BALTIMORE – In a breathtaking hour on Saturday night, the Orioles tried to add to a team that is already leading the American League East by eight games by making two trades for left-handed hitters.
First, they added an additional outfielder by acquiring Alejandro De Aza from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for minor league pitchers Miguel Chalas and Mark Blackmar.
Then, moments after the Orioles completed a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins, they acquired veteran infielder Kelly Johnson from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for minor league infielders Ivan De Jesus, Jr. and Jemile Weeks. They also picked up minor league infielder Michael Almanzar from the Red Sox.
“You never know what's going to happen or transpire between now and the end of the season, so you need to have good depth to your player pool. And that's what these two trades were designed to do, to give us some added depth and two veteran left-handed hitters to help our ballclub,” Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said.
De Aza is expected to report on Sunday. Johnson isn’t expected until Monday. The Orioles will have to subtract two players on Sunday to add De Aza as well as the recall of Wei-Yin Chen.
“I like the people that are here. It gives us some more depth and some more what-ifs,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Showalter said that the trades had nothing to do with Steve Pearce’s injury. Pearce is out with a right abdominal strain.
“It doesn’t really change a whole lot of things, just give us some more options,” Showalter said.
De Aza, a 30-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder is batting .243 with five home runs and 31 RBIs. He has some power. Last year, he hit 17 home runs for the White Sox. De Aza can also run. He’s stolen 15 bases, and in the previous two seasons had 46.
“He’s a multi-talented outfielder. He’s good in left, he can play center field. He had two very good years in ’12 and ’13, he really hit for power. He gives us a veteran outfielder who we can use to supplement our team,” Duquette said.
“We’ve been looking to get a little bit better balance to our lineup with the addition of a left-handed hitter.”
Johnson is 32, and he’s played with the other four AL East teams as well as Atlanta and Arizona. In 87 games, the last 10 with the Red Sox, Johnson has hit .212 with six home runs and 23 RBIs.
In 2010 and 2011, he hit a combined 47 home runs with the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays.
“He's a veteran infielder, he can play a couple of different positions and we've been trying to balance out our lineup with the addition of some left-handed bats, and we were able to acquire two veteran bats to help us. Kelly Johnson can play a couple of different positions, he's familiar with the American League East, he's played for all the other teams but ours, and now he'll get a chance to play for ours, and he gives us a little bit more depth. And again, the important thing for the team is that the players that we acquire now are eligible to help us in the post-season,” Duquette said.
Duquette has been interested in De Aza for the past few weeks. Last week, he played in three games against the Orioles for the White Sox in Chicago.
“We knew that he was available a few weeks ago, and we had a discussion then, and the discussions heated up in the past couple of days,” Duquette said.
De Aza is arbitration eligible and can’t be a free agent for another season. His acquisition could displace David Lough, who hasn’t started since August 16.
“I’m sure Buck will find the right opportunity to use his skills to help the ballclub,” Duquette said.
Chalas is a 22-year-old right-hander, who was recently promoted to Norfolk. He’s 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA in two games. In 28 games with Frederick, Chalas was 2-3 with a 4.80 ERA.
Blackmar is another 22-year-old right-hander. In 26 games with the Keys, he was 10-1 with a 3.18 ERA.
Weeks and De Jesus both played for Norfolk this season. Acquired in the December trade with Oakland for Jim Johnson, Weeks hit .278 for the Tides and also hit .273 in three games with the Orioles. De Jesus, who signed with the Orioles as a minor league free agent, hit .282 for the Tides. He played eight games with Boston last season.
Almanzar was a Rule 5 draft choice chosen by the Orioles from the Red Sox last December and returned in June.