I’m still hearing that the Orioles don’t have serious interest in free agent Ichiro Suzuki. However, they do hold legitimate interest in another left-handed hitting outfielder, Colby Rasmus, and have maintained a dialogue with agent Casey Close since the Winter Meetings in San Diego.
This is more than just rumor or speculation.
The Orioles need a left-handed hitting outfielder who can rotate into the designated hitter slot in the lineup, which is why they’ve also been linked to Nori Aoki. I get the sense that their first choice would be Rasmus if they’re convinced that he’s a good fit in the clubhouse.
Rasmus’ reputation needs some repair work. The Orioles didn’t sign Nelson Cruz and Delmon Young until manager Buck Showalter spoke to them. He set up a conference call with controversial reliever Alfredo Aceves during the January minicamp in Sarasota. Rasmus doesn’t carry that kind of baggage, but it stands to reason that Showalter would want to converse with him - a character check, if you will - before approving of a deal.
The Orioles believe that Rasmus, who made $7 million this season, would accept a one-year deal in the $5 million to $8 million range that might serve as a platform for a much bigger payday in 2016. It worked for Cruz last winter and he’s now the platform poster child.
Rasmus doesn’t turn 29 until August. He’s a former first-round pick who batted .276/.338/.501 with 26 doubles and 22 home runs in 118 games with the Blue Jays in 2013. Though primarily a center fielder, the Orioles think he can handle the corners.
The 2014 season was a bust. Rasmus hit .225/.287/.448 with 18 homers and 124 strikeouts in 104 games and 346 at-bats. He hit a combined .225/.298/.391 with the Cardinals and Blue Jays in 2011 and .223/.289/.400 with the Jays in 2012. That’s three bad years out of the last four.
Rasmus has got another strike against him. He’s a career .213/.287/.361 hitter against left-handed pitching.
The Orioles don’t “covet Rasmus greatly,” according to one person familiar with their discussions, but he would satisfy a need and come at the right price. The free agent market is pretty lean and teams talking trade with the Orioles continually ask about pitchers Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy.
Young will take his physical later this week after agreeing to a one-year, $2.25 million deal that includes incentives that can bump it up to $3 million.
I’ve heard that executive vice president Dan Duquette is still looking to sign another catcher despite claiming Ryan Lavarnway off waivers last week. The Orioles have five catchers on their 40-man roster, but Lavarnway also plays first base and didn’t move behind the plate with the Red Sox this year.
There are no guarantees that Lavarnway will stick on the 40-man. He’s been claimed off waivers three times this month.
Former Twins outfielder/first baseman Chris Parmelee, a first-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, declined his assignment to Triple-A Rochester and became a free agent. The Orioles like him, so he’s worth monitoring.
Steve Johnson, recovering from surgery to shave down a bone spur behind his right shoulder, tweeted over the weekend that he was cleared to start playing catch Friday “and had no problems and no soreness today. Good start.”
Johnson remains a minor league free agent and the Orioles still want to re-sign him.
Former Orioles pitcher Josh Stinson has signed with the Kia Tigers, Suk-min Yoon’s former team, of the Korean Baseball Organization.
Center fielder Adam Jones married Audie Fugett on Sunday. He’s at least the fourth Oriole to get married since the season ended, joining pitchers Chris Tillman and Ryan Webb and third baseman Manny Machado.
Jones’ guest list included former Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis.