SARASOTA, Fla. – Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy was a teammate of Yovani Gallardo’s with the Milwaukee Brewers during Gallardo’s first three big league seasons, and as the Orioles await the completion of their three-year, $35 million deal with the veteran right-hander, Hardy is excited to be reunited with his former teammate.
“He’s an awesome guy,” Hardy said of Gallardo, who was his teammate from 2007 to 2009. “Good pitcher. Obviously, you guys can see his numbers. He’s only had one losing season in, what is it, nine years? Great guy, great teammate. He’ll fit right in.”
The pending addition of Gallardo — he must still pass his club physical before the deal becomes official — marks the latest move in a busy offseason for the Orioles, who have spent nearly $250 million in free agent signings. The Orioles’ payroll for 2016 is already nearly $150 million.
“It’s letting all of us know that the front office is all in, too,” said Hardy, who is entering the second year of a three-year, $40-million extension signed during the 2014 postseason. “Everybody is all-in, so it’s good. It’s good to be player here. That’s why I wanted to stay back, because I felt they were going to do everything they possibly could to make this team as good as possible and that’s what they’re doing."
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, who accepted the Orioles’ $15.8-million qualifying offer to remain with the club, said he’s looking forward to working with Gallardo.
“He’s proven year in and year out he’s going to be able to compete and give you a chance to win games,” Wieters said. “From watching from the other side, watching him on the mound, I love the guy’s mentality on the mound and how he goes after it. He’s as consistent a starter as there’s been. Not only does it help our staff because he’s a great pitcher, it also makes the staff that much deeper and everybody feed off each other.”
The Orioles ability to sign Gallardo -- whose market was slow to develop because he was tied to draft-pick compensation -- to a below-market deal during spring training, is much like two years ago, when the Orioles signed qualifying offer free agents Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz well into spring training.
The Orioles might not be done because they are still pursuing outfielder Dexter Fowler, who is one of two remaining free agents tied to draft-pick compensation.
“I think it says a lot about the commitment to winning,” Wieters said. “We were able to get a lot of guys back from last year’s team who we didn’t know would be back and to be able to add on top of that definitely lets you know that ownership is ready to win now, which is a great feeling being in the clubhouse. As far as 2014 and this year, every year kind of feels a little bit different. I feel like those signings were more out of the blue and we weren’t really hearing about it a lot, as opposed to Yovani and the outfielder we’ve been hearing about for the last two or three weeks, it seems like.”
The addition of Gallardo also eliminates a competition for the fifth starting rotation spot. The club’s rotation is now essentially set with right-handers Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Miguel Gonzalez, Kevin Gausman and Gallardo.
Wieters said he wasn’t concerned about the club fielding an entirely right-handed rotation.
“For me as a catcher, if you can get guys out, I don’t care whether you throw right-handed or left-handed or you kick it up there with your foot,” Wieters said. “If you can get guys out, we’ll put you on the mound.”
Around the horn:
First baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo reported to camp on Sunday, as did Orioles minor league player of the year Trey Mancini. This offseason was a busy one for Mancini, who completed the final six credits he needed to get his political science degree from Notre Dame.