While the Orioles decide which non-roster players to protect in the Rule 5 draft in December, six of their minor leaguers elected free agency and are eligible to sign with another organization.
Pitchers Logan Verrett, Vidal Nuño and Jason Wheeler, catcher Francisco Peña and infielders Johnny Giavotella and Rubén Tejada can test the market, according to a list provided by Major League Baseball and published yesterday by Baseball America.
The Orioles could attempt to re-sign any or all of them, though my guess is they’ll pass on Nuño. That one really didn’t work out.
The Orioles outrighted Nuño on Aug. 23 after he cleared waivers. He had made only two appearances with Triple-A Norfolk since the Orioles optioned him on June 20, undergoing multiple MRI exams to determine the cause of discomfort in his oblique area. The tests came back clean.
Nuño allowed home runs in all three appearances after the Orioles recalled him on June 16. He was 0-1 with a 10.43 ERA and 2.250 WHIP in 12 games.
The Orioles acquired Nuño from the Dodgers on Feb. 19 for pitcher Ryan Moseley, an eighth-round pick in 2016 out of Texas Tech who went a combined 0-3 with a 4.34 ERA and 1.477 WHIP in 28 games at Single-A Great Lakes and Rancho Cucamonga.
Verrett made four relief appearances for the Orioles this season and went 2-0 with a 4.22 ERA and 1.313 WHIP in 10 2/3 innings. Both wins came in his first two appearances in extra innings with a combined five scoreless innings.
In a strange twist and not by design, three of Verrett’s four appearances came against the Yankees. He didn’t pitch for the Orioles after June 11.
Verrett, originally taken by the Orioles in the 2014 Rule 5 draft before the Rangers made a waiver claim, was 2-6 with a 5.10 ERA and 1.300 WHIP in 40 games (two starts) with Norfolk. The Orioles outrighted him on Sept. 5.
Peña, the son of Yankees coach Tony Peña, went 5-for-10 with two home runs in five games. The Orioles purchased his contract from the Royals on Dec. 2, 2015. He was designated for assignment three times this year, the last on June 10.
Peña, who hit .278/.309/.450 in 51 games with Norfolk, is behind Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco on the catching depth chart. Welington Castillo is expected to decline his $7 million option and become a free agent.
Austin Wynns will be exposed to the Rule 5 draft if the Orioles don’t protect him. He’s the top defensive catcher in the system and Peña’s departure would increase his value.
Giavotella, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right hip in August, appeared in only seven games with the Orioles and went 1-for-10 with four strikeouts. He hit .306/.368/.441 with 22 doubles, four triples, five home runs and 45 RBIs in 379 plate appearances with Norfolk.
The Orioles signed Giavotella as a free agent on Feb. 2, but his lack of versatility in the infield limited his opportunities. They viewed him only as a second baseman and designated him for assignment on Aug. 1 to create a roster spot for Tim Beckham.
Tejada, who had his contract purchased from the Yankees on June 4, batted .230/.293/.283 in 41 games with the Orioles and .280/.357/.440 and 50 games with Norfolk. He was outrighted on Aug. 17 when Ryan Flaherty came off the 60-day disabled list.
Beckham’s acquisition on July 31 pushed Tejada to the bench and eventually off the roster.
Wheeler, a left-hander, was 1-2 with a 3.07 ERA in 13 games (six starts) with Norfolk after the Orioles acquired him from the Dodgers on July 2 for an international signing bonus slot.
Players are eligible for minor league free agency if they have at least three years of major league service or qualified as a “Super Two” player, or if they’re outrighted for a second time or any subsequent time in their career.
Tejada qualified because of his major league service time.
Leyland, the son of former manager Jim Leyland, signed as a free agent on June 23 and came off the disabled list on Sept. 20. He’s been assigned to Double-A Bowie.