’s OK to miss baseball. I certainly do and have already thought about how great that first ballpark hot dog is going to be. As Buck Showalter often cited the adage, “This too shall pass.”

2. The timing of Trey Mancini being diagnosed with colon cancer coinciding with baseball’s shutdown made the news even more difficult to process. Thankfully, Orioles officials have been very upbeat about his health and prognosis since then. He’s a special individual.

3. Mike Elias has reiterated there being no shortcuts or fast-forward buttons for Baltimore’s lengthy rebuilding process. I guess we didn’t plan on there being a pause button of this degree. I feel for those minor league players who already face a very small window to really make it in baseball.

4. I wasn’t a believer in the spring renaissance of Chris Davis, but the interesting stat was only three strikeouts in 26 plate appearances, a stretch of contact that was rare in even his best seasons. I hope we get to see whether any of that was real sooner than later.

5. MLB’s #OpeningDayAtHome idea is a good one, but I enjoy older games in which I don’t recall many details. I’d prefer any decent Opening Day games from the past. As I write, I am watching a 1992 Mike Mussina start against Seattle on YouTube and haven’t a clue what happens.

6. With Noah Syndergaard becoming the latest star pitcher set for Tommy John surgery, I can’t help but wonder about the health of pitchers during and after this indefinite shutdown. Pitching arms can be so fragile even with regular routines and schedules.

7. The Orioles — and their fans — endured 108 losses last season to be slotted for the No. 2 pick in June’s amateur draft. It will be interesting to see how MLB adjusts if the draft is postponed or canceled altogether. Again, these are relative problems, but there are no good answers.

8. I haven’t had the chance to read Joe Posnanski’s entire “The Baseball 100” series yet, but this piece on Eddie Murray is just a sampling of his superb writing. “There was nothing artificial about him, nothing fake, nothing theatrical.” I never turn down a chance to read about Steady Eddie.

9. The Houston scandal fallout feels like an eternity ago, but credit to Richard Bleier for reminding us of the Astros’ shame in a lighthearted way.

10. One of the subplots stemming from Adam Jones signing with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan was his opportunity to potentially play in the Tokyo Olympics. I hope the former Orioles great has the chance in 2021, especially after his heroics in the World Baseball Classic a few years ago.

11. Younger Orioles fans know Earl Weaver was a Hall of Fame manager and undoubtedly have laughed at clips of his heated arguments with umpires, but this Moneyball-like look at him and his great clubs is really well done. Talk about someone ahead of his time.

12. I always remember the following Rogers Hornsby quote at the conclusion of the World Series, but it carries a different meaning right now. Here’s to a new spring arriving for baseball and in countless other ways before we know it.

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Mancini has malignant tumor removed; recovery timetable unknown

Posted on 12 March 2020 by Luke Jones

On a day needing no further reminder that there are bigger things than baseball, the Orioles announced Trey Mancini underwent surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his colon.

The tumor was discovered during a colonoscopy last week, which prompted the 27-year-old outfielder and first baseman to leave the team last weekend in preparation for “a non-baseball-related medical procedure.” The surgery was described as “successful” in a statement released by the organization, but lab results and the timetable for his recovery won’t be known until next week.

“The outpouring of love and support I have received has made an extremely tough week so much better,” Mancini said in a statement. “I have the best family, friends, fans, and teammates imaginable. I am also eternally thankful for the Orioles front office, our athletic trainers, and the entire medical staff for everything they have done to help me during this time.

“Finally, I would like to thank everyone for their prayers and kind words, which have furthered my excitement to get back to playing the game I love.”

Mancini felt ill during the early stages of spring training and last appeared in a Grapefruit League game on March 2, but the organization remained tight-lipped on details out of respect to its star player after he left Sarasota last weekend. Players expressed their concern and support for an unspecified ailment, raising outside concern for Mancini’s health.

Turning 28 next week, Mancini was voted the 2019 Most Valuable Oriole after hitting .291 and setting career highs with 35 home runs, 38 doubles, 97 runs batted in, and an .899 on-base plus slugging percentage last season. Finishing third in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2017, the right-handed slugger has clubbed 86 home runs since making his major league debut late in 2016, becoming the leader of a rebuilding club short on name recognition.

Highly respected by teammates and coaches as a player and person, Mancini is active in the community and even took over former Orioles star Adam Jones’ charity tailgate event last year.

“We are doing everything in our power to ensure Trey recovers fully, and we can’t wait to see him back on the field as soon as possible,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias said in a statement.

The news came just two hours after Major League Baseball announced the cancellation of the remainder of spring training games as well as the decision to delay the start of the regular season for at least two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic. Baltimore had been scheduled to host the New York Yankees for Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on March 26.

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Orioles return Rule 5 pitchers, reassign Rutschman to minor-league camp

Posted on 06 March 2020 by Luke Jones

On the same day the Orioles reassigned 2019 first overall pick Adley Rutschman to minor-league camp, general manager Mike Elias announced two Rule 5 pitchers would be returned to their former clubs.

Despite faring well in limited Grapefruit League action, right-handers Michael Rucker and Brandon Bailey were waived with Opening Day still nearly three weeks away. Elias cited the challenge of keeping Rule 5 pitchers with 2020’s new roster rules as the reason Rucker and Bailey wouldn’t be retained. With the 25-year-old pitchers clearing waivers, Rucker has been returned to the Chicago Cubs organization while Bailey goes back to Houston.

After posting a 4.28 ERA in 75 2/3 innings at Double-A Tennessee last season, Rucker pitched five scoreless innings this spring, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out three. Bailey pitched to a 3.30 ERA in 92 2/3 innings for Double-A Corpus Christi last season and allowed one run and three hits in four innings of Grapefruit League action.

Last year, the Orioles retained Rule 5 shortstop Richie Martin for the entire season and kept him in the organization, but Elias returned Rule 5 utility player Drew Jackson to the Los Angeles Dodgers in early April.

The decision to part with Rucker and Bailey so early in the spring is quite the contrast from Dan Duquette’s contending Orioles clubs of several years ago that frequently played shorthanded just to keep marginal Rule 5 talent in the organization. In the midst of a multiyear rebuilding effort, Elias apparently didn’t see the long-term value to justify carrying overmatched pitchers in the majors, especially as part of a bullpen likely to be very busy once again in 2020.

Reassigning Rutschman was hardly a surprise as the Orioles merely wanted to give the 22-year-old catcher a taste of major league camp before his first full professional season. The organization’s No. 1 prospect collected a single and a walk while striking out five times in 10 plate appearances. Rutschman is likely to begin 2020 at Single-A Frederick after finishing last season with Single-A Delmarva.

The Orioles also optioned right-handed pitcher Dean Kremer and outfielder Ryan McKenna to Triple-A Norfolk. Part of the Manny Machado trade and a candidate to be promoted to the majors later this year, the 24-year-old Kremer tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings and struck out five in three appearances this spring. McKenna, 23, went 2-for-14 with two runs batted in, a walk, and two stolen bases in the Grapefruit League. Both Kremer and McKenna were moved to the 40-man roster last November to be protected from the Rule 5 draft.

Baltimore also reassigned catcher Martin Cervenka and pitchers Cristian Alvarado, Marcos Diplán, Hunter Cervenka, and Brady Rogers to minor-league camp on Friday. The Orioles now have 54 players remaining in major league camp.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts in early days of March

Posted on 02 March 2020 by Luke Jones

With the Grapefruit League schedule underway in Sarasota, I’ve offered a dozen Orioles thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. With three home runs and a 2.460 OPS in 14 plate appearances, Chris Davis rebounding at age 34 after a historically poor two-year stretch would be a great story, but let’s slam on — not pump — the brakes. There’s a reason Jake Fox’s name is mentioned in these parts every spring.

