The annual hot-stove season typically slows down during the holidays, so starting today there’s not much that will happen in the baseball world until after the New Year's holiday.
That’s not to say nothing happens. Teams can still talk to agents. Trades can still be discussed, but for the most part, there’s very little movement in terms of actual transactions.
That break is probably a good thing for both sides in the Orioles’ attempt to retain first baseman Chris Davis. There has been little progress on that front heading into Christmas, according to sources. Davis’ agent, Scott Boras, is looking for a deal that would pay Davis at least $24 million annually, and the Orioles are determined that they’re not going to bid against themselves for Davis’ services.
But once the calendar flips to 2016, it's another week closer to spring training. Sometimes calmer heads prevail. It’s pretty obvious that the Orioles still want Davis and Davis still wants to be in Baltimore. The question is, are the sides willing to meet somewhere in the middle? Who is going to budge? There doesn’t look to be much budging right now.
Duquette lauds Kim
The Orioles announced the signing of South Korean outfielder Hyun-soo Kim on Wednesday. It did take a couple of days for Kim’s physical to be completed, and given the Orioles’ reputation for meticulous physicals, the delay raised some concern. Ultimately the deal was done, so there was no reason to worry.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette lauded Kim’s on-base capabilities, but said he was most impressed by Kim’s ability to hit to all fields. He believes that’s the sign that Kim’s plate discipline will translate to the major leagues. He’s a patient hitter, so he’s able to wait on the ball, go the other way with it and still hit with power.
Kim didn’t get to meet with the media Wednesday because the deal was completed just before the holidays, so it really didn’t allow the club to put together a normal news conference, especially considering Korean media would be trying to flock to Baltimore.
Orioles didn't want to lose Berry
It's a little surprising that the Orioles made left-hander Tim Berry available to be claimed on waivers. Berry was claimed Wednesday by the Miami Marlins.
There was a lot of waiver movement Wednesday – three Orioles players alone were claimed by other teams – and that’s expected right before the holidays. Teams trying to create 40-man roster space are typically trying to slip players through waivers right before the holiday.
The Orioles didn’t want to lose Berry. They were simply trying to remove him from the 40-man roster to give them some space later. Despite a forgettable 2015 season, Berry was still promising enough for the Marlins to swipe. The Orioles didn’t give up on Berry, they just took a gamble that no one would claim a pitcher that was coming off as bad of a season as Berry had in 2015. They obviously lost that gamble.
Just two years ago, Berry was one of the Orioles’ top left-handed pitching prospects. Coming off a strong year at High-A Frederick, the organization placed him on the 40-man roster to protect him from being selected in that year’s Rule 5 draft.
Berry had another solid year at Double-A Bowie in 2014, but when a crowded staff at Triple-A Norfolk forced him to stay at Bowie, he sputtered.
Berry started the season 2-7 with a 7.75 ERA in 15 starts at Bowie before he was sent to the bullpen. But he pitched better in relief. Six of his eight relief appearances were scoreless, and some in the Orioles organization were eager to see what Berry could do in a full season of relief work, especially given how valuable lefty relievers can be.
The Orioles definitely need to develop their minor league pitching, and it’s a tough pill to swallow that they lost a promising arm like Berry on the waiver wire. They can’t have their prospects do well elsewhere.
De Aza deal with Mets
There are several players whose markets are still developing , but here’s one example that free-agent money is still flowing.
On Wednesday, the New York Mets signed outfielder Alejandro De Aza to a one-year, $5.75 million deal that could go up to $7 million with incentives.
Yup, that’s the same De Aza who was the Orioles’ starting left fielder last Opening Day. The same one who couldn’t duplicate his strong end to the 2014 season after the Orioles acquired him from the Chicago White Sox. De Aza was designated for assignment in June and eventually traded to the Boston Red Sox.
De Aza posted a .293/.341/.537 slash line in 20 games with the Orioles after arriving in Baltimore from the White Sox in 2014. He was given the starting left field spot last year, but struggled. De Aza hit just .214/.277/.359 in 30 games, prompting a shuffle of candidates to fill the corner-outfield spots.
He played well in his brief time in Boston despite being in a crowded outfield mix, hitting .292/.347/.484 in 60 games. And when the Red Sox traded him to the San Francisco Giants, he posted a .387 on-base percentage in 24 games.
De Aza can be a great player in flashes. The Orioles thought they had captured lightning in a bottle at the end of 2014, but he hasn’t been able to maintain that over a full season.
Still, he was able to get a pretty good one-year deal.