Orioles week featured signings, more talk

Orioles week featured signings, more talk
November 23, 2013, 9:00 am
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It was a little quieter week on the Oriole front. No rumors of bombshell trades, no more awards or major additions to the front office or coaching staff.

Instead, the Orioles quietly added to their bullpen and boosted their 40-man roster to 36.

They signed two pitchers, one left-handed, the other right-handed for some depth. Kelvim De La Cruz has never pitched in the majors, and he’ll join the lefties while Edgmer Escalona, who pitched for Colorado, will add to the right-handed mix.

De La Cruz is like a Rule 5 draft choice. He’s out of options, so he can’t be sent to the minors without passing through waivers. Escalona pitched against the Orioles twice in August, gave up a long two-run home run to Chris Davis and was jettisoned not long after.

In the Venezuelan winter league, Escalona has developed a splint-finger change up that he’s used to good results.

The Orioles added three players to the 40-man, catcher Michael Ohlman and pitchers Tim Berry and Eddie Gamboa. Gamboa’s addition was a bit of a surprise. He’s been in the organization since 2008, and recently became a knuckleballer.

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It takes time to master that pitch, and the Orioles are willing to grant Gamboa some of it.

Two players who didn’t make the cut were Caleb Joseph, a late developer, who hit 27 homers and 99 RBIs at Norfolk and pitcher Oliver Drake.

Joseph is nominally a catcher, and has had regular visits to spring training, but his glove doesn’t impress the Orioles. If he’s not claimed in the Rule 5, he’ll probably get his longest look yet in spring training and try to master Triple-A at age 27.

Drake seems more likely to be drafted. Two winters ago, the Orioles added him to the 40-man roster and he got a brief look in spring training.

A right elbow injury cost him nearly all his 2012 and delayed his 2013 season. Drake, who left the Naval Academy to pursue baseball, had a terrific few months with Bowie.

He was 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA in 19 games. Drake had eight saves and averaged more than a strikeout per inning.

Drake will be 27 in January, and he could be lost on Dec. 12 when the Rule 5 selections are made. Otherwise, he’ll probably get an invitation to spring training.

The J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters rumors quieted down this week. There weren’t any Jim Johnson rumors, either, but the Orioles were linked with their share of free agents.

This week’s additions were an old friend, Carlos Beltran, and a new one, Jhonny Peralta. Another mainstay of the rumor market, Jason Vargas, who the Orioles had long coveted received a four-year, $32 million deal with the Kansas City Royals.

That kind of deal for a pitcher whose lifetime record is seven games under .500 makes a re-signing of Scott Feldman, who is five games under .500, seem unlikely.

The top pitchers on the market, Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco, Matt Garza, Hiroki Kuroda, Ubaldo Jimenez and Bartolo Colon, have yet to sign. Feldman said about half the teams reached out to him, and a deal of three years or even more could make it impossible for the Orioles to re-sign him.

Beltran, who’s been mentioned with the Orioles before, was mentioned, but at nearly 37, a deal of longer than two years isn’t going to come from Baltimore. And, it’s hard to see the team surrendering a draft choice.

The Peralta report come out on Friday. Peralta, a longtime shortstop and two-time All-Star, has generated interest in spite of his 50-game Biogenesis suspension. The Tigers’ acquisition of Jose Iglesias makes him expendable.

Baltimore’s biggest needs are in left field and second base, two positions Peralta’s barely played. Not only would the Orioles have to convince him with the best contract offer, but he’d have to move positions.

Another pitcher the Orioles have had interest in, Tim Hudson, got a nice two-year contract from San Francisco.

Bronson Arroyo, who the Orioles reportedly have interest in, remains unsigned, too. He once pitched for new pitching coach Dave Wallace in Boston, but he’ll be 37 in the early days of spring training, and a contract offer or more than two years by the Orioles isn’t likely.

Only six of MLBTradeRumors’ top 50 free agents have signed, and it’s funny that the best, Robinson Cano has resorted to having his new agent, Jay Z, attempt to create a market for him.

Cano’s comical demand of 10 years, $310 million has been ignored. The Yankees reportedly countered with an insulting offer of seven years, $161 million.

Even though the Orioles need a second baseman, Cano does not fit in the Orioles’ budget, even if they made an offer slightly above New York’s insulting one.