While the Orioles continue their search for another outfielder and still intend to upgrade their pitching depth, they’ve addressed the need for infield depth by signing Johnny Giavotella and Robert Andino to minor league deals.
Both players figure to begin the 2017 season at Triple-A Norfolk unless an injury creates a spot on the 25-man roster, but competition always is a good thing.
“They bring ability and experience. They give us some more depth at the infield position, particularly in the middle of the infield,” said executive vice president Dan Duquette.
“Giavotella is a real gritty player. He’s played effectively at second base. He brings a lot of energy to the team and he’s a clutch hitter. He gets a hit when you need a hit. He’s a tough out. And Andino we know. He’s been with us before. He can play a number of infield positions, including shortstop. He had a pretty good year and he brings some value in the major leagues with the bat.”
Andino made it clear to the Orioles that he wanted to return. They traded him to the Mariners in November 2012 after signing infielder Alexi Casilla, the alternative being to non-tender him. Andino was the opening day second baseman. He’s fine with lowering his sights in 2017.
“We’ve been looking for a veteran shortstop and I’m not sure Paul Janish is going to come back to the O’s,” Duquette said, “so we had been talking to Janish and some others and then Andino reached out to us through Adam Jones. And he let Buck (Showalter) know that he was looking for a job and wanted to come back. So we followed up with his agent.
“Andino played some shortstop last year and did pretty well at Triple-A. Played it capably previously with the O’s. And Giavotella is a tough out.”
Showalter was intrigued by Andino after the Orioles hired him as manager in July 2010, checking the Triple-A reports and wondering why the infielder hadn’t been called up. The reviews weren’t glowing, but Showalter looked around his clubhouse and figured Andino was worth a shot. It’s not like the roster was overflowing with talent, and the team finished in fifth place with a 66-96 record. What did he have to lose?
Andino is forever remembered for his walk-off single to beat the Red Sox in the final game of the 2011 season, but he also was a valuable contributor in the 2012 postseason with five hits in 12 at-bats.
Andino is a career .241/.297/.323 hitter in 41 games against the Red Sox, but his three home runs are his second-highest total against any opponent. He’s hit five versus the Yankees.
Janish is a better defensive shortstop and would have made sense on another minor league deal, but he remains on the market.
Outfielder Nolan Reimold also remains a free agent and he’s forever linked to Andino after sliding home safely for the winning run to close out 2011. The Orioles haven’t shown any interest in bringing back Reimold, and while I warn against saying the door is completely shut, it appears they’re not headed toward another reunion.
I’ve been on this beat long enough to remember the trade that first brought Andino to the Orioles. It occurred on April 1, 2009 as spring training was winding down in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Pitcher Hayden Penn, once a top-rated prospect, was out of options and had no shot at making the club. Andino also was out of options with the Marlins, and a deal was born.
A year later, the Pirates claimed Penn off waivers from the Marlins. He made three relief appearances and was done at the major league level.
Penn played in Japan from 2010-2012 and with independent Bridgeport in 2013. Besides his role in the Andino trade, he’s probably remembered by Orioles fans for undergoing an appendectomy a day before he was scheduled to make his 2006 debut in Seattle.
The Orioles recalled first-round pick Adam Loewen from Double-A Bowie to replace Penn. Another disappointment in a series of them.
While I had Duquette on the phone yesterday, I asked about the club moving away from its vow to “file-and-trial” with catcher Caleb Joseph and pitcher Kevin Gausman. Joseph lost his arbitration hearing and Gausman accepted a $3.45 million offer a few days before his scheduled hearing.
Gausman sought $3.55 million and the Orioles submitted $3.15 million.
“We just wanted to make a good-faith effort to settle the case with an agreement on a contract,” Duquette said. “We signed Gausman in the area that was consistent with what we offered before the filing of numbers.”
This is the latest example of how clubs negotiate a figure and then submit a lower one if no agreement is reached, hoping to settle later at or near the halfway point.
The Orioles also could attempt to settle with reliever Brad Brach before his Feb. 16 hearing, though the gap is larger. Brach wants $3.05 million and the Orioles countered at $2.525 million.
“Every case is different,” Duquette said. “Our first choice is to settle short of a hearing, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. In Kevin Gausman’s case, it made sense for us to get an agreement with him. We were clear with the agent that was our intent and then I spoke to Kevin directly when he was in town for FanFest and told him we wanted to see if we could get a settlement, see if we could negotiate an agreement.
“We rarely go to trial and I just didn’t think that was the right place to determine his compensation, and he got a good raise. He had a good year.”
Duquette wants to sign another reliever and said it doesn’t necessarily have to be a left-hander.
“We’re just looking for some more depth,” he said.
Duquette confirmed that the Orioles had Boone Logan on their list before the left-hander signed a one-year, $5.5 million deal with the Indians that included a $7 million option for 2018. The Orioles heard that Logan was seeking a more substantial deal.
We’ve reached the point in the offseason where the Orioles prefer minor league deals, one reason why they haven’t re-signed veteran reliever Tommy Hunter, who continues to seek a major league contract. Some desirable outfielders are still on the market, but which ones have lowered their expectations as spring training approaches?
By finding an outfielder who’s willing to take a minor league deal, the Orioles might be in a better position to evaluate Rule 5 picks Aneury Tavarez and Anthony Santander and “see how they shape up,” Duquette said. A roster spot could remain open. Otherwise, the Orioles would be able to upgrade their outfield defense at a reasonable cost.
“It’s getting a little late here,” Duquette said. “It’s almost Feb. 10. If these guys are still out there, certainly minor league deals from my perspective would be a possibility.”