Executive vice president Dan Duquette promised that the Orioles are done making trades tonight. The next day is another matter, but it’s safe to go home.
As reporters filed into the interview room following the Orioles’ 3-2 win over the Twins, the team announced a second deal within an hour. Infielder Kelly Johnson is headed to Baltimore in exchange for minor league infielders Jemile Weeks and Ivan DeJesus Jr. The Orioles also got infielder Michael Almanzar, who returns to the organization after being chosen in the Rule 5 draft and later returned to the Red Sox.
Johnson won’t report here until the rosters expand on Monday. That leaves two pending moves on Sunday to create spots for starter Wei-Yin Chen and newly acquired outfielder Alejandro De Aza.
Duquette said the Red Sox contacted the Orioles after Johnson passed through waivers. The deal was completed at the same time that Duquette spoke to reporters about the De Aza trade in the seventh inning, but it was kept quiet until the Red Sox’s game ended at Tropicana Field.
“We added Kelly Johnson, another left-handed bat,” Duquette said. “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.
“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.
“Kelly’s well-traveled and he can play a couple different positions. He’s got some power and he can get on base and he can hit right-handed pitching, and that gives us some more options to help our ballclub. And again, you never know what’s going to happen between now and the end of the season. We don’t have a team in Triple-A that’s going to be in the playoffs, so we need to have good depth on the major league team.
“They approached us after they got the trade waivers. I don’t know that it was a great fit for their ballclub and they have some other young infielders. I am happy that we also got another shot at Michael Almanzar. Michael showed good power in the spring and he’s a young right-handed hitting infielder. He’s just 23 years old, so we have him back in the organization for the future.”
The Orioles were aggressive in the seventh inning tonight, with Adam Jones tagging and scoring the go-ahead run on Chris Davis’ shallow fly ball to center field. And they were aggressive off it with a flurry of moves to improve a first-place team.
“Teams want to be adding ... and still be in the pennant race in September,” Duquette said. “We’ve been fortunate. We’ve had a number of guys have great years. We’ve got some excellent leadership from Buck (Showalter) and the coaches, and this is why we do this, right?
“The other thing, in my view, that’s very important is we have the players in our minor league system to be able to make these trades to add to the ballclub in a pennant race, and that’s a tribute to the good scouting we’ve had from Gary Rajsich and Fred Ferreira and their crew and good player development from Brian Graham. So we have players that we can trade. We have players that we can bring up and help the team.”
Is Duquette done maneuvering?
“We’re going to continue to look around, but you know, we do have better balance now to our club with the addition of two left-handed hitters that performed well in the American League, and we also saw Jimmy Paredes can contribute to our ballclub based on what he did tonight. So we’ll get a little bit better balance in filling out our ballclub. We’re going to go home and get ready for tomorrow,” he said.
“We got a little bit more depth to the ballclub. Again, it’s very difficult this time of year to add players, but we were able to add a couple players that we think can fit and contribute.”
Johnson was informed of the trade following the Red Sox’s game.
“It’s exciting to be in a situation where they’re a first-place team,” he told reporters. “I had a blast last year with Tampa going to the playoffs. It’s a weird year. The last team in the East I hadn’t played with, I’ll be playing with.
“It’s crazy. Obviously, I’ll be familiar with the surroundings. I’m excited to get there and try to contribute to the team for the rest of the year.”
Showalter talked about the trades before getting to the victory.
“It’s something we’ve been talking about for a few days,” he said. “We were able to bring it together. It’s a testament to player development and scouting and able to acquire some people who hopefully can help us down the way and give us some more pick and pull as we go forward, and some depth to cover some things.
“Dan and I were talking, I think the last time we were talking was about 15 minutes to seven. We’ve been trying to see if we could make it work for us for a while. They got some good things back and we feel like we got some things that could help us clear some roster spots. Whether it’s De Jesus or Jemile or (Mark) Blackmar or (Miguel) Chalas, they’re all guys that ... picking up Jimmy Paredes on waivers. Those are things that look minor to a lot of people, but you’ve got to grind those things.
