Chris Tillman back with Orioles on $3 million deal

SARASOTA, FLA — One week after pitchers and catchers reported to Sarasota for camp, the Baltimore Orioles have twice the amount of pitchers in their starting rotation than they did seven days ago.

Late Monday morning, MLB Network Insider John Heyman reported via Twitter that the Orioles reached an agreement with 2013 All-Star pitcher Chris Tillman. The 29-year-old right-hander reunites with his longtime ballclub on a one-year, $3 million contract. With incentives, Tillman could earn up to $7 million this season, but that $3 million figure is fully guaranteed.

The news comes four days after Baltimore inked a two-year, $16 million contract with veteran Andrew Cashner, who is already throwing at Orioles camp. Along with Cashner, Tillman projects to join a rotation with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.

Tillman has been with the Orioles since the infamous 2008 Erik Bedard trade that sent both Tillman and Adam Jones to Baltimore, along with three other players. From 2012-2014, Tillman went 38-16 with the Orioles, and made an All-Star appearance in 2013. Tillman ended the 2013 season with a 16-7 record, a 3.71 ERA, a career-high 179 strikeouts, and a 1.22 whip in 33 starts (206.1 innings).

In the second half of the 2016 season, Tillman began to experience discomfort in his right throwing shoulder, which turned into right shoulder bursitis. After a 15-day stint on the disabled list, Tillman returned for a handful of starts to end the 2016 season without any noticeable problems. However, Tillman’s shoulder issues continued during last year’s spring training, and he did not make his first start until May 7. Tillman made it through the 2017 season without landing back on the disabled list, but he had by far the worst season of his career. Tillman came out of 2017 with a 1-7 record and a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts (93 innings). His strikeouts fell from 140 to 63, and he gave up 24 home runs in 24 appearances, opposed to allowing 19 home runs in 30 appearances during the 2016 season.

The current status of Tillman’s shoulder is unknown, but Orioles fans will find out what shape Tillman is in when he undergoes the ever-so-daunting Orioles physical. Shoulder problems have prevented previous free agent pitchers from officially signing contracts with the Orioles (Grant Balfour), so it’s still very possible for the Orioles to get cold feet before Tillman officially signs his contract.

If Tillman is healthy, he could certainly play a key role on the 2018 Orioles. Starting pitching was clearly the biggest need entering camp for Baltimore, and a week into spring training they’ve doubled the depth they previously had in the rotation. It’s hard to fathom why the Orioles would bring Tillman back if his shoulder is still bothering him, so hopefully this agreement is a sign that the health of his shoulder is much better than what it was in 2017.

Even though adding two veteran pitchers is a boost, the Orioles still have work to do in the starting pitching department. General manager Dan Duquette has said multiple times that he would like a lefty in his rotation this season. None of the four starting pitchers Baltimore has are southpaws. Neither are in-house fifth-spot candidates like Miguel Castro or Gabriel Ynoa, or any of the top free agent names still on the market, like Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, or Alex Cobb.

Image Credit: Boston Herald

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Orioles sign starting pitcher Andrew Cashner

SARASOTA, FLA — On Thursday afternoon, the Baltimore Orioles finally made a move that bolsters their 2018 starting rotation by signing starting pitcher Andrew Cashner to a two-year contract worth $16 million in guaranteed money.

Along with $16 million officially signed to Cashner over two years, a $10 million vesting option for 2020 is included. The deal also includes $5 million in incentives for each season.

Cashner, 31, has eight years of experience pitching at the Major League level. He spent two seasons with the Chicago Cubs, over four seasons with the San Diego Padres before being traded to the Miami Marlins, and most recently a season with the Texas Rangers. In 2017, Cashner made 28 starts, finishing with an 11-11 record, a 3.40 ERA, and a 1.32 WHIP. That ERA is his lowest mark since the 2014 season, where he finished with a 2.55 ERA in 19 starts.

Cashner is a career 3.80 ERA pitcher at the Major League level. Although he finished the 2017 season with his lowest ERA figure in four seasons, his strikeout rate fell drastically, according to WNST‘s Luke Jones.

Cashner also battled biceps tendinitus during spring training last year, and he spent a stint on the 10-day disabled list midway through the season with a left oblique strain. As Jones mentioned, the peripherals surrounding Cashner do raise some concern, much like Yovani Gallardo’s did when the O’s signed in before the 2016 season. However, the Orioles came into spring training this week with just two starting pitchers in their rotation in Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. Even though general manager Dan Duquette moved slow to bring a veteran pitcher in (as he always does), he alluded to the market moving slow all offseason. That proved to be true, and the Orioles have now added a piece to their rotation with over veteran names (Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, Chris Tillman, Alex Cobb, etc) still on the market.

Although this move will ease some of the concern about Baltimore’s rotation, there are still two slots in that rotation to fill. Duquette mentioned both at FanFest and to reporters earlier this week that Baltimore could sign multiple names in the free agent pool. There is still work to be done, but signing Cashner is a step in the right direction.

Let’s all note that even though Cashner and the Orioles agreed on a contract, he still has to pass the daunting Orioles physical.

Image Credit: Nolan Writin

 

Early takeaways, quotes from Orioles Fanfest

BALTIMORE — The early months of the year mean one thing for Baltimore Orioles fans – Fanfest. The annual gathering took place on Saturday at the Baltimore Convention Center. In a time where several important decisions face the franchise, both on and off the field, this offseason has been a quiet one for the O’s. Every year, Fanfest gives both fans and the media an opportunity to hear from the likes of manager Buck Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette, both of whom’s contracts expire after the 2018 season. Now that the fan forum and multiple media sessions have ended with the Orioles’ brass, there’s some clarity of where things stand for this team a few months away from the regular season.

Takeaway #1 – Manny Machado will play shortstop this season, Tim Beckham will shift to third base

Speaking of expiring contracts, Manny Machado‘s $16 million arbitration settling marks the last year the Orioles have him under club control. Barring a contract extension, Machado will become a free agent after the season and command a contract worth over $300 million, a figure the Orioles have never come close to touching. The relationship between Machado and the Orioles appears to be at a standstill, as both him and Jonathan Schoop backed out of their Fanfest appearances that were scheduled for this weekend.

At the Convention Center, Orioles season ticket holders drilled both Showalter and Duquette with questions, a lot of them inquiring about Machado’s status. Showalter revealed that Machado will slide over to shortstop this season, and that Tim Beckham will shift to third base. Shortstop is Machado’s natural, preferred position, but he’s played third base for Baltimore since being called up in 2012. Machado has always wanted to play shortstop, and now that J.J. Hardy seems to not be in the plans (or possibly retiring), this is not a shocking move. Judging on how the Orioles have handled Machado’s contract situation, it’s safe to assume that he’s not happy with where things stand right now. If so, I think letting him play his preferred position in possibly his final year in Baltimore is a smart move.

Takeaway #2 – O’s relationship with Machado, Schoop is suffering

Since Machado and Schoop backed out of their Fanfest appearances at the last minute, fans also asked Showalter and Duquette about where things stand with the two young superstars.

Duquette – “Obviously, we’re disappointed they’re not here. We talked to them about the merits of being here and being available to our fans, but they’re not here. That’s all I have to say about it.”

Showalter – “I’m disappointed that Jon’s not here. I think we all get advice along the way and heed some of it and some we don’t. I think he got some bad advice and it’s one of those things. We’ll move on and it’s unfortunate.”

More Buck – “I’ve gotten a feel for what Manny’s absence is about and I have a pretty good understanding of that. Jon’s I don’t. The reasons I’ve been given, not very good.”

Although Schoop remains under club control one year more than Machado, they remain best friends off the field. Showalter claimned that Schoop got “bad advice” from his agent, but it’s clear that Schoop is just as unhappy as Machado.

Awkward.

Takeaway #3 – Still no clarity or direction with starting rotation issues

As of now, the only pitchers locked into the Orioles’ starting rotation are Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. That’s a problem. Yes, the free agent market for starting pitchers is rough, and starting pitchers are expensive, but the Orioles did nothing this offseason to improve a rotation that finished 2017 with a 5.70 ERA.

When asked about addressing the starting rotation before the regular season starts, Duquette did not have much to say that has not been said already.

“We still have some work to do with our starting pitching – yeah, a lot of heads nodding,” Duquette said. “That’ll be the key to the team, if we can find some starting pitching. The other [positions] will be able to sustain a competitive team. If we can’t find the starting pitching we need and the depth, it’s going to be a difficult year.”

Duquette also stated that he’s “confident” that the Orioles can add some starting pitching, and that he would like to have that done by March 1, four weeks before the regular season begins.

More Nuggets:

Image Credit: Maryland Sports Blog

 

 

Podcast: WBAL’s Keith Mills recaps Harbaugh’s season-ending presser, and the ever so quiet Orioles offseason

Welcome to the latest episode of the Charm City Bird Watch podcast! On today’s show, WBAL Sports Anchor and Reporter Keith Mills joins Jake McDonnell to discuss the latest news surrounding the Baltimore Ravens and the Baltimore Orioles.

On Thursday, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh gave his season-ending press conference. Keith and Jake touched on several points from the presser, including the decision to keep Marty Mornhinweg, adding more playmakers on offense, and drafting a quarterback.

Next up is a lengthy discussion about where the Orioles are just a few weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting for camp. Whether it’s questioning who will fill the last three spots in the rotation, who will step in for Zach Britton, or the impending Manny Machado saga, there’s plenty to talk about even in the cold of January.

