The Orioles continued negotiations with free-agent right-hander Yovani Gallardo on Monday, according to an industry source, with parties remaining optimistic that a deal could be finalized over the next few days.
A deal is still not done, however, and it’s looking more definitive that if Gallardo is introduced as an Oriole, it will be at the team’s spring training complex in Sarasota and not at Camden Yards. The deal would still be pending a team physical.
We saw the Orioles’ deals with Chris Davis and Darren O’Day take a few additional days before being completed, and both of those players were known commodities. So expect the finalization of any Gallardo deal to take a few more days, if not more, after the sides come to terms should an agreement be reached.
I’m continuing to hear that any pursuit of free-agent outfielder Dexter Fowler hinges on getting a deal done with Gallardo, even though there are those in the Orioles organization who believe it’s more important to sign Fowler because if you’re surrendering a draft pick, you’re doing it for an everyday player.
We’ll see in the upcoming days and weeks if the Orioles pull another spring training free-agent coup like they did in February 2014 when they signed right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez and outfielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who were both tied to draft-pick compensation.
The Orioles will have a crowded locker room when pitchers and catchers report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex Thursday. There are currently 30 pitchers on the big league roster, the most the Orioles have had in several years. Last year’s roster had only 25 pitchers.
Only seven of those pitchers are nonroster invitees.
So getting veteran arms the innings needed to prepare for the season, as well as taking a look at pitchers competing for roster spots and other developing arms, will be a challenge. Manager Buck Showalter also likes to bring in some pitchers from minor league camp to throw late innings so they get a taste of big league camp, but he might not be able to do that as much this spring.
There are only so many Grapefruit League innings to go around. And while the Orioles can create innings with “B” games and sending veteran pitchers to minor league games, innings start to disappear quickly in spring training as starters get stretched out.
Over the past few years, Showalter has sent veteran starters – like right-handers Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez – to minor league camp late in the spring to log innings, especially when they’d be on turn to face a division opponent (which is often) or a team the Orioles might face early in the regular season.
But in the case of Tillman and Gonzalez, who are both looking to rebound from rocky 2015 campaigns, would it be better for them to get work in Grapefruit League games as the spring winds down? Trust that Showalter already has that all planned out.
The preseason predictions are continuing to roll out and as usual, the Orioles aren’t receiving many props.
In case you missed it, USA Today projected win totals for every team in 2016 in a story released Monday and the newspaper gave the Orioles 77 wins and predicted a last-place finish in the American League East as the only team in the division to finish below .500.
In other words, they’re right where Showalter wants them.
The newspaper said the Orioles have “potential regression all over the roster” and received “the max out of their best player” with Manny Machado’s 35-homer season.
It’s interesting to see USA Today criticize the club’s offense, but any criticism of the Orioles has to start with the pitching, and the fact that barring a deal with Gallardo, they’ve done little to upgrade a rotation that posted a 4.53 ERA, second worst in the AL. The newspaper did mention Gonzalez’s batted-ball ERA struggles, but he obviously wasn’t the rotation’s only issue.
I think there’s another level to be seen from Machado. It’s difficult to fathom that he’s still only 23 because he has been a part of the club’s established veteran core. Sliding him to the middle of the order could boost his offensive production even more. But in order to do that, there needs to be a leadoff candidate better than Machado, and Machado was pretty darn good.
Someone like, ahem, Dexter Fowler.