Three of the Orioles’ most high-profile minor league free agents, including left-hander Jayson Aquino, were among the four contracts the club announced Friday as they continued to address depth in their system.
Aquino, fellow left-hander Andrew Faulkner and first baseman Aderlin Rodriguez will all be back with the organization in 2018, while the club also added right-hander Tim Melville.
Twice in 2017, the Orioles turned to Aquino as a spot starter, and he pitched well each time, with manager Buck Showalter saying after his final start on July 5 that he'd be in the picture for starts going forward.
But he posted a 4.24 ERA in 21 starts with Triple-A Norfolk and was designated for assignment on Sept. 1 to make room for other call-ups, meaning he hit minor league free agency at the end of this season.
Now that he's back, Aquino will likely be part of the growing competition to occupy the back end of the Orioles rotation, though the 25-year-old’s lack of minor league options will complicate his candidacy.
Likewise, Faulkner was a minor league free agent after the Orioles designated the 25-year-old for assignment in September. The team acquired him in April as a reclamation project from the Texas Rangers, and he posted a 2.79 ERA in 38 2/3 innings for Norfolk. The team was going to send him to the Arizona Fall League to build up his innings, but switched that assignment after he was outrighted to the minors.
Rodriguez, 26, hit .279 with an .812 OPS and 22 home runs for Double-A Bowie last year. It was his second season with the organization, which signed him as a minor league free agent and watched as he became an All-Star for High-A Frederick in 2016 and this year with Bowie.
The 28-year-old Melville was a fourth-round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2008, and had major league time with the Cincinnati Reds in 2016 and the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres in 2017. While he has an 11.05 ERA in the majors, he's been an effective minor league starter with a 4.07 ERA at the Triple-A level.