The Orioles have reached agreement with infielder Paul Janish on a minor league contract that includes an invitation to spring training, bringing back the defensive specialist who made a favorable impression this summer.
Janish was non-tendered on Dec. 3, but the Orioles wanted to keep him in the organization. I’ve heard from multiple people that a deal is in place. There may be some paperwork remaining, but Janish will arrive in camp in February.
The Astros also were a finalist for Janish, according to a source, but he chose the Orioles.
Janish, 33, signed a minor league deal with the Orioles on Nov. 20, 2014 and batted .286/.278/.371 with three doubles and three RBIs in 14 games after they selected his contract in August. He didn’t commit an error in 54 chances with them, making nine starts, and led International League shortstops with a .990 fielding percentage.
Janish batted .235/.313/.272 with seven doubles, two triples and 21 RBIs in 95 games with Triple-A Norfolk.
Ryan Flaherty is expected to make the club again in a utility role, but the Orioles value Janish’s defense at shortstop, believing that he’s on the same level as J.J. Hardy. He may begin the 2016 season at Norfolk, but he likely would get the call if Hardy experienced any health issues.
Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez is reporting that the Orioles and White Sox are emerging as favorites “for now” to sign free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Sanchez also mentions the Angels and Giants as possibilities and adds that the Rangers are “monitoring the situation.”
The Tigers also have been linked to Cespedes, who is projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to land a six-year, $140 million contract. The Orioles were willing to give first baseman Chris Davis a seven-year, $150-million deal, including deferred money, and may not want to get that close with Cespedes.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette wants to add another left-handed hitter, but Cespedes would be an impact bat for the middle of the order.
Cespedes has played only left field and center field in four major league seasons with the Athletics, Red Sox, Tigers and Mets. The Orioles appear to be set at those positions with Hyun Soo Kim and Adam Jones, so Cespedes might need to play right or get the bulk of his at-bats as the designated hitter.
The other alternative would be to start Cespedes in left and make Kim the primary designated hitter as he adapts to major league competition. He isn’t considered a fit in right.
Anyway, the Orioles remain in the running for Cespedes despite the cost and their need for another left-handed hitter. And signing him would eliminate any chance of Davis coming back.