2. Acquired for cash last July, Asher Wojciechowski being penciled in for one of the top three spots in the rotation says way more about the Orioles than his 4.92 ERA last year, but the 31-year-old averaged 5.1 innings per start. That’s not impressive, but it’s functional, something this staff needs.

3. After adding a couple ticks to his fastball and breaking through with his changeup last year, All-Star pitcher John Means is trying to improve his breaking ball. Is he closer to being a Dallas Keuchel story like Mike Elias saw in Houston or merely the next Jeff Ballard?

4. Yusniel Diaz was slowed by a sore left shoulder before seeing his first action over the weekend and collecting a triple and a walk Monday. It’s a big year for the centerpiece in the Manny Machado trade, who needs to stay healthy and will likely begin 2020 with Norfolk.

5. Making his spring debut Monday after dealing with an illness, Hunter Harvey threw fastballs from 95 to 97 miles per hour, exactly where you’d expect him to be for his first Grapefruit League outing. His mullet is in midseason form, however. He’ll be fun to watch this year.

6. It’s a crucial time for guys like Rio Ruiz and Dwight Smith Jr. to make the case to be more than the placeholders they’re perceived to be. Ruiz faces less competition at third base, but Smith, who’s out of options, could be the odd man out in a crowded outfield.

7. Renato Nunez has made six spring starts at third after starting eight games there all last year. The designated hitter spot will be quite crowded once Ryan Mountcastle arrives in Baltimore, so Nunez would really benefit from showing defensive improvement. I’m interested to see how he follows his 31-homer campaign.

8. With Baltimore trying to improve a league-worst 5.79 bullpen ERA, Tanner Scott must show growth after walking 6.5 batters per nine innings last year. The fastball-slider combination is there and he’s struck out 12.7 per nine in his career, but finding a way to get right-handed bats out is crucial.

9. Bruce Zimmermann, a 25-year-old Loyola Blakefield graduate, gave up two homers on Monday, but he struck out six in 2 2/3 innings with a swing-and-miss slider and fastball touching the mid-90s. He’ll be a lefty to watch at Norfolk for a potential call-up later this season.

10. The Orioles made too many mistakes on the bases last year, but it’s interesting to hear how they’re exploring using speed in a power-hungry era in which steals have diminished to preserve outs. It’s a way a rebuilding club should be experimenting in search of a future edge.

11. J.J. Hardy is one of several guest instructors to be invited to camp this spring. Considering the positive influence he had on young infielders like Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop in his time as an Oriole, the former Gold Glove shortstop is a nice resource to have around.

12. This is an annual complaint, but 21 clubs will have more spring games televised locally than the Orioles’ seven on MASN. Other bottom-tier teams are streaming additional games. For an organization selling the future, not offering more looks at Adley Rutschman and other prospects in camp is a missed opportunity.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts at start of 2020 spring training

Posted on 18 February 2020 by Luke Jones

With full-squad spring workouts now underway in Sarasota, I’ve offered a dozen Orioles thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The patience required for a multiyear rebuild was already agonizing enough for the fan base, but the model being the 2017 Houston Astros now carries much different connotations. That’s a tough pill to swallow when there is no guarantee of success.

2. That’s not to convict Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal of anything beyond association as neither has been named in any scandal reporting so far, but I can’t believe they weren’t aware of what was going on as longtime Jeff Luhnow lieutenants dating back to their St. Louis days. It’s uncomfortable.

3. Chris Davis adding 25 pounds to get stronger doesn’t carry much weight when he balked at overhauling his swing, citing age and past success that was an eternity ago. He still views himself as an everyday player “until it’s proven otherwise,” but shouldn’t that be the other way around?

4. Some are interpreting Davis’ admission of contemplating retirement as the end being near, but it could have the opposite effect. Ownership hasn’t been willing to walk away from this disastrous contract so far, so why wouldn’t they dig in their heels over the possibility of Davis forgoing millions?

5. On a more positive note, Adley Rutschman being in major league camp is the brightest sign of hope yet for the rebuild. You wouldn’t expect him to be there long, but the first overall pick seeing a little Grapefruit League action would be fun.

