Nuño’s departure and more on Orioles minor league free agents

Vidal Nuño didn’t give us much of a chance to become attached to him. Left camp for 10 days to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, spent a small portion of the summer with the Orioles, became a minor league free agent and found a new team.

Nuño has signed a minor league deal with the Rays, as first reported by Baseball America’s Matt Eddy. He elected free agency last month, joining pitcher Logan Verrett, catcher Francisco Peña and second baseman Johnny Giavotella. Infielder Rubén Tejada qualified for free agency based on his service time.

The Orioles acquired Nuño from the Dodgers on Feb. 19 for minor league pitcher Ryan Moseley and designated T.J. McFarland for assignment. Manager Buck Showalter wanted to carry a left-handed long reliever/swingman and Nuño fit the description, but the left-hander was joining his fifth organization since 2013.

“Our scouts like how Nuño competes in the American League and old-school baseball people will appreciate how he works fast, throws strikes and changes speeds,” executive vice president Dan Duquette said after the trade was announced. “We look forward to his contributions to the 2017 club.”

They were scarce.

Vidal-Nuno-throw-white-sidebar.jpgNuño was 0-1 with a 10.43 ERA and 2.250 WHIP in 12 games, and he surrendered home runs in all three of his appearances after the Orioles recalled him in June 16. He was outrighted on Aug. 23 after he cleared waivers and after multiple MRIs came back clean.

Whatever ailed him didn’t show up on that kind of film.

The Rays will view Nuño as the Orioles did - a left-hander who can serve as a long reliever and perhaps make some starts. He’s held left-handed hitters to a .237 average. There will always be another job around the corner unless the MRIs begin to tell a different story.

Richard Bleier became the pitcher that Nuño was supposed to be, posting a 1.99 ERA and 1.184 WHIP in 57 games. Chris Lee could be used as a left-handed swingman next season if he develops as the Orioles keep anticipating.

The hope now is that Moseley doesn’t come back to haunt the Orioles. An eighth-round pick out of Texas Tech, Moseley 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.

There’s a distinction between players electing free agency and being declared as free agents. The latter group, revealed by Major League Baseball, now includes the following players who were in the Orioles system:

Pitchers: Nate Adcock, Andrew Bellatti, Bobby Bundy, Jason García, Jefri Hernandez, Scott McGough, Richard Rodriguez, Franderlin Romero, Karl Triana, Austin Urban and Tyler Wilson

Catchers: Chris O’Brien and Audry Perez

First baseman: Aderlin Rodriguez

Second baseman: Sharlon Schoop

Shortstop: Robert Andino

Third basemen: Alex Castellanos, Chris Johnson and Garabez Rosa

Outfielders: Glynn Davis, Chris Dickerson, Logan Schafer and David Washington

MLB lists Washington as an outfielder, but he made 67 starts and appeared in 71 games at first base this year with Triple-A Norfolk. His major league debut consisted of six at-bats with the Orioles that resulted in five strikeouts. They seem fine with letting him walk.

Showalter was impressed with Schafer’s defense in spring training, especially in center field as a potential backup to Adam Jones, but it didn’t materialize. Schafer batted .247/.314/.343 in 113 games with Norfolk and never made it back to the majors. The Orioles could attempt to re-sign him for outfield depth.

Dickerson’s body continued to fail him in spring training and during the season. The Orioles probably would have selected his contract over the summer if he had been healthy, but he was limited to 81 games. His left-handed bat and ability to move around the outfield brought tremendous appeal. And he posted a .365 on-base percentage with the Tides.

Andino also had a legitimate chance to play for the Orioles this summer except for his 50-game suspension after testing positive for an amphetamine.

Johnson is the son of Norfolk manager Ron Johnson. He hit .301/.330/.506 with 17 doubles, two triples and 10 home runs with the Tides, but he appeared in only 62 games due to a broken bone in his right forearm sustained in early April. Father and son used the summer to reconnect and it turned into one of Ron Johnson’s favorite seasons.

Rosa is the all-time leader in games played at Double-A Bowie with 590 and also ranks first in hits (650), doubles (107), RBIs (306) and runs scored (273). He was named the Eastern League’s Most Valuable Player after batting .310/.333/.444 with 24 doubles, two triples, 14 home runs and 91 RBIs in 124 games. But he’s viewed as a player without a position despite his experience at many of them.

If Rosa re-signs with the Orioles as a minor league free agent, it will be his fourth time doing so. It would make sense to change organizations and seek more of an opportunity. He’s played only 24 games at the Triple-A level in 11 professional seasons and never had his contract selected. He doesn’t get invitations to spring training, though they frequently summon him for games. But he’s loyal to the Orioles and appreciative of how he’s been treated. Don’t be shocked if he stays.

O’Brien, the son of former major league catcher Charlie O’Brien, was part of the Ryan Webb trade with the Dodgers in April 2015. The Orioles surrendered Webb, minor league catcher Brian Ward and a competitive balance draft pick for O’Brien and pitcher Ben Rowen. It was a salary dump, with the Orioles owing Webb $2.75 million after he cleared waivers.

The Dodgers released Webb. They just wanted the draft pick, the 74th overall. Meanwhile, O’Brien has been injured in multiple seasons and suspended for 50 games in November 2016 for testing positive for an amphetamine. His brother, Cameron, a catcher in the Blue Jays system, received the same suspension for the same infraction as announced in the same press release.

It had to make for some awkward conversations at family dinners.

With Peña and Perez free to sign with another club, the Orioles seem more likely to place Austin Wynns on their 40-man roster to protect their catching depth and keep him in line as a possible call-up over the summer.

Rodriguez finally got his shot in the majors this summer and gave up nine runs and 12 hits with three walks and a hit batter in 5 2/3 innings. He surrendered four home runs. Nothing like the reliever who posted a 2.53 ERA with Norfolk in 2016 and a 2.42 ERA in 2017.

The Orioles designated Rodriguez for assignment on Sept. 17 while selecting left-hander Tanner Scott’s contract from Bowie. He cleared waivers and was outrighted. He’s better than those five games with the Orioles. Ask his Norfolk teammates.

García never regained the velocity that he displayed in the fall league that led the Orioles to trade for him in the 2014 Rule 5 draft. The Astros selected him from the Red Sox organization and the Orioles got him in a prearranged deal.

The Orioles kept García through the 2015 season, but he never pitched in another major league game and registered a 5.26 ERA and 1.659 WHIP this summer in 38 relief appearances with Bowie.

Despite the openings in their rotation, the Orioles seem ready to move on from Wilson. He made only one start among his nine appearances this season and went 2-2 with a 7.04 ERA and 1.696 WHIP in 15 1/3 innings. He was 7-8 with a 4.74 ERA and 1.430 WHIP in 20 starts with Norfolk.

Starters must be signed for Norfolk over the winter and perhaps into spring training. Depth is crucial and it failed the Orioles this year. They always could double back to Wilson if he’s still available.

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