Updating the Trumbo negotiations and bullpen search

The Orioles no longer have their offer on the table to free agent outfielder Mark Trumbo, according to multiple sources. However, recent history suggests a deal still can be struck.

The offer to first baseman Chris Davis also was removed last winter before agent Scott Boras again reached out to principal owner and managing partner Peter Angelos, which eventually led to agreement on a seven-year, $161 million contract.

Trumbo’s camp initially sought a four-year, $80 million deal that included a full no-trade clause, but showed a willingness to come down to the $70-75 million range, according to sources. The Orioles haven’t budged from their counter offer, believed to be around $52 million and excluding the no-trade.

It’s believed that the Orioles had the best offer on the table, though the Rockies maintain interest in Trumbo as a first baseman. The Orioles would like to use Trumbo primarily as their designated hitter while upgrading defensively in right field.

Talks have stalled for now, but obviously could heat up later in the offseason. It wouldn’t be unprecedented.

While more teams check on the availability of right-hander Brad Brach, the Orioles remain in the market for another reliever. Maybe the two are connected. Or maybe executive vice president Dan Duquette simply wants more competition for the few remaining open spots.

brad-brach-throwing-front-white.pngWhatever the reason, the Orioles would like to add another arm to their bullpen.

David Hernandez is one free agent who apparently interests the Orioles, at least enough to kick the tires on him, to borrow a popular offseason phrase. They’re also open to re-signing Vance Worley after non-tendering him due to his projected $3.3 million salary next season.

The Orioles selected Hernandez in the 16th round of the 2005 draft out of Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, gave him 19 starts in 2009 and eight starts among his 41 appearances the following year before sending him to the Diamondbacks with reliever Kam Mickolio in the Mark Reynolds trade. He was 3-4 with a 3.84 ERA in 70 relief appearances with the Phillies this summer, averaging 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

Hernandez missed the 2014 season after undergoing ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow.

As I keep kicking around ideas for the Orioles bullpen, I’m inclined to include Mike Wright among the possible replacements for Worley. A guy who can work multiple innings at any point in a game and make the occasional start if a spot opens in the rotation.

Plenty of people in the industry think Wright’s future is in the bullpen as a one-inning power arm, a guy in the Tommy Hunter mold who can pump upper-90s fastballs and get back to the dugout.

There’s just one flaw in this theory. The Orioles want Wright to stay in a starter’s role, at least for the beginning of next season.

Everything is subject to change, of course. Pitchers and catchers don’t report to spring training until Feb. 13. There appear to be two openings in the bullpen and the Orioles could turn to Wright if left unsatisfied with the other candidates. But they don’t seem ready to adjust his work schedule.

Asked at the Winter Meetings whether the Orioles still viewed Wright as a starter, manager Buck Showalter replied, “Yes, yes.” He didn’t hesitate. He did repeat himself.

“I think Mike, he’s always got potential to do both, but I want all of these guys to continue down that path because we’re going to need them,” Showalter said, referencing the importance of rotation depth.

“We’re going to need all of them. And a lot of guys that have done well in the big leagues have followed the path that Mike has followed where they had some struggles early on. There’s a guy pitching for the Cubs right now that had a very similar path to Mike Wright.”

Jason Hammel? OK, I kid.

Wright has gone 6-9 with a 5.88 ERA and 1.483 WHIP in 30 major league games, including 21 starts, over parts of two seasons. He’s posted a 2.57 ERA in his nine relief appearances, with four earned runs allowed in 14 innings.

The Orioles removed Wright from the rotation this year after he allowed a career-high eight runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays on June 17 at Camden Yards. He served up three home runs and was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.

Moved to the bullpen on July 8 for his final five appearances with the Orioles, Wright worked the second through sixth innings, the eighth, the sixth through the eighth and the ninth twice.

No matter his role, Wright will need to be more effective against left-handers. They’re batting .335 against him, compared to the .245 average posted by right-handed hitters.

Teams are focusing more on their bullpens - check the money being spent - and relievers who can work multiple innings are increasing in value.

“I think it started with the bullpen emphasis and now what you’re going to see is you’re going to see teams looking for two-inning guys, dominant two-inning guys,” said Darren O’Day. “They want kind of what Buck has been doing. He’s not afraid to send us out there for five, six outs. Other teams started doing it in the playoffs.

“We did it most of the year, so a reliever like Brad, that’s why he’s so coveted. He’s a guy who can go out and throw three innings and he’s got dominant stuff. I think you’re going to see teams start searching out for those extended relievers and valuing them even more than just a guy who can only throw two outs or matchup guys.

“It’s encouraging to see teams valuing their bullpen guys more.”

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