6. We’ll likely wait until summer for more prospects to debut in Baltimore, but Austin Hays and Hunter Harvey showed enough late last season to be excited for 2020. Health remains a sticking point, but both have a chance to be part of the next contender in Baltimore.

7. Ryan Mountcastle has worked in the outfield over the first couple days of camp as the organization’s search for his defensive position continues. I’m still a little more concerned about him walking only 24 times in 553 plate appearances at Norfolk last season. He just turned 23 Tuesday, however.

8. The minor-league signings of Tommy Milone and Wade LeBlanc aren’t moving the meter for a rotation projected to again be poor, but either veteran lefty eating innings and decreasing the need for position players to pitch as frequently would be welcome. Just be a little more functional.

9. At this time last year, no one was predicting John Means to make the club, let alone the All-Star team. It would be encouraging to see another Means-like story or two — David Hess took a cue from the lefty — on a roster still with more placeholders than players of interest.

10. The performances of Hays and Chance Sisco last spring serve as a reminder that Elias doesn’t put much stock in Grapefruit League numbers, but Mountcastle and pitchers Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer performing well would serve as promising harbingers for call-ups later this year.

11. I believe in Elias, but I hoped to see more imagination this offseason in terms of signing a value free agent to flip or taking on a contract in a trade to buy a prospect. Having baseball’s lowest payroll is great for ownership, but that alone doesn’t expedite this process.

12. Rob Manfred stating his belief of “a good future for baseball in Baltimore” is fine, but the MASN resolution and a new stadium lease beyond the 2021 season are the real keys. The attendance for a team currently not trying to win has nothing to do with it.

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Orioles announce three-day “Birdland Caravan” for next month

Posted on 22 January 2020 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced that the club’s ‘Birdland Caravan,’ a three-day winter tour, will take place from Friday, February 7, through Sunday, February 9, at multiple locations throughout the region. The weekend-long celebration of baseball will include meet-and-greets and happy hours with current and former Orioles players, top prospects, broadcasters, members of the front office, and the Oriole Bird. The tour will also feature a number of community service projects with local organizations including Fort Meade Military Base, Girls Inc. of Washington County, Humane Society of Harford County, and the York County Food Bank in York, Pa.; as well as school rallies at Hall’s Cross Roads Elementary and Timonium Elementary. Designed to take the Oriole Park experience directly to the fans, the Birdland Caravan will make stops throughout Maryland in Aberdeen, Annapolis, Bowie, Ellicott City, Fallston, Fort Meade, Frederick, Hagerstown, Timonium, Westminster, and White Marsh, as well as York, Pa.

Current Orioles participating in select events include INF HANSER ALBERTO, OF AUSTIN HAYS, INF/OF TREY MANCINI, INF RICHIE MARTIN, OF CEDRIC MULLINS, INF RIO RUIZ, and OF DWIGHT SMITH, JR.; along with top Orioles prospects LHP DL HALL, INF GUNNAR HENDERSON, OF RYAN McKENNA, INF/OF RYAN MOUNTCASTLE, RHP GRAYSON RODRIGUEZ, and the club’s top prospect and No. 1 selection of the 2019 First-Year Player Draft C ADLEY RUTSCHMAN. Orioles Hall of Famers MIKE BORDICK and BRIAN ROBERTS, as well as Orioles Legend and National Baseball Hall of Famer EDDIE MURRAY, will also be in attendance.

Additionally, Orioles Executive Vice President and General Manager MIKE ELIAS, Vice President and Assistant General Manager, Analytics SIG MEJDAL, Manager BRANDON HYDE, Major League Field Coordinator and Catching Instructor TIM COSSINS, and Major League Coach FREDI GONZÁLEZ will attend select events throughout the weekend.

