New names and an old one in this week's Orioles chatter

New names and an old one in this week's Orioles chatter
November 30, 2013, 12:15 pm
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This past week was the one where the Orioles added two more players to the 40-man roster. It was also another one without a major free agent signing or a trade.

Next week may well be different.

Last week, the Orioles added another relief pitcher, Brad Brach, late of the San Diego Padres. Brach was so happy to be with the Orioles that he tweeted a picture of himself as a youngster in New Jersey wearing a Cal Ripken jersey and another visiting Oriole Park in 1995.

A few hours later, the Orioles signed utility infielder Cord Phelps, who’d been with Cleveland after he’d been waived.

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With about 48 hours until the deadline for offering contracts to players, the Orioles had 38 on their 40-man roster, and they may sign another player soon and will likely add one in the Dec. 12 Rule 5 draft.

The Winter Meetings begin in Orlando on Dec. 9, and they promise to feature lots of talk. The Orioles have been involved in more talk this year than in recent ones, and it will be interesting if anything solid comes to pass.

There were reports that the Orioles would listen to offers for Jim Johnson this week. Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said two months ago that he would offer a contract to Johnson, but if the Orioles are serious about adding a pricey free agent, the money will have to come from somewhere, and Johnson is the logical place.

If they would trade Johnson, they’d have a hard time getting what they would perceive as fair value. If they wanted to trade J.J. Hardy or Matt Wieters, and I’m convinced they don’t, they would get much closer to fair to value than if they moved Johnson.

A trade of Johnson would be perceived as a salary dump, and would probably bring back prospects where a Hardy or Wieters deal would have more major league—or major league ready players.

Another name who’s been linked with the Orioles recently is Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who’s been a starter for the past two years. Samardzjia has 17-26 for a team that’s lost 197 games the last two years.

Samardzjia averages about a strikeout an inning, and a home run per nine. As a starter, he has a 4.32 ERA, and has a reliever it’s 3.84

An attraction about Samardzija is that he has two more years to go before free agency, but what would the Cubs want in return? Would the Orioles surrender Mike Wright or Eduardo Rodriguez?

At least, Samardzjia, a former Notre Dame wide receiver, is a new name to consider. There’ll be others this week and next. He’s represented by his brother Sam, a certified player’s agent.

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Ricky Nolasco, one of the better names on the free agent market was supposedly looking for five years and $80 million when the season commenced three weeks ago. He ended up settling for four years and $49 million with the Minnesota Twins.

The Twins were also supposedly in on Bronson Arroyo, another Orioles target, who has yet to sign.

About three-quarters of the top 50 free agents have yet to sign, and in his holiday shortened week, there wasn’t as much action as the week before.

The Orioles could have thought about Nolasco, but four years was a little too long.

Another name that’s gotten some mentions is an old friend, Luis Ayala. A year ago, the Orioles picked up Ayala’s $1 million option. He had been very effective in 2012 at a very affordable $825,000.

Once T.J. McFarland pitched well in spring training, there was no use for Ayala, and he was sent to the Braves for left-hander Chris Jones.

In Ayala’s nine-season career, his highest salary was $1.7 million with the Nationals in 2008. After his trade, Ayala was on the disabled list due to anxiety issues, but once he returned was 1-1 with a 2.90 ERA in Atlanta.

Ayala’s locker was visited often in the early days of spring training last year. Would he play for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. Finally, the answer was no.

For now, the Orioles have lots of bullpen names, Johnson, Tommy Hunter, Darren O’Day, Brian Matusz, Troy Patton, and perhaps Josh Stinson and even McFarland, who will probably begin 2014 in Norfolk as a starter. Jones, Mike Belfiore, newly acquired right-handers Brach, Kelvim De La Cruz and Edgmer Escalona are there, too.

There will be more movement with more than two months to go before spring training begins.