The next order of baseball business is behind the Orioles.
They tendered contracts yesterday to five of their seven arbitration-eligible players, signed reliever Richard Bleier and traded infielder Jonathan Villar to the Marlins. The 40-man roster holds 38 players, leaving room for multiple selections in the Dec. 12 Rule 5 draft in San Diego.
Coming up are five days at the Winter Meetings if you count Sunday’s travel. The race to catch return flights on Thursday begins late in the morning.
Lots of fans vented about Villar’s placement on outright waivers, though the parting shouldn’t have been a shocker. What did throw me was the perception among a few that Bleier was “awful” and undeserving of a new deal.
Where are we placing the bar here?
A sub-2.00 ERA for three straight seasons and a solid second half in 2019 make him awful? A reliever in this bullpen with an actual track record of success is awful?
The final numbers were the worst of his career, but the guy was recovering from lat surgery and came down with a sore shoulder in April. He rounded into his former self after the All-Star break and the Orioles need him.
The comparisons to Villar and how the Orioles handled him are nonsense. Two completely different situations. A player eligible for free agency after 2020 projected to earn more than $10 million versus a reliever in his first year of arbitration who agreed to a $915,000 salary.
The only similarity is how they were arbitration-eligible. That’s it.
And no one is printing playoff tickets. But that little gem never gets old.
Giving the “kids” an opportunity makes sense on one level. Wins aren’t a priority. Auditions were held in 2019 and are going to continue next summer. But the “kids” didn’t step up as a bullpen group, which led to massive shuttling between Triple-A and the majors and burning frustration for manager Brandon Hyde.
Look closely and you’ll notice the griddle marks.
Bleier can provide some stability and leadership at a reasonable price, if you check other contracts handed out to relievers. Hunter Harvey and Dillon Tate are two “kids” who could make an impact, and the Orioles are waiting for Evan Phillips and Tanner Scott to do it.
Especially when the rotation is lacking starters who routinely pitch deep into games and later in the summer could include some rookie prospects in need of support.
Bleier could be used as a trade chip in July, which also explains why a team like the Orioles tendered him a contract. They lost the chance this summer because of his health and poor numbers. Same with starter Alex Cobb, pitcher Nate Karns and outfielder Mark Trumbo.
The anger and frustration over Villar shouldn’t splatter on Bleier or anyone else. They’re individual cases. Millions of miles apart.
The Orioles already were in the market for a veteran middle infielder and the need increases without Villar. There could be multiple acquisitions because the Orioles don’t have anyone in the upper levels of the minors who can be slotted on the 26-man roster.
“I think that could change by the end of the year,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said last night. “You look at guys like Mason McCoy and Rylan Bannon, who are getting close, but in terms of second base/shortstop, those are areas where we might have to explore other players from other avenues.
“Maybe they’re young players who come to the organization in trades or maybe they’re guys that we sign and bring to the organization. But as much as we all enjoyed Jonathan and how well he played this year, with where he was in his career, with coming up against free agency, with the salary range that he was getting into, we felt like there are players that have a little bit more long-term possibility with our organization and where it’s going and our timeline that we’re anticipating.
“We’ll see who ends up competing for those spots this year, who we end up bringing into the organization, how our guys look who are in the minor leagues when they come to spring training. But I think that clearing the avenue for some players who potentially are under control longer or have a chance to be under control longer makes sense for us.”
* Leftover food opinion: Cloves are the devil. I’d rather eat glass than bite into a slice of ham and have to pull out a clove.
I feel the same about peppercorns. I had to scrape them off a very expensive steak at a very expensive and popular Manhattan restaurant. Apparently it’s their signature coating.
Given the choice, I’d select dog hair.