Here's hoping that everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving today, one full of turkey and pumpkin pie. And in the Thanksgiving spirit, here's an extra helping of Orioles thoughts and observations.
We learned yesterday that the Orioles have expressed interest in free-agent right-hander Yovani Gallardo. There haven't been any negotiations with Gallardo -- that should start to pick up in the upcoming weeks -- but he's the Orioles' first known starting pitching target.
Gallardo, 29, could command a four-year deal, and the Orioles have only given one of those out to a free-agent starting pitcher. That was the four-year, $50 million deal that Ubaldo Jimenez signed before the 2014 season.
What I find interesting is that the Orioles seem content with losing a draft pick. Gallardo declined the Rangers' $15.8 million qualifying offer, so any other team that signs him must forfeit its highest available draft pick.
The Orioles will likely have a surplus of draft picks next year. If Chris Davis and Wei-Yin Chen --- two free agents tied to draft-pick compensation -- sign elsewhere, the Orioles would have seven selections in the first three rounds. Depending on which teams have to forfeit their picks, the Orioles could have those seven picks in the first 100 selections.
While these draft picks are valuable, stockpiling these picks could make it easier for the Orioles to sign players who are tied to compensation picks.
It could be a repeat of 2014, when the Orioles forfeited their first-round pick to sign Jimenez -- who went unsigned heading into spring training -- to a long-term deal. That made it easier to sign Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $8 million deal when he went unsigned into February. They were only losing a second-round pick to sign Cruz, and acquiring him might have been Dan Duquette's savviest most as Orioles executive vice president.
This time around, the Orioles could do the same thing if some players tied to compensation picks -- there are 16, including eight starting pitchers -- remain unsigned late in the offseason.
Whether that happens remains to be seen, but at the very least, it's promising for fans to see that the Orioles aren't preventing the qualifying offer process from pursuing those free agents, especially when it comes to starting pitching.
-- Former Orioles right-hander Bud Norris, who had a nightmarish 2015 season, latched on with the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday. Norris reportedly signed a one-year major-league deal for $2.5 million.
This time last year, Norris was coming off the best year of his career. He went 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA, was dominant in American League East competition and he pitched 6 1/3 innings of two-hit shutout ball in a series-clinching win over the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series. He was an integral part of the Orioles' first division winner since 1997.
But it all went wrong for Norris quickly. He was batted around in spring training, and his struggles continued into the regular season. A bout with bronchitis forced him to the disabled list and he never regained his footing. He was eventually demoted to the bullpen and then designated for assignment and released on Aug. 8. He later latched on with the San Diego Padres in a bullpen role.
Few players will have a more ill-timed fall. Norris made $8.8 million last season in his final year before free agency. Now, he will have to settle for a little more than one-third of that and he'll have to prove himself all over again on a one-year deal.
But he now has an opportunity. It looks like Norris will have the chance to return to the rotation in Atlanta, which should invigorate him. He never adjusted to a bullpen role, and he's at his best as a starter.
Braves general manager John Coppolella told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that signing Norris was much like when Atlanta signed former Orioles closer Jim Johnson last offseason coming off the worst year of his big league career. Johnson rebounded to pitch well in Atlanta, posting nine saves and compiling a 2.25 ERA over 49 relief appearances before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
-- The Orioles reunited with former prospect L.J. Hoes, acquiring the 25-year-old outfielder back from the Houston Astros for cash considerations. Hoes, who was traded to the Astros in the Norris trade at the 2013 nonwaiver deadline, had been designated for assignment last week.
Hoes put up solid numbers in the Orioles minor league system, but really didn't get an opportunity to show what he could do at the big league level. He was the club's minor league Player of the Year in 2012, but played in just three games for the Orioles in 2012 and 2013 before he was traded to the Astros.
When Hoes was in big league camp in 2012 and 2013, he was a quick study inside the Orioles clubhouse. He gravitated toward center fielder Adam Jones and Jones took Hoes under his wing.
So it wasn't surprising that Jones was quick to reach out to Hoes on Twitter, telling Hoes he better change his profile photo to proclaim he was an Oriole again.
Hoes quickly updated his profile pic to one in an Orioles uniform and told Jones that he was more than ready to return to the club that drafted him.