Orioles claim Ureña off waivers from Blue Jays

The Orioles did more today than work toward signing their remaining arbitration-eligible players.

The club announced this afternoon that it claimed infielder Richard Ureña off waivers from the Blue Jays. In a swap at the position, the Orioles made room on the 40-man roster by designating Pat Valaika for assignment.

The Blue Jays designated Ureña for assignment on Dec. 30 after signing Travis Shaw to a one-year deal.

Urena Bunts Blue Jays Sidebar.jpgUreña, who turns 24 next month, is out of minor league options. He appeared in 30 games last season and slashed .243/.273/.324 in 80 plate appearances. He went 3-for-8 against the Orioles.

Never appearing in more than 40 games in parts of three major league seasons, Ureña has batted .253/.300/.336 with 14 doubles and two home runs in 263 plate appearances. He made $562,000 last season.

The Orioles want to give themselves more options at shortstop behind starter José Iglesias and Ureña has made 41 starts at the position in the majors compared to 19 at second base and five at third. He’s also played three innings in left field and pitched one inning last summer in an emergency appearance, allowing four runs and four hits.

Ureña also has primarily been a shortstop in the minors with 440 starts in seven seasons.

He’s currently in a solid position to serve in a utility role.

Stevie Wilkerson also remains in the organization and could compete for the job, but Ureña likely would be considered more trustworthy at shortstop. They’re both switch-hitters.

Richie Martin could jump into the utility mix, though he only played shortstop last season as a Rule 5 pick and might benefit from regular playing time at Triple-A Norfolk. He’s in the discussion, however.

The Orioles claimed Valaika off waivers from the Rockies on Oct. 30. He plays every infield position, mostly in the middle, and has some experience in left field.

Limited to 40 games and 86 plate appearances with the Rockies this summer, Valaika batted .190/.256/.316 with five doubles, one triple and one home run, and struck out 34 times. His pinch-hit home run off the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu on June 28 broke an 0-for-30 slump, the second-longest in franchise history behind Desi Relaford’s 0-for-33 in 2005.

The Orioles also are waiting to find out whether pitcher Eric Hanhold is staying in the organization after they designated him for assignment this week to make room for Iglesias on the 40-man roster.

Note: Trey Mancini will be paid $4.75 million this season, according to an industry source. He was the last arbitration-eligible player to sign with the Orioles this afternoon.

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