“I think De Aza will try to get here tomorrow and Kelly’s going to get here the day after tomorrow. I’m not sure he can get here. I like the people that are here. It gives us some more depth and some more what-if as we go forward with. It has nothing to do with Steve (Pearce’s) injury. We feel like at some point that’s going to manage itself back into playing again. It doesn’t really change a whole lot of things, just give us some more options.”
Showalter didn’t reveal how he’d fit De Aza and Johnson into the mix.
“It’s not something you just do,” he said. “It’s something Dan and I talk about, the coaching staff talks about, how it fits, what it means as we go forward, what does it help us with, how would you use them. I’m certainly not going to broadcast that right now, but I’ll sit down and talk to some players tomorrow.
“Jonesy knew about it. They’re excited about it. Anytime we get something that could help, but I found it’s the unknown that drives players crazy. I’ll sit down with them, probably as a group and kind of explain what’s going on and how it affects our team and how it affects some guys individually, if it does. It’s not going to affect a whole lot of ... The way that we’ve done things all year, we’ve played everybody, kept everybody in a contributing role. Tried to anyway.”
Closer Zach Britton approves of the Orioles’ desire to keep getting better and make a serious run at the pennant.
“It’s great,” he said. “In years past we haven’t really necessarily been that type of team, so it’s nice to see that we’re going out to make some moves to better ourselves. I didn’t know about the trades until I got in and somebody mentioned it, so I don’t know all the details, but anybody who can help us win and fill a role here and there for us is going to be huge. And that’s what we’ve been doing. We have guys off the bench that can fill a need, and hopefully the two guys we bring in will do just that.”
Britton became the 10th different Oriole to record a 30-save season, which doesn’t mean much to him.
“Not at all,” he said. “I think if anything, we’re keeping track of how many games we’re winning. Just trying to be a part of the wins. We’re not reading too much into what we’re doing individually. I think that’s why we’re so successful. We kind of focus on that in the offseason, but right now it’s just about winning games, finding ways to win, and whoever’s the guy that day, that’s kind of what we’re doing. We’re passing the baton.
“Obviously, that’s a product of getting a lot of opportunities, too. It’s good. We’re playing close games. Our offense is getting just enough runs to where the pitching can go in there and shut them down. That’s kind of what we’ve been doing the whole season. Obviously, our offense every now and then will break out for a bunch of runs, but being able to have the starters go deep in the game for the most part, and bullpen guys like Brad (Brach) and T.J. (McFarland) really helped our bullpen stay fresh. I think a lot of our success goes to those guys.”
Britton didn’t really have a role when he broke camp.
“He found one, he found one,” Showalter said. “Zach’s been solid. Go out there with a one-run lead and go out there with the back and forth and to have the top of their order with the good hitters they have up there. (Brian) Dozier’s tough, walks a lot, has home run power. Of course, (Joe) Mauer, the hairy guy there can hurt you.
“It doesn’t go forgotten Darren (O’Day) had a big inning. Andrew (Miller) bent but didn’t break. Tommy (Hunter) had a really good sixth. He had some success against Dozier. I was trying to shorten up Andrew a little bit, not have to get so many outs, but it didn’t work out.”
Paredes doubled in a run and homered in his first start with the Orioles.
“We talk about it all the time, about opportunities,” Showalter said. “We may not be able to do some things, but you can out-opportunity teams and guys know around baseball if you sign with us, you’re a six-year free agent, waiver, you’re going to get an opportunity. You’ve got to be ready for it when it comes.
“He’s been around. He’s only 25 years old. A lot of people forget that. It’s exciting for him. He knew the bunt defenses. That was a real tribute to R.J. (Ron Johnson) and those guys in Norfolk that had him prepared for that in our minor leagues before he got here. It was impressive that he executed it well.”
“I was ready to go,” said Paredes. “It feels good, I’m excited. We have a very good team here, we have fun and we play the game the right way, hard. We’re working hard. We’re trying to make the playoffs and win the World Series.”
One reason the Orioles wanted De Aza here on Sunday: He’s 3-for-9 with two home runs against Twins starter Ricky Nolasco.
Showalter checked on it.