The Orioles’ plan: two arms in two weeks
Orioles pitchers and catchers are required to report to the team’s spring training facility in Sarasota, Florida, by February 13. According to Andrew Rickli of SportsReel Boston, if Dan Duquette has his way, that group will include two newcomers by the time everyone heads south.
Rickli elaborated in a subsequent tweet that the pair of pitchers would probably be one starter and one reliever, though his source did not rule out the possibility that both would figure into manager Buck Showalter’s rotation. Baltimore’s starting five currently features Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris, and Wei-Yin Chen, with one vacant spot that could go to Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman, or someone lower on the totem pole based on what happens in Grapefruit League play. The bullpen is largely set, with free-agent addition Ryan Webb taking the spot vacated by Jim Johnson, but the current arrangement leaves Showalter without an experienced closer. And that’s why the Orioles’ plan probably involves one mid-rotation-type starter and a reliever with ninth-inning experience.
The Orioles nearly filled the latter opening with Grant Balfour, but the right-hander’s wrist and knee were concern enough for the club to let him get away and eventually sign with the Rays. Now, the pitcher that Balfour will supplant in Maddon’s bullpen could be on the fast track to Baltimore.
Fernando Rodney is the only remaining free agent with significant ninth-inning seasoning, and the Orioles are the only contender without an obvious candidate to tackle save opportunities. A few hours before Rickli’s report, Chris Cotillo tweeted that the Mets are also in on Rodney, and one of his sources cautioned that “it’ll be a while” before the righty finds a new home. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman confirmed the ties between Rodney and the Mets, but he believes that they are tenuous, indicating that the soon-to-be-37-year-old probably will sign elsewhere. If he does not end up in Baltimore, Rodney might also be headed to Seattle, where the Mariners—according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal—are “suddenly back in business.”
There is a similar game of connect the dots to be played with the Orioles and A.J. Burnett. Rumors of Burnett’s impending retirement were greatly exaggerated, per a Tuesday report from Travis Sawchik, the Pirates’ beat writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and Sawchik does not believe that the right-hander is married to the Steel City. We don’t yet know if Burnett will demand a multi-year deal or how much the chance to win another World Series ring will factor into his decision, but if geographical considerations play a role, the Orioles would be a logical frontrunner.
Back in 2012, when the Yankees traded Burnett to the Pirates, the deal with Pittsburgh was general manager Brian Cashman’s second choice. His preference was to trade Burnett to the Angels—and the trade was all set, until the Maryland resident used his no-trade powers to nix it. That could be bad news not only for the Halos, but also for the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Mariners, Rangers, and other west-of-the-Mississippi teams that might otherwise be attracted to a mid-rotation pitcher whose contract demands figure to be well south of those of Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana.
For a club that took a step backward in 2013 but has the upside to rebound into playoff contention in 2014, the Orioles have been surprisingly quiet this offseason. They shipped Johnson to the Athletics for Jemile Weeks, added Webb to the bullpen, and obtained a pair of depth outfielders in David Lough and Francisco Peguero. To bridge the seven-game gap that separated Baltimore from the 2013 wild cards, the Indians and Rays, Duquette needs to do more. But his patience with the pitching market might prove worthwhile if Burnett and Rodney fall into his lap.
Diamondbacks moving toward $90 million-per-year TV deal
How did Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers get the money to play with the big boys on Shin-Soo Choo and Masahiro Tanaka? FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal may have found the answer on Tuesday.
Not surprisingly, that answer is an impending local television contract that Rosenthal’s sources believe could be worth more than $90 million annually for 15 to 20 years. As Rosenthal wrote, that agreement would top the Rangers’ 20-year, $1.7 billion arrangement, which kicked off the spate of 10-plus-figure television deals when it was signed in 2010.
Back on January 3, Rosenthal reported that the Diamondbacks—with ownership approval—were willing to play on Choo, even after talks reached the seven-year, $140 million range. He speculated that Towers could reallocate those funds toward a pursuit of Tanaka, and while the D-backs ultimately fell short of the Yankees’ seven-year, $155 million pact with the Japanese import, we know that they remain set on adding a frontline starting pitcher.
Now that Tanaka is off the market and the best remaining starters are Jimenez and Santana, Towers may not get his wish until next winter. By that time, top prospect Archie Bradley—who placed ninth on Jason Parks’ top 101 list, second only to the Mariners’ Taijuan Walker among starting pitchers—might already front manager Kirk Gibson’s rotation.
If Towers’ coffers are indeed made deeper by the looming television windfall, his options in free agency could include Homer Bailey, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, and James Shields. Rosenthal believes that the value of Tanaka’s hitch with the Yankees could hinder extension talks between small-to-mid-market teams and their no. 1 starters. If that’s the case, the same deal that prevented the Diamondbacks from securing their prized target this offseason could play into their hands next winter.