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. Check out Keith on WBAL, both on TV and on the radio. Thanks for listening!

Podcast: Nolan and Jake break down the Ravens’ sloppy win over Indy, and talk Britton & Machado

Welcome to the latest episode of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast! On this episode, staff writer Nolan McGraw joins Jake McDonnell for a half-hour of Baltimore Sports talk.

Topics covered:

  1. The Ravens’ 23-16 win over the Colts: How full was M&T Bank Stadium? Did the rain impact player performance? Did the guys have any issues with coaching?
  2. Analyzing the Dick Cass letter sent to Ravens season ticket & PSL holders on Friday: Is the week 3 protest in London the biggest reason for the increased amount of empty seats at Ravens games?
  3. Looking ahead to the week 17 “win and in” game against the Bengals: How confident are we feeling eight days away from this big matchup?
  4. How the Zach Britton injury impacts the 2018 Baltimore Orioles, and more analysis of the Manny Machado trade talks.

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. Leave us a 5-star review on iTunes, we may read it on a future episode!

From all of us at Charm City Bird Watch, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Orioles closer Zach Britton ruptures Achilles, projected to be out six months

BALTIMORE, MD — According to Ken Rosenthal, Zach Britton ruptured his Achilles while working out in California on Tuesday. The exact timetable for the injury will not be known until Britton undergoes surgery.

This is devastating news for the Orioles, who have recently shown serious interest in trading players for a big prospect return. Along with Manny Machado, Britton has garnered a lot of trade attention. This stems back to last year when the Orioles had come close to an agreement with the Houston Astros at the trade deadline but the deal was shot down at the last minute.

Everyone remembers Britton’s exceptional 2016 season where he completed 47 saves with an ERA of 0.54. His performance even earned him some Cy Young and MVP award votes at the end of the year. This made him a one of the most sought-after relievers in the league.

Trade deadlines in recent years have seen big name relievers, like Britton, get traded to playoff contenders for huge returns. That was almost the case for the O’s last year but Britton remained on the team as the deadline passed because the deal wasn’t up to the team’s standards.

In wake of this recent news, it’s easy to say that they should have pulled the trigger on that deal when they had the chance. However, we now know that what the Astros offered was not as good as the other blockbuster deals in recent years. In addition, no one should fault the team for wanting to try for a better return in 2018. We obviously cannot predict serious injuries, which makes this entire situation so unfortunate.

With Britton entering the last year of his contract, the O’s are now faced with a big problem. Even if a Machado deal is executed, the Orioles can’t afford to lose Britton for no return.

Image Credit: The Boston Globe

The Manny Machado decision: Which way should the Orioles go?

BALTIMORE – For the Baltimore Orioles, the year 2018 could leave a mark on the entire franchise for years to come. Not only are a bunch of expiring contracts to several veterans staring the Orioles in the face, but the contracts of both Manager Buck Showalter and General Manager Dan Duquette expire after the ’18 season too. Last week, the annual Major League Baseball Winter Meetings took place in Orlando. The week-long gatherings ended just like they always do for the O’s: quietly.

Several players above the age of 30 on Baltimore’s roster enter the final years of their contract – outfielder Adam Jones, and relievers Brad Brach and Zach Britton. Manny Machado, 25, also faces free agency after the season concludes. Machado made his season debut in 2012 at 19, and he’s one of the young stars of MLB. His longevity and superb infield skills make him the most attractive option out of the soon-to-be free agents on Baltimore’s roster.

The 2018-19 MLB offseason includes a star-studded free agent class, including Machado, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, and David Price of the Red Sox. The price tag for a young, everyday position player like Machado or Harper remains to be seen, but is expected to be in the ballpark (pun intended) of $400 million dollars. This would mark the first MLB contract to go upwards of $400 million. Giancarlo Stanton‘s record-breaking deal, signed in 2014 with the Miami Marlins (now with the Yankees), broke the bank at $325 million.

Before the winter meetings, O’s fans and media speculated on a possible Machado trade, but little was said by the team about the matter. Last week in Orlando, the trade rumors started to unfold, and reports claimed that up to 10 teams offered trade packages to the O’s for Machado. Despite the Orioles’ sudden willingness to listen to trade offers, no deal transpired. After the meetings concluded, Duquette did not seem in a rush to make a decision on this matter:

“We’re going to do what we can to put together the best club we can and obviously there is a lot of interest in [the] players on our roster who are going to be free agents,” Duquette told reporters at the conclusion of the meetings. “We need to sort through the extent of that interest and see if a trade makes sense.” 

The decision to listen to trade offers, especially on a big-name player, is not usually a protocol the Orioles follow. However, on Tuesday, former Cincinnati Reds / Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden, now a radio host at Sirius XM, Tweeted that the fate of Machado likely lies in the hands of Orioles owner Peter Angelos, not Dueuqtte, who handles all player transactions.

