SARASOTA, FLA. — News of the Orioles' pending addition of right-hander Yovani Gallardo — and the front office's message that their unprecedented spending would continue into spring training — was welcomed inside the club's clubhouse Sunday morning.
After a lengthy negotiation process, Gallardo agreed to terms Saturday on a three-year deal that will guarantee him $35 million. He is expected to arrive at the Ed Smith Stadium complex on Monday or Tuesday to take his club physical, which he must pass before the deal is finalized.
"It's letting all of us know that the front office is all in, too," said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is entering the second year of a three-year, $40 million extension. "Everybody is all in, so it's good. It's good to be a 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."
The Orioles now have invested nearly $250 million this offseason in free-agent contracts. Most of that comes from Chris Davis' club-record seven-year, $161 million deal, but the team also retained reliever Darren O'Day on a four-year, $31 million deal and catcher Matt Wieters with a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer. The team also ventured into the international free-agent market by signing outfielder Hyun Soo Kim to a two-year, $7million deal.
With Gallardo, the Orioles' payroll is nearing $150 million, passing last year's record Opening Day payroll of about $119 million.
"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 [creates] a great feeling being in the clubhouse."
The Orioles had to forfeit their first-round draft pick (14th overall) to sign Gallardo, who required draft-pick compensation after declining the Texas Rangers' qualifying offer. And even after adding Gallardo, the Orioles might not be done spending. The team still is pursuing outfielder Dexter Fowler, who also is tied to draft-pick compensation and would cost the Orioles their second pick (28th overall).
The addition of Gallardo, who turns 30 Saturday, upgrades the Orioles' starting rotation — a unit that posted a 4.53 ERA last year, second worst in the American League — and squashes any rotation competition. The team now has its starting five complete: Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kevin Gausman, Miguel Gonzalez and Gallardo, all right-handers.
"Awesome,'' Tillman said. "I've seen nothing but good things from this guy and heard nothing but great things about this guy, so I don't see any problem with it. I'm all in. I like it."
Tillman said Gallardo, a nine-year major league veteran, brings an added measure of stability and experience to a rotation that struggled to pitch enough innings last year. Over the past seven years, Gallardo averaged 13 wins, 32 starts and 191 innings while posting a 3.69 ERA.
"Anytime you have a guy like that, it helps the whole group," Tillman said. "I see only positives coming from it. … I know he does the job and does the job well. We've got a couple guys who have been around him, and I've heard nothing but great things. It's exciting, it really is. I found out from other players who texted me. I think they're excited. We are all excited."
Gausman, who has yet to pitch a full season in the rotation, said having another experienced starter around will help him do that this year.
"To have a guy who's kind of been there and done that, season after season, is only going to make us better," Gausman said. "I think it makes our rotation a lot better. It gives also us a bunch of different looks. He's a real over-the-top guy, good breaking ball, real good fastball. I think it will play well in Camden Yards."
Hardy was a teammate of Gallardo's with the Milwaukee Brewers during Gallardo's first three big league seasons, and as the Orioles await the completion of their contract with the veteran right-hander, Hardy is excited to be reunited.
"He's an awesome guy," Hardy said of Gallardo, who was his teammate from 2007-09. "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."
Wieters said Gallardo has impressed him as an opposing pitcher, and he's looking forward to being his battery mate.
"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."
Jimenez dueled against Gallardo for several years in the National League — Jimenez came up with the Colorado Rockies, and Gallardo spent his first eight years with Milwaukee — and pitched against him in Triple-A. Jimenez said he's very familiar with Gallardo and believes he'll be a strong addition to the team, especially in interleague play.
"I know him a little bit," Jimenez said. "He's a great guy, a great competitor. He's going to go out there and try to do everything to win his game. Especially if we play against the National League, they better be careful, because he can make his own runs" at the plate.
The Orioles certainly are ready for Gallardo's arrival. Ever since they began negotiating with Gallardo in November, they've been preparing for his addition.
"I've looked at it ever since we thought it had a chance," manager Buck Showalter said. "You have to. You have to get ahead of it. We've already pulled up all our guys' and the potential guys' numbers versus opponents we face in April and against our division. We've got all of that. You could probably look at that and see where it might work. We do get to play with that in April before rain and a lot of other things get in the way. But as far as those things, I think that's to be determined."