The caravan will officially hit the road on Friday, February 7, with two buses making stops at a variety of community events across the northern and eastern regions of Birdland. All fans are then invited to join players and coaches at The Greene Turtle in White Marsh for a guest-bartending happy hour from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The caravan will continue on Saturday, February 8, with events across southern Maryland. Fans are welcome at two meet-and-greets throughout the day, with one taking place at Susan Campbell Park in Downtown Annapolis, and the other located at Old Ellicott City’s La Palapa Grill & Cantina. The two groups will end the day at Calvert Brewing Company in Bowie for a guest-bartending happy hour with representatives from the Bowie Baysox from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The caravan will wrap up on Sunday, February 9, with events across western Maryland. One bus will travel to Westminster, where students and fans are welcome for a meet-and-greet at McDaniel College. A second bus will join representatives from the Frederick Keys at Carroll Creek Amphitheater in Downtown Frederick for a meet-and-greet with fans. The two buses will meet at Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick for the caravan’s final event from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

“The Birdland Caravan is one of the many new and exciting ways in which we are engaging with fans beyond the ballpark,” said JENNIFER GRONDAHL, Orioles Senior Vice President, Community Development and Communications. “This weekend-long winter tour will take the Oriole Park experience directly to fans throughout Birdland and provide opportunities to interact with players, prospects, and alumni, while also demonstrating the organization’s commitment to community outreach with several charitable projects throughout the region.”

A full schedule of the caravan’s stops, including times and locations, is available below. For more information, and for autograph and meet-and-greet details, please visit Orioles.com/BirdlandCaravan.

Friday, February 7
Time   Category   Location   Town
Private Event School Rally Hall’s Cross Roads Elementary School Aberdeen
Private Event Community York County Food Bank York, Pa.
Private Event Community Humane Society of Harford County Fallston
Private Event School Rally Timonium Elementary School Timonium
4 – 6 p.m. Happy Hour The Greene Turtle White Marsh
Saturday, February 8
Time        Category   Location   Town
11 a.m. – 12 p.m. Meet & Greet La Palapa Grill & Cantina Old Ellicott City
1 – 2 p.m. Meet & Greet Susan Campbell Park Downtown Annapolis
Private Event Community Fort Meade Military Base Fort Meade
4 – 6 p.m. Happy Hour Calvert Brewing Company Bowie
Sunday, February 9
Time   Category   Location   Town
Private Event Community Girls Inc. of Washington County Hagerstown
Private Event Community Players Fun Zone – Hitting Clinic Westminster
1:30 – 2:30 p.m. Meet & Greet Carroll Creek Amphitheater Downtown Frederick
2 – 3 p.m. Meet & Greet McDaniel College Downtown Westminster
4 – 6 p.m. Happy Hour Flying Dog Brewery Frederick

 

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Rutschman, two Orioles pitching prospects on Baseball America’s top 100 list

Posted on 22 January 2020 by Luke Jones

Anticipation for the 2020 season isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with the Orioles still in the early innings of a massive rebuild, but there’s hope for the future if Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list is any indication.

Each of Baltimore’s last three first-round picks landed among the publication’s latest top 100 released Wednesday with 2019 first overall pick Adley Rutschman ranking as the fifth-best prospect in baseball. Regarded by many as the best draft prospect since Bryce Harper in 2010, the 21-year-old catcher won countless collegiate awards as a junior at Oregon State before being selected with the first pick of the Mike Elias era in Baltimore last June.

Set to be among the Orioles’ non-roster invitees to major league spring training next month, Rutschman appeared in 37 games across three levels last summer, batting a combined .254 with four home runs, 26 runs batted in, and a .774 on-base plus slugging percentage. The switch-hitting catcher played for the Gulf Coast League Orioles, short-season Single-A Aberdeen, and Single-A Delmarva and appeared in the South Atlantic League playoffs with the Shorebirds last September.

Baltimore’s 2018 first-round round pick, right-handed pitcher Grayson Rodriguez ranks 35th overall on Baseball America’s list after sharing the organization’s Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year award with Double-A Bowie right-hander Michael Baumann last season. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Rodriguez, 20, went 10-4 with a tidy 2.68 ERA in 94 innings with Delmarva, averaging 12.4 strikeouts compared to 3.4 walks per nine innings.

