Orioles, starting pitcher Alex Cobb reach agreement on four-year contract

SARASOTA, FLA — With opening day under two weeks away, the Baltimore Orioles have finally put together a five-man rotation. On Tuesday evening, the team reached a deal with former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb. The deal is reportedly a four-year contract. The exact dollar figure is unknown yet, but believed to be around $56 million, according to Roch Kubatko of MASN.

The 30-year-old starter played six seasons down in Florida for the Tampa Bay Rays, where he accumulated a career record of 48-35 with a 3.50 ERA, before entering the free agent market this offseason. Cobb’s road from 2011 to 2018 has certainly been a rollercoaster though. In 2013 and 2014 he held a 2.82 ERA and gave up just 24 home runs between both seasons.

On the other hand, Cobb has had some disappointing seasons in recent history. After missing all of 2015 with a UCL tear, Cobb only started five games in 2016 and finished with an ugly 8.59 ERA. His return to form in 2017 that resulted in a 12-10 record and a 3.66 ERA earned him some interest in the free agent market and the Orioles ended up giving him the multi-year deal he wasn’t getting offered by others.

The biggest question for a new Orioles pitcher is always how they will perform in Camden Yards. With Cobb playing in the American League East his entire career, he had the opportunity to take the mound in Baltimore more than others. In seven career starts at Camden Yards, Cobb is 3-1 with a 4.62 ERA.

One of the things that stands out about Cobb is his ability to limit the long ball. He has averaged just under 11 home runs per season in his career, which the Orioles hope will translate to his new home. With Camden Yards being a notoriously hitter-friendly park, Cobb’s talents will be tested. He has surrendered four homers in seven starts there.

Cobb will not get much spring training time to prepare before opening day rolls around but his presence rounds out an Orioles rotation that has been under question all offseason. There may not be much depth and none of the five starters stand out as a true ace, but I think fans should feel more comfortable with these five taking the mound instead of one of the many Triple-A arms in the system.

This move will also likely end the talks of making Miguel Castro a starter. The 23-year-old showed a lot of promise out of the pen last season but Buck Showalter gave him a lot of innings of work in a short amount of time. Castro clearly showed fatigue after pitching 66 innings in 2017 so stretching him out into a starter never sounded like a reasonable option.

Image credit: Kim Klement / USA Today Sports


Mark Trumbo to miss start of season after MRI reveals quad strain

After experiencing some lingering issues in spring training, Orioles outfielder Mark Trumbo underwent an MRI on Tuesday. The test revealed a Grade 2 quadriceps strain that will sideline the slugger for three to four weeks.

Trumbo recently missed about a week of action but returned to the field on Wednesday for the Orioles game against the New York Yankees. The 32-year-old was penciled in the lineup as a designated hitter and saw three plate appearances.

Manager Buck Showalter said Trumbo was fine during the game but experienced some stiffness and soreness while driving home, leading the team to request an MRI. The tests revealed a more serious injury that will likely force Trumbo to miss the beginning of the season.

With opening day just two weeks away, the Orioles will be without one of their best power hitters as they prepare to compete in the tough American League East. Trumbo has hit 70 home runs while batting .246 in two seasons with Baltimore.

Image credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

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

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.


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: 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.

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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