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Is it in Orioles' best interest to keep Brian Matusz?


Is it in Orioles' best interest to keep Brian Matusz?

While everyone is correctly fixated on the fate of the Orioles’ six free agents, there are others who could become free agents next month.

Ten players are eligible for arbitration and must be tendered contracts by Dec. 2, or else they’ll be free agents.

Some are easy. Of course the Orioles will tender contracts to Zach Britton, Miguel Gonzalez, Manny Machado and Chris Tillman.

Brad Brach will be tendered, too. He’s an important part of their bullpen.

But there are five others who are eligible: Ryan Flaherty, Paul Janish, David Lough, Brian Matusz and Nolan Reimold.

Flaherty, who made just over $1 million in 2015, and Janish, who has never earned more than $825,000 in any of his seven seasons, are good bets to be back in 2016.

Both are excellent infielders, and in Flaherty’s case, a useful spare outfielder, too.

Reimold, who just turned 32, may return, too. He was healthy all season for the first time in four years last season, and could fit as a spare part depending on what else the team does this offseason.

Lough probably won’t be back. He was outrighted in August and finished the season with the Orioles only because Adam Jones was hurt in September.

He’s a good outfielder and is helpful in center, but manager Buck Showalter says the team needs to find better backups for Jones and J.J. Hardy at shortstop.

Janish takes care of the Hardy issue, but the Orioles would like someone better than Lough on hand to help if Jones is hurt again next season.

Matusz is the biggest issue. A year away from free agency, Matusz has gotten an $800,000 bump in each of his last two offseason, and it’s hard to see the Orioles doing that again. He made $3.2 million in 2015, and a $4 million salary may be hard to justify for a pitcher who threw just 49 innings in 2016.

Matusz, who had surgery in his non-throwing shoulder last month, in some ways had his best season in 2015. His WHIP was a career-low 1.184 and his ERA of 2.94 was also his best.

But, he was used in 58 games. 10 fewer than the year before. Often, Matusz is brought into games to protect a lead, but in 2015 there weren’t as many leads to protect.

He’d love to be a starter again, but it won’t happen with the Orioles. In his most frustrating time with the team, 2011, Matusz allowed more than three home runs and nearly 15 hits per nine innings.

Last year, he gave up fewer than one home run and just seven hits per nine innings, and he’s now striking out more than a batter per inning.

Many clubs will value Matusz, and there are some who would take a crack at him as a starter.

Others may be willing to pay him more than the Orioles would as a situational left-hander. In 2015, he held lefties to a .186 average. Strangely, four of the five home runs he allowed were to left-handers.

In 2012 and 2013, the Orioles traded two arbitration eligible players, Robert Andino and Jim Johnson because they didn’t think they were worth the money they’d get in arbitration.

Neither has been a consistently good major leaguer since. Johnson has pitched for four teams, and Andino played Independent ball last year.

The Orioles could decide that Matusz would be useful for them in 2016—even at $4 million or so—or could trade him.

But, because teams know that he could be non-tendered, they’d be unlikely to trade much in value for them.
The Orioles received David Freitas, Trayvon Robinson and Jemile Weeks for Andino and Johnson, and the return for Matusz may be as paltry.

It’s probably in the Orioles’ best interest to hang on to Matusz for another year—unless someone offers something a little better than what they got for Andino and Johnson.

NOTES: The Orioles have added an additional exhibition game to their spring schedule. They’ll play the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Friday Apr. 1 at 6:05 p.m.

Grapefruit League play concludes March 31, and the Orioles will have an off day on Apr. 2, work out at Oriole Park on Apr. 3 before beginning their season on Apr. 4 against Minnesota.

-Left-handed pitcher Cesar Cabral has signed a minor league contract with the Orioles after declaring for free agency. Cabral pitched in two games for the Orioles in June. The club also re-signed left-handed pitcher Ashur Tolliver to a minor league contract.

Former Orioles Quintin Berry and Taylor Teagarden filed for minor league free agency from the Cubs after being outrighted.

Steve Lombardozzi, who played part of the 2014 season with the Orioles, signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox.

[RELATED: Orioles need a better 2016 from Tillman to contend]

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Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

USA Today Sports

Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

SARASOTA, Fla. -- A person familiar with the negotiations says pitcher Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract.

The deal includes performance bonuses, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the deal had not yet been announced.

Tillman was 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts and five relief appearances last year. He would be the second starter added by the Orioles in the past week after right-hander Andrew Cashner.

Tillman likely would join right-handers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Cashner in the rotation.

The 29-year-old right-hander lives in Sarasota and had been working out at the Orioles' facility before spring training. Manager Buck Showalter watched Tillman throw and was impressed.

Tillman began last season on the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness.

"Better than he did last year at this time. I think he's got the chance to pitch well for somebody this year," Showalter said. "A lot of the challenges he had last year -- this time last year -- aren't there. Somebody's going to reap the benefits."

Tillman's is 73-55 with a 4.43 ERA in nine major league seasons, all with the Orioles. He won 16 games in both 2013 and 2016.

"He's a guy when he's healthy you can bank on him giving you 200 innings and keeping his ERA between a 3 and a 4," Gausman said. "That in the AL East is always going to be very valuable."


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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

Live baseball is close to gracing our television screens again. The Orioles haven't had the most active offseason, to put it mildly. Fans are still wondering who will make up more than half the spots in this year's rotation, and Manny Machado's upcoming free agency is looming over every decision the organization makes.

Still, it's exciting to be able to follow the team again. Not every game is televised, so get ready to constantly refresh your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll be comforting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Jonathan Schoop is building on his breakout season, or if top-prospect Austin Hays is all he's cracked up to be (spoiler: he is).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing in the next few weeks. The O's haven't yet made a big splash this offseason, but with the sheer volume of capable players still on the market, you have to wonder if they'll try to sign some impact players at bargain values.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the lineup or rotation has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be taking place while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for thier seasons, so bookmark this page to check on on the Orioles spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Orioles 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Feb. 26 - Tigers at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Cardinals at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 1 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Tuesday, Mar. 6 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 9 - Orioles at Blue Jays, 1:07 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 (SS) - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Phillies at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Orioles at Pirates, 1:05 pm 
Tuesday, Mar. 13 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 14 - Yankees at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Orioles at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 - Orioles at Mets, 1:10 pm 
Saturday, Mar. 17 (SS) - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Mets at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Orioles at Tigers, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Rays at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Orioles at Yankees, 6:35 pm 
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Mar. 27 (in Norfolk, VA) - Orioles at Tides (AAA), 3:05 pm