Is Johnny Monell the new understudy for Wieters?

Is Johnny Monell the new understudy for Wieters?
December 1, 2013, 12:00 pm
Share This Post
(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

In the little over two months since the regular season ended, the Orioles have been busy adjusting the 40-man roster. There have been nine additions and some subtractions since then.

As the Monday night deadline for offering contracts nears, the roster stands at 39, and Orioles vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is obviously eager for some more movement.

On Saturday, the team added a backup catcher, Johnny Monell, which is of interest because he’s a left-handed hitter. So is Steve Clevenger, who entered the offseason as Matt Wieters’ nominal backup.

Monell wasn’t going to get much playing time with the San Francisco Giants. Not only do the Giants have Buster Posey, but they also have a capable young backup in Hector Sanchez. This week, they designated Monell for assignment.

The Orioles picked him up for cash considerations, and he’ll presumably compete with Clevenger, who came along with Scott Feldman from the Chicago Cubs, to be Wieters’ understudy.

None of Wieters’ backups has completed a full season in the five he’s been in Baltimore. What sets Monell apart is that he could possibly be a part-time designated hitter because of his bat. In Triple-A Fresno, Monell hit 20 home runs and knocked in 76 runs.

Clevenger has one home run in 83 major league games with the Cubs and Orioles, and showed no power potential in the minors, either.

[RELATED: Orioles acquire Monell from Giants for catching depth]

Monell announced his arrival on Twitter Saturday night. “New beginnings start in the city of Baltimore. Happy and blessed for my new opportunity. Grew up watching the AL East!” he wrote.

He grew up in the Bronx, and it’s not far-fetched to think that Jorge Posada was his hero. Monell is currently player for Caguas, where he’s batting .257 with three home runs and 12 RBIs. Minor league infielder Adrian Marin and onetime Orioles outfielder Luis Montanez are also on that team.

Monell had only a brief shot in the big leagues, eight September at-bats with the Giants. The betting is he’ll get substantially more than that, but maybe not all that many with Wieters around.

The team that’s been the most surprisingly active one in recent weeks is Minnesota. They signed Ricky Nolaso to a four-year contract, and reportedly have agreed to a three-year deal with Phil Hughes, who had an awful year with the Yankees. The Twins are also negotiating with catcher A.J. Pierzynski on a three-year contract.

None of them were high on the Orioles’ wish list.

[MORE: Dates for Orioles fans to look forward to in 2014]

Since the end of the regular season, about a quarter of the 40-man roster is new. Pitchers Tim Berry, Eddie Gamboa and Chris Jones were promoted from within as was catcher Michael Ohlman. Monell, pitchers Brad Brach, Kelvim De La Cruz, Edgmer Escalona and infielder Cord Phelps were added in the past two weeks.

There is one vacancy on the 40-man, and the Orioles could wait until the Rule 5 draft to fill it. If they sign a free agent, including Scott Feldman, Nate McLouth and Brian Roberts, they may need to drop players from the 40-man.

Clevenger, outfielders Steve Pearce and Jason Pridie and left-hander pitcher Mike Belfiore could find their 40-man places in danger.

For those of you following the Robinson Cano saga, the Yankees’ free agent second baseman has moved off his 10-year, $310 million asking price. He’s reduced it markedly to nine years and about $250-$260 million.

New York general manager Brian Cashman will laugh at that, and other teams will ignore it, knowing that Cano is likely headed back to the Yankees. New York rarely loses their own free agents—ones that they’re determined to keep.

In the week before the Winter Meetings, action on the trade and free agent markets will pick up, and players who aren’t tendered contracts by Monday night will be added to the free agent pot.

Edward Mujica was another name floated in recent days. Mujica lost his job as the Cardinals closer late in the season to Trevor Rosenthal. He wouldn’t seem to make sense for the Orioles unless they decided to move Jim Johnson.

Last year was Mujica’s first as a closer. He saved 37 games before running out of steam in September. With St. Louis’ bevy of young pitchers, Mujica, who only pitched twice in the postseason and not at all in the World Series, is expendable.

He made $3.2 million, but he shouldn’t expect to sign a multi-year deal with the Orioles. Earlier this year, the Orioles signed Darren O’Day to a two-year contract, but Johnson has never worked on a multi-year deal, and likely won’t.