A lot of important decisions will be made by the Orioles over the next year. Whether or not Machado suits up for the Orioles beyond 2018 is clearly the most important one, and fans of The Birds share conflicting opinions.

In regards to Machado, three situations could play out. The Orioles could sign Machado to a long-term contract, trade him before his contract expires, or let him walk in free agency. Here’s a likely breakdown of how each scenario would play out, as well as the probability that I think each option has of actually occurring.

1. Sign Machado to a long-term deal 

I don’t know about you, but this scenario appears unlikely. I give the Orioles all the credit in the world for finally breaking the bank in the form of $161 million for Chris Davis two years ago. What I will not give them credit for is spending that type of money on a player like Davis, and we know how his contract looks now.

I get the impression that spending $400 million on anyone, let alone on Manny Machado, would not sit well with Mr. Angelos. Baltimore remains one of the smaller markets in the MLB. In Angelos’ now 24-year run as the owner of the Orioles, the Davis contract stands out as the biggest investment Angelos made on a player by far. With that said, the deal the Orioles ended up giving to Davis out-bidded Baltimore’s prior offer of $150 million, which is the only other offer Davis received. In the two seasons since the O’s locked Davis up, the 31-year-old owns a .218 batting average with 414 strikeouts.

Attendance could also factor into whether or not the Orioles give Machado a payday. In 2017, the Orioles ranked 25’th in the majors with an average of 25,042 fans per home game (and many games saw attendance figures far less than that average. A historic Machado contract could result in a steep ticket price increase. With Davis virtually un-moveable, signing Machado to a monster contract might not match up financially.

Paying Machado also means that the Orioles limit themselves in their ability to strengthen the other areas of their ballclub. Yes, a new contract for Manny would take care of one infield position for the foreseeable future. I use the term “infield position” because recently Machado expressed an interest to play shortstop. It’s well known that the O’s like Machado at third base, so keeping him around would mean that an agreement on his position would need to take place.

Probability of happening: 10%

2. Trade Machado for prospects

After hearing about what transpired at the winter meetings last week, the chances of the Orioles trading Machado away appear more likely than before. From what reports claim, the Orioles received 8-10 trade offers for Machado from teams including the Phillies, Yankees, Cardinals, and White Sox.

Out of the teams listed, the farm systems of the White Sox, Yankees, and Phillies rank at the top of baseball. Looking at the current rankings on MLB Prospect Watch, the White Sox possess two of the top 100 prospects – OF Eloy Jimenez (.312 BA, 19 HR, 65 RBI with 3 teams in ’17) and RHP Michael Kopech (8-7, 2.87 ERA at AA Birmingham in ’17). Infielder Gleyber Torres (.287 BA, 7 HR, 34 RBI with 2 teams in ’17), the current #2 prospect in baseball, is the Yankees’ top up-and-comer. These are just three names, but the Orioles’ farm system falls in the middle of the pack, particularly void in the pitching department.

Since the Orioles got back to competing in 2012, Duquette shipped off a number of pitchers that found success elsewhere. Jake Arrieta, Eduardo Rodriguez, Zach Davies, Ariel Miranda, and Parker Bridwell fall on the long list of names that got away. Dealing Machado would give the Orioles an opportunity to improve their arms in the minor leagues. It may not yield immediate results, but it would help the team in 2019 and beyond.

With any trade, the key is timing. Duquette and the O’s front office obviously have until the late July trade deadline to work out a deal, but trading him before the season begins would net a bigger return than a last-minute move. Without question, teams inquiring for Machado’s services want him for a full season, not just a playoff push.

I certainly believe that it will take a lot of convincing for Angelos to agree to a trade, but at least the Orioles are listening. That’s a start.

Probability of happening: 30%

3.  Let him play the season out and walk into the sunset

As much as we love Manny Machado, seeing him in an Orioles uniform the entire season without the team signing him long-term would go down as one of the worst moves in current sports history. In this scenario, the Orioles awkwardly go through the entire 2018 season, fail to hold onto one of the best young stars in the game, and in the process they also fail to improve their farm system.

Knowing what we know now, this situation still has a good chance to take place. It seems that Angelos feels hesitant to give away a star that came up through his system. It’s reasonable to believe that after seeing Davis struggle in the two years since signing his deal, Angelos feels hesitant to make a long-term investment and throw $400 million to Machado.

Probability of happening: 60%

Since he entered the league late in the 2012 season, Machado has been an amazing player to watch. He’s one of the best infielders in MLB and his bat can carry an offense at times. Although there are flaws to his game, he’s been the Orioles’ best player for a few seasons now. Saying goodbye to Manny will not be easy, but it may need to happen to better the Orioles as an organization. If we do say goodbye, hopefully the Orioles receive prospects back in return.

Image Credit: The Athletic