The Orioles acquired right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne (pronounced OH-drees-ah-meer DES-pawn-yay) from the San Diego Padres for minor league pitcher Jean Cosme on Thursday, adding an optionable piece who has started and relieved in the majors over the past two seasons.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette said Despaigne, a sinker-ball pitcher, is “in the mix to help our staff. [He’s a] very capable and crafty pitcher.”
“Despaigne is a solid addition to our pitching staff because of his versatility,” Duquette added in a statement. “Our scouts have liked him for some time. He has proven he can start and serve as a long-relief option out of the bullpen. Over the last two seasons in San Diego, he pitched 222 innings in 50 games, 34 of which he started. He is a good competitor, and we expect him to compete for a spot in the back end of the rotation.”
The 28-year-old Cuban signed with the Padres as a minor league free agent in May 2014, and joined their rotation the next month. In 16 starts that year, he was 4-7 with a 3.36 ERA, creating buzz with his diverse arsenal in his debut season.
He complements his low-90s fastball, which averaged 90 mph, with a unique slow curveball that features a cross-fingered grip, plus a cutter, slider and harder curveball. But without premium velocity or command, Despaigne regressed in 2015.
In 34 appearances (18 starts), Despaigne was 5-9 with a 5.80 ERA and saw his home run rate jump from .56 per nine innings to 1.22 per nine innings. Some of that can be attributed to bad luck — opponents hit a lower percentage of fly balls off him in 2015 than 2014, but more than twice as many of the fly balls hit were home runs (7.1 percent in 2014 to 14.8 percent in 2015).
He lowered his walk rate from 2.99 to 2.29 in 2015, but struck out only 4.94 batters per nine innings as compared to 6.07 the year before. His FIP, which calculates ERA independent of defense and emphasizes home runs, strikeouts and walks, was 4.77 in 2015, a full run lower than his 5.80 ERA.
With much of the premium pitching talent off the free-agent market or otherwise requiring the Orioles to give up a draft pick to sign, Despaigne joins what could be a growing group of bounce-back or internal candidates fighting for the fifth spot in the rotation behind Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Ubaldo Jimenez and Miguel Gonzalez.
Despaigne has all three of his minor league options available, giving the team flexibility to use him as a starter or reliever and shuffle him back and forth between Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk as needed.
Cosme, a 2014 17th-round draft pick out of Puerto Rico, started 12 games for the Short-A Aberdeen IronBirds last year with a 1.12 WHIP, a 4.74 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 57 innings. The 19-year-old righty has a fastball that reaches the low 90s, but will need to develop his secondary pitches to reach his full potential.
The Orioles designated left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser for assignment to make room for Despaigne on the 40-man roster. Riefenhauser came to the Orioles as part of the trade that brought in first baseman Mark Trumbo and sent catcher Steve Clevenger to the Seattle Mariners.
MASNsports.com and FoxSports.com first reported the Despaigne trade.
Additionally, outfielder L.J. Hoes cleared waivers after being designated for assignment last week as a counter-move for outfielder Efren Navarro. Hoes was outrighted to Norfolk.
Note: The Orioles avoided arbitration with left-hander Brian Matusz, agreeing to a one-year, $3.9 million contract, per an industry source. That leaves left-hander Zach Britton as the Orioles’ only remaining unsigned arbitration-eligible player.
Sun reporter Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this article.