Left-hander DL Hall was Baseball America’s No. 47 prospect after going 4-5 with a 3.46 ERA in 80 2/3 innings at Single-A Frederick. The 21-year-old averaged an impressive 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings, but he’s still honing his control after averaging 6.0 walks per nine frames. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Hall was the No. 54 prospect on Baseball America’s top 100 list last January.

Both Rodriguez and Hall were selected to play in last year’s All-Star Futures Game in Cleveland.

Other notable Orioles prospects listed as missing the cut included infielder Ryan Mountcastle and outfielders Yusniel Diaz and Austin Hays. All three had appeared on past Baseball America’s top 100 prospects lists.

Despite being named the organization’s Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year and winning the International League MVP award in 2019, Mountcastle didn’t make the list after batting .312 with 25 homers, 35 doubles, 83 RBIs, and an .871 OPS for Triple-A Norfolk. Mountcastle’s future remains promising since he’ll turn only 23 next month, but his lack of a defined defensive position and underwhelming plate discipline — 24 walks in 553 plate appearances — probably didn’t help his case with the publication.

The centerpiece of the Manny Machado trade in 2018, Diaz was one of the bigger disappointments in an otherwise fruitful year for Baltimore’s farm system as nagging leg injuries limited the 23-year-old to 85 games. The Cuban outfielder batted .262 with 34 extra-base hits, 53 RBIs, and an .807 OPS in 322 plate appearances for Bowie last season.

Hays was hampered by injuries for a second straight season, but a September promotion to the Orioles allowed the 24-year-old to showcase his upside as he shined in center field and batted .309 with four homers, six doubles, 13 RBIs, and a .947 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’ll be vying to break camp as Baltimore’s Opening Day center fielder this spring.

This marks the first time since 2009 that the Orioles have three prospects in Baseball American’s top 50 after Matt Wieters ranked first overall, Chris Tillman 22nd, and Brian Matusz 25th that year.

Below are the Orioles who have appeared on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list since 2008:

2020: C Adley Rutschman (5th), RHP Grayson Rodriguez (35th), LHP DL Hall (47th)
2019: OF Yusniel Diaz (37th), LHP DL Hall (54th), 3B Ryan Mountcastle (90th)
2018: OF Austin Hays (21st), C Chance Sisco (68th), 3B Ryan Mountcastle (71st)
2017: C Chance Sisco (57th)
2016: none
2015: RHP Dylan Bundy (48th), RHP Hunter Harvey (68th)
2014: RHP Dylan Bundy (15th), RHP Kevin Gausman (20th), LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (65th)
2013: RHP Dylan Bundy (2nd), RHP Kevin Gausman (26th)
2012: RHP Dylan Bundy (10th), SS Manny Machado (11th), 2B Jonathan Schoop (82nd)
2011: SS Manny Machado (14th), LHP Zach Britton (28th)
2010: LHP Brian Matusz (5th), 3B Josh Bell (37th), LHP Zach Britton (63rd), RHP Jake Arrieta (99th)
2009: C Matt Wieters (1st), RHP Chris Tillman (22nd), LHP Brian Matusz (25th), RHP Jake Arrieta (67th)
2008: C Matt Wieters (12th), RHP Chris Tillman (67th), RHP Radhames Liz (69th), LHP Troy Patton (78th), OF Nolan Reimold (91st)

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Orioles reportedly agree to one-year deal with veteran shortstop Iglesias

Posted on 06 January 2020 by Luke Jones

After bidding farewell to two of their more productive players of 2019 via trades last month, the Orioles have finally made their first notable signing of the offseason.

According to MLB.com, Baltimore has agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract with veteran shortstop Jose Iglesias. The deal reportedly includes a 2021 club option that would pay Iglesias $6 million over two years.

The 30-year-old spent last season with Cincinnati, batting .288 with 11 home runs, 59 runs batted in, and a .724 on-base plus slugging percentage in 530 plate appearances. Known for his above-average defense, Iglesias was worth eight defensive runs saved last year and has registered at least 1.4 wins above replacement in each of the last five seasons.

