We learned late last night that the Orioles were the team that claimed Minnesota Twins outfielder Josh Willingham off trade waivers.
So does that mean Willingham will be an Oriole?
Not necessarily. It just means the Orioles are attempting to work out a deal with the Twins, and have until about noon Friday to do so. If not, the Twins would pull Willingham back. And that will be the end of that. If the Twins attempted to put Willingham through trade waivers a second time and he gets claimed, then he would be gone from Minnesota.
The 34-year-old Willingham, who had career highs with 35 homers and 115 RBIs last season, has struggled this season, hitting .215/.347/.391 with 12 homers and 45 RBIs in 312 at bats and 378 plate appearances (88 games). He missed more than five weeks with a knee injury and just returned from the disabled list on Aug. 9.
Willingham hasn’t been the same hitter since the injury – he’s batting .182 since returning from the DL – but the Orioles can use another right-handed power bat as they look to face a heavy dose of left-handed pitching down the stretch.
And he wouldn’t just be a rental.
Willingham is in the second season of a three-year, guaranteed $21-million contract. He’s slated to make $7 million next season, but that escalates by an additional $1 million if he records more than 525 plate appearances this season.
The sense is that the Twins are not looking to necessarily deal Willingham and that they’d want a strong return – though I don’t know specifics or names.
They’d be much more willing to deal first baseman Justin Morneau, who is a pending free agent. But he is a left-handed hitter and the Orioles would prefer a righty.
The Orioles have had talks with the Twins this month about Morneau, who has passed through waivers. But, at least in July, the Orioles were lukewarm on him.
When Willingham was a free agent in the winter before the 2012 season, he looked like a good fit for the Orioles. But they never pursued him and he ended up in Minnesota.
Trades can be made in September, but a player has to be in a club’s system before Sept. 1 to be eligible for the postseason. That’s why if there are any more trades remaining this season they likely will happen by Saturday.
One other thing: The Orioles have made several claims this month on players, but have not ended up with a player. That means they either couldn’t agree on a trade or they were outbid by a team with a lesser record.