Hall of Fame voter Mark Zuckerman on the 2014 class
As spring training gets closer, the action heats up around the Orioles. This week, the team had a minicamp in Sarasota, added some players that may make the Opening Day roster and signed five of their six arbitration eligible player.
Only Matt Wieters, with whom the club would like an even longer-term relationship, isn’t signed.
Wieters asked for $8.75 million, a raise from $5.5 million. The Orioles have countered with $6.5 million. They’d prefer not to take this case to arbitration, and the odds are it will be settled without being formally argued.
Chris Davis signed a one-year deal for $10.35 million, an enormous boost from $3.3 million. After 53 home runs and 138 RBIs, his raise seems justified as do the hopes that he’ll stay around Baltimore for an extended time.
Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Bud Norris and Troy Patton all signed one-year contracts. Hunter goes from $1.82 million to $3 million. Matusz from $1.8 million to $2.4 million, Norris from $3 million-$5.3 million and Patton from $815,000-$1.275 million.
It was in Patton’s best interest to settle without going to arbitration to avoid discussions of his transgressions. Patton will miss the first 25 games of 2014 and forfeit about 15 percent of his salary due to a suspension for testing positive for amphetamines.
At the minicamp, Delmon Young showed up after signing a minor league contract. Young, who’s played in the past five postseasons, is an aggressive hitter and immediately became the frontrunner for the right-handed designated hitter’s job.
Henry Urrutia, who’s added substantial muscle in his first winter in the U.S. is the favorite for the left-handed DH.
If Nolan Reimold, who was also at the minicamp has a healthy training camp, he could make the club, too.
The club reached agreement with Alfredo Aceves on a minor league contract, though that was never announced. Nor was their agreement with Tyler Colvin. Colvin will be given the 40th spot on the major league roster once his signing has been made official.
Colvin will join a host of outfielders trying to impress Buck Showalter, Colvin, Reimold, Urrutia, Young, Quintin Berry, Julio Borbon, Xavier Paul, Steve Pearce and Francisco Peguero want to show that they should join Adam Jones, David Lough and Nick Markakis in the outfield.
Jack Cust stopped by minicamp, too. Cust, who was famous for a decade-old baserunning gaffe that ended a game here, hasn’t played in the majors since 2011, but once was a feared slugger. Perhaps Cust can wrangle a spring training invitation. He’ll have a tough time cracking even Norfolk’s lineup.
It was another quiet week on the big ticket free agent market. Within the next week, Masahiro Tanaka should sign, and that may encourage others to do so, too.
A glut of starting pitchers remain available including Orioles targets Bronson Arroyo and A.J. Burnett. Skeptics believes that Burnett isn’t likely to sign with the Orioles, and that he’s serious about not playing in 2014.
The Orioles will probably sign another starter, and with so many available, some news should be coming along.
Aceves, who has had some terrific years and some bad ones, could make the team. His ability to start and relieve will be in his favor. His contract has an opt-out in case he doesn’t make the Orioles.
Young’s signing probably means there’s no chance the Orioles will sign Kendrys Morales now. Morales’ market has been hurt because of the perception that he’s only a DH and require loss of a draft choice.
Over the last week, Aceves, Young and Alexi Casilla all signed minor league contracts. They have solid chances to make the team, and reduces the number of questions coming into camp.
When spring training begins on Feb. 13, the biggest questions will be the fifth starter, long relief, left field and left-handed designated hitter.
If Lough, Reimold, Urrutia and Young all make the team, the rest of the outfield hopefuls go to minor league camp.
Showalter will have to come up with enough at-bats to properly judge his new outfielders. It wouldn’t be surprising if even more players aren’t added over the next few weeks.
Interestingly, as the Orioles continue to insist that Tommy Hunter will be their closer, Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney remain unsigned, too. It’s been nearly a month since Balfour’s agreement with the Orioles came undone because of medical issues, and he still hasn’t signed anywhere.
And, the talk about Rodney coming to the Orioles died quickly.
NOTE: The Orioles sold out autograph vouchers for Feb. 1’s FanFest in about an hour on Saturday morning.