Changes coming to Orioles bullpen

As the GM meetings proceed through their second day in Orlando, the emphasis with the Orioles remains on finding another starting pitcher and sifting through their options if they don't re-sign left fielder Nate McLouth and second baseman Brian Roberts.

The Orioles also are in the market for at least one reliever, and I've heard they would like to acquire two while "shuffling the deck" in their bullpen.

They want to strike quickly, knowing that plenty of other teams have the same need.

The Orioles created one vacancy after allowing Francisco Rodriguez to become a free agent. They could have two if T.J. McFarland winds up in Triple-A Norfolk's rotation. He's being used as a starter in Venezuela.

Closer Jim Johnson, right-handers Tommy Hunter and Darren O'Day and left-handers Brian Matusz and Troy Patton can be penciled into the 'pen for now. Matusz, assuming he isn't dealt, and Hunter will work out as starters in spring training.

The Orioles could choose to move Josh Stinson or Zach Britton to the bullpen, since both are out of options. Either one would fill a long-relief/swingman role. Steve Johnson is another candidate, though he has an option remaining.

That option could work against Johnson, making him more likely to be sent down, or it could benefit him, since manager Buck Showalter wants more flexibility in the 'pen.

Left-hander Chris Jones is another in-house candidate after being added to the 40-man roster. And would anyone be surprised if the Orioles selected a reliever in the Rule 5 draft?

Though I haven't been told a definite plan for Kevin Gausman, the assumption is he'll start at Norfolk if he fails to crack the Orioles' rotation. He's still projected as a top-of-the-rotation starter in the majors despite his 15 relief appearances this year.

The "shuffling the deck" comment, which came from someone in the organization, makes me wonder if there's more in store than just filling a few vacancies.

The Orioles have targeted a couple of free agents. I detest the practice of throwing names against a wall without any sort of confirmation - all it does is fuel more rumors - but they definitely held talks with the Mariners about veteran left-hander Oliver Perez at the non-waiver trade deadline.

Perez has morphed into a situational lefty, allowing him to stay in the majors. He held left-handers to a .238 average this season. Right-handers batted .256, so he wasn't entirely an easy mark.

Before we anoint him a lockdown situational lefty, keep in mind that left-handers batted .281 against him in 2012, compared to .204 by right-handers. Go figure.

Anyway, the Orioles figure to still have Perez on their radar.

MLBTradeRumors.com provided a list of free agent relievers. The closers won't get the chance to do it in Baltimore until there's a drastic shift in the plan for incumbent Jim Johnson. And the Orioles will likely balk again over spending generously on a one-inning reliever. They hoped to sign Koji Uehara last winter, but weren't willing to give him $4.25 million as a non-closer.

You know the rest. Uehara was the Red Sox's third choice as closer and he was unhittable. Now he's going to make another $5 million next season.

Here's the list of free agent relievers (age in parentheses):

Closers

Grant Balfour (36)
Joaquin Benoit (36)
Rafael Betancourt (39)
Kevin Gregg (36)
Joel Hanrahan (32)
Ryan Madson (33)
Edward Mujica (30)
Joe Nathan (39)
Chris Perez (28)
Fernando Rodney (37)
Jose Veras (33)
Brian Wilson (32)

Right-handers

David Aardsma (32)
Matt Albers (31)
Hector Ambriz (30)
Luis Ayala (36)
Matt Belisle (34)
Michael Bowden (27)
Shawn Camp (38)
Joba Chamberlain (28)
Jesse Crain (32)
Octavio Dotel (40)
Kyle Farnsworth (38)
Frank Francisco (34)
Matt Guerrier (35)
LaTroy Hawkins (39)
Kameron Loe (32)
Brandon Lyon (34)
Jeff Manship (29)
Carlos Marmol (31)
Zach Miner (32)
Peter Moylan (35)
Brett Myers (33)
Pat Neshek (33)
Juan Carlos Oviedo (30)
Chad Qualls (35)
Francisco Rodriguez (31)
Henry Rodriguez (27)
Joe Smith (30)
Jose Valverde (36)
Jamey Wright (39)

Left-handers

Travis Blackley (31)
Scott Downs (38)
Mike Gonzalez (36)
Rich Hill (34)
J.P. Howell (31)
Boone Logan (29)
Javier Lopez (36)
Eric O'Flaherty (29)
Manny Parra (31)
Oliver Perez (32)
David Purcey (32)
Matt Thornton (37)

This much is certain: Changes are coming to a bullpen that ranked fifth in the majors with a 3.00 ERA in 2012 and 15th with a 3.52 ERA in 2013.

Note: The Orioles signed their second player from Guatemala, 18-year-old outfielder Juan Diego Montes, to a minor league deal. I've received multiple tweets and retweets from pretty much every media outlet in the country, as well as @GatoradeGT. That's enough verification for me.

This isn't huge news, but it's interesting because the Orioles signed their first Guatemalan, Andres Aguilar, in February 2012. He's hit .234/.282/.284 in 69 games in the Gulf Coast League.

Montes also will try to make the climb from the lowest levels of the farm system.

blog comments powered by Disqus