The Orioles signed three players to minor league deals Tuesday -- first baseman Travis Ishikawa and left-handed relievers Daniel Schlereth and Zach Braddock -- not only to add to the organization’s depth, but executive vice president Dan Duquette believes the three can be contributors in the major leagues.
All three have had success in the majors, but obviously come to the Orioles as undervalued commodities in the same vein that players like Nate McLouth and Lew Ford joined the organization and played key roles on a playoff team.
The Orioles actually tried to sign Ishikawa last offseason, but he signed with the Brewers, where he recorded a .257/.329/.428 line in 94 games (49 starts) last season, with four home runs and 30 RBIs in 174 plate appearances.
While the left-handed hitting Ishikawa is a more proficient hitter against right-handed pitching -- .266/.333/.416 and 18 of his 19 career homers against right handers -- Duquette said he can be more than a platoon player with a good glove (He has a career .995 fielding percentage at first).
“I think he has a little bit more power, he’s a line drive hitter, so I think he will have a little more power in our ballpark,” Duquette said. “We liked him. I just think there’s an opportunity for him to help our ballclub.”
Both Schlereth and Braddock have had success against left-handed hitters at the major league level, but both are coming off difficult 2012 seasons.
Schlereth, a 2008 first-round pick of the Diamondbacks who was a part of the three-team Max Scherzer/Ian Kennedy/Edwin Jackson trade three years ago, was 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA in 2010 and 2011 with the Tigers. He held left-handed hitters to a .208 average over those two seasons.
But Schlereth struggled from the beginning last season and battled shoulder tendinitis that shelved him for most of the year.
Braddock was 1-3 with a 4.41 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 2010 and 2011 with the Brewers, holding left-handed hitters to a .185 batting average. But he hasn’t pitched since he was released by Milwaukee in May.
Braddock was one of the final cuts in spring training and soon landed on the Triple-A inactive list for undisclosed personal issues. He spent time on the disabled list in 2011 with a sleep disorder.
The Orioles are convinced those issues are behind him.
Schlereth is 26 and Braddock is 25, so they’re both still young. Despite their 2012 struggles, Duquette said he believes in their promise.
“They have some talent and they’re both young enough that if they get a little more consistent command they could do really well,” Duquette said. “I think they will be able to compete based on their age and experience.
“These guys we signed today, they have some possibilities with the team.”