General manager Mike Elias had been eyeing a veteran shortstop with last month’s Jonathan Villar trade and the likelihood that former Rule 5 pick Richie Martin will begin 2020 in the minors. Orioles pitching ranked 28th in the majors in strikeouts last season, creating a desire for stronger team defense in the midst of an extensive rebuild.

A Cuban native, Iglesias finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2013 and was an All-Star selection with Detroit in 2015. He is a career .273 hitter with 32 homers, 247 RBIs, and a .687 OPS in eight seasons with Boston, Detroit, and the Reds.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on divisional playoff meeting with Tennessee

Posted on 06 January 2020 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens now knowing they’ll face Tennessee in their first home divisional playoff game in eight years, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A talking point for John Harbaugh to his players this week will be how rare January road wins in Foxborough have been the last two decades. The Titans are the lesser team on paper, but beating New England in the playoffs garners a level of respect Baltimore shouldn’t dismiss.

2. Starting fast is a cliched key one can mention every week, but the Ravens can silence all discussion of rust or losing their edge by jumping on the Titans early. It would also remind Mike Vrabel’s team that any confidence gained from beating the Patriots will only go so far.

3. Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing as Tennessee finished third in rushing and fifth in Football Outsiders’ run efficiency. Henry’s propensity to cut back on edge runs is a style that’s given Baltimore some issues, so I expect Wink Martindale to use more base defense and big nickel packages.

4. With Lamar Jackson turning 23 on Tuesday, I couldn’t help but ponder a connection with another 23-year-old who won MVP, led Baltimore to a world championship, and wore No. 8. The young quarterback sure followed through on a vow made at Camden Yards this past summer.

5. A three-week layoff from live-game action is one thing, but Jackson battling a stomach bug for several days last week is another variable to consider in the whole rust debate. That’s nothing a couple early designed runs or high-percentage throws can’t remedy, however.

6. Ryan Tannehill has been superb under pressure and against the blitz this season, but he’ll face a Ravens defense that blitzes more frequently than anyone in the NFL. His overall numbers are impressive, but I can’t blame you for waiting for the eighth-year quarterback to turn back into a pumpkin.

7. Baltimore allowed 200 net passing yards just once over the final eight games of the regular season despite winning all but two of those by at least 16 points. Considering how much yardage and scoring you often see in “garbage” time, that’s remarkable — and bad news for Tannehill.

8. You’d expect Dean Pees to be a topic of conversation this week, but just six members of the Ravens’ current offensive roster were with the organization when Pees was defensive coordinator. He’s as unfamiliar with Jackson and this unique system as any coordinator out there.

9. With wide receivers coach David Culley reiterating Marquise Brown isn’t fully healed from last January’s foot surgery, you hope a week off really helped the speedy rookie receiver. Brown made just one catch of 10 or more yards in five combined December games.

10. Meanwhile, fellow rookie A.J. Brown cracked the 1,000-yard receiving mark and registered 100-yard performances for the Titans in four of the last six games of the regular season. Any receiver averaging more than 20 yards per catch is someone to watch.

11. Tennessee ranked 29th in special-teams efficiency and went 8-for-18 on field goals in the process of using four different kickers this season. Justin Tucker has missed nine field goals over the last four seasons combined. Paging Al Del Greco.


(Photo by Getty Images)

12. The early forecast for Saturday night suggests rain showers and winds 10 to 15 miles per hour. Two run-first teams probably wouldn’t mind those conditions one bit, and I can’t imagine a little rain dampening the spirits of a raucous crowd either.

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Orioles' Joe Jordan introduces pitcher Bundy to the media before the Orioles' MLB American League baseball game against the Blue Jays in Baltimore

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Bundy trade serves as reminder of Orioles’ past — and unknown future

Posted on 04 December 2019 by Luke Jones

Dylan Bundy was once the consensus best pitching prospect in baseball and considered a centerpiece of the Orioles’ bright future.

Making his major league debut two months shy of his 20th birthday seven years ago, Bundy was thought to be the future ace of a Baltimore club that was about to make its first postseason appearance in 15 years and entering a competitive window that would bring two more trips to the playoffs in a five-year period. On Wednesday, the 27-year-old with a career 4.76 ERA, diminishing velocity, and a longer history of injuries than successes was traded to the Los Angeles Angels for four minor-league pitchers.

With general manager Mike Elias clearly in the midst of an offseason teardown after a mostly status quo 2019 used to evaluate every aspect of the organization, Bundy was always on borrowed time with the Orioles. The trade hardly falls into the same category of a full-blown salary dump like Monday’s Jonathan Villar deal — which was a tough pill to swallow for anyone searching for any redeeming entertainment value in the 2020 Orioles — but a league-average starter projected to fetch upwards of $5 million in arbitration and with two years of remaining club control was an asset that could be used to at least improve the baseline of pitching depth in the organization. Of course, we all knew Bundy and Villar weren’t going to be part of the Orioles’ next contending club — whenever that might be.

Right-handers Kyle Bradish, Isaac Mattson, Kyle Brnovich, and Zach Peek are unlikely to land on any top 100 prospect lists anytime soon, but the marked strides made in the minors under the guidance of director of pitching Chris Holt last year offer hope that Elias and the organization see potential and value in these four pitchers, especially with Peek and Brnovich having just been drafted in the sixth and eighth round respectively last June. The same logic can apply to left-hander Easton Lucas, who was viewed as little more than a token piece from Miami in the Villar deal.

But there are no sure things other than the organization now having cut roughly $15 million in projected payroll for 2020. Those savings will be championed by optimists as fruitful during a rebuild, but we have no way of knowing whether those resources will go back into baseball operations in some form or simply into ownership’s pockets, the latter possibility painting the more cynical picture of clubs “tanking” in today’s game while still charging major-league prices.

In Villar’s case, there appeared to be little downside to keeping a productive player on a club that had already lost 108 games last year and slashed its Opening Day payroll in half from 2017 to 2019. No viable infield prospect is knocking at the major-league door either, but he was deemed too expensive to play on a last-place club.

Bundy clearly brought a more valuable return, but a major league club that struggled mightily last year just to field a functional pitching staff — one that avoids the need for position players to pitch in the late innings if nothing else — will now be tasked with filling an additional 30 starts and 160 innings. Perhaps utility man Stevie Wilkerson should be on a throwing progression this spring.

Yes, the thought of the Orioles being even worse in 2020 after a combined 223 losses the last two seasons is difficult to stomach if you’re still trying to watch on a semi-nightly basis, but Elias has never shied away from the organization’s “strategic objectives” being solely about the future. That’s why you wonder if trades of Mychal Givens and, yes, possibly Trey Mancini could be right around the corner.

The short-term pain — alright, let’s call it medium-term if we’re being realistic — is intended to reap long-term success. As Elias said in a conference call Wednesday evening, the goal isn’t to field a more competitive team in 2020 but to field a sustainable playoff contender at Camden Yards in the future. None of this is surprising or even the wrong strategy, but that doesn’t make the current state easy or enjoyable in what’s ultimately an entertainment business.

And it isn’t necessarily destined to work in the same way it did for the Houston Astros or the Chicago Cubs.

In the same way Orioles supporters are now daydreaming about better days with Adley Rutschman, Ryan Mountcastle, Grayson Rodriguez, and DL Hall, Bundy was once the future. But instead of being a difference-maker for a 2014 club that ended up falling four wins shy of an American League pennant or becoming a young ace for a contender, he never realized that once-great potential because of injuries and became only a serviceable major league starter once the Orioles’ competitive window was already closing.

Bundy’s departure is both a reminder of those better days for the Orioles and his own unfulfilled promise.

That same kind of hope is all Orioles fans have right now. With no guarantees of a reward down the line.

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