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Orioles looking to add to their club as 2016 begins


Orioles looking to add to their club as 2016 begins

Was 2015 a good year for the Orioles?

For the first time in 30 years, the team secured, barely, its fourth consecutive non-losing season.

Chris Davis led the major leagues in home runs.

Manny Machado proved that two knee surgeries couldn’t prevent him from playing in every game as he demonstrated power and speed.

The bullpen continued to be terrific.

There were a number of not-so hopeful signs, too.

J.J. Hardy struggled offensively, and was often hurt.

Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman both had their poorest seasons in the Duquette-Showalter era.

As 2016 begins fans hope that it will be a better one for the Orioles, and there are signs that it could be.

A year ago, the Orioles had already lost three key members of their 2014 club to free agency: Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller.

There were questions whether Dan Duquette truly wanted to stay with the Orioles or move to Toronto to run the Blue Jays, and the team hadn’t done much in the offseason to improve on a team that handily won the American League East.

After 2014, only a World Series appearance would have been seen as an improvement, and that didn’t happen. The starting pitching wasn’t good enough.

But, so far this offseason, the Orioles retained two of their key free agents—and still haven’t lost any.

Matt Wieters returns—for 2016—at least, on a $15.8 million qualifying offer, and despite some fans fears, that hasn’t hindered the team from pursuing Davis.

Darren O’Day, who many considered a sure thing to leave, returns on a four-year $31 million contract, showing the fan base that the Orioles could accept the new reality of baseball economics.

Their offer to Davis, reported as 7 years, $150 million, probably doesn’t contain an opt-out and does contain substantial deferred money, is a fully competitive one—and far beyond what some of the frenzied fans thought they’d bid.

In fact, many of those who insisted that the Orioles couldn’t, absolutely couldn’t lose Davis, are now saying they shouldn’t spend that much money on the slugger and should look to spend the money elsewhere.

Well, they’re looking, and so are many other teams.

Seven weeks from now, spring training will be underway, and the team will look even more different than it does today.

Beyond the O’Day and Wieters’ signings, the Orioles acquired slugger Mark Trumbo, likely for a one-off in 2016, for relatively little, and signed South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, who no one has seen play.

It’s been a fascinating offseason, and the intrigue continues.

There are more free agents, quality ones, available at this stage than there have ever been.

Usually the term “January signing” takes on negative connotations. It’s a role player, a valuable one, but not likely one to change the team’s fortunes.

That’s not the case this time around. Davis, Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Desmons Alex Gordon and Justin Upton are all among the top 10 free agents on the market, and all are still available.
So are Wei-Yin Chen and Yovani Gallardo as well as some other credible starting pitchers.

Usually, there are only a few names still looking for new baseball homes and some decent players. This year there are both.

The number of teams looking to sign free agents has narrowed, too. Some have already spent big money, and others like the Orioles have not.

According to Baseballreference.com, the Orioles estimated payroll for 2016—including raises for arbitration-eligible players, is nearing $120 million. That’s about where it was last year.

Obviously, the payroll will be increased for 2016, and there’s still room for a quality signing or two, but Duquette and the Orioles seem to work better in a narrower field.

If there are fewer teams bidding on Chen or Davis, and there still aren’t any indications anyone else has stepped up for the slugger, that’s good news for the Orioles.

Normally, the time during the holidays is a quiet one in baseball, but the Los Angeles Dodgers, have two new free agent pitchers, Scott Kazmir and Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda.

That would seem to remove another bidder for Chen.

At the outset of free agency, Duquette said he hoped to sign “a couple” of the Orioles free agents.

It would be unlikely, though not unwelcome if he began 2016 by adding a couple more.

MORE ORIOLES: Orioles show no interest in offering opt-outs in free agent deals

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Orioles round out starting pitching rotation, finalize 4-year contract with Alex Cobb

USA Today Sports

Orioles round out starting pitching rotation, finalize 4-year contract with Alex Cobb

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Alex Cobb's comfort and familiarity with the AL East was the deciding factor in his decision to sign with the Baltimore Orioles.

"They used the AL East and the success I've had in it to their advantage," the 30-year-old right-hander said Wednesday after finalizing a $57 million, four-year contract. "They kept challenging me with it and I love the challenge of pitching in this division and they know that over the times we talked. They did a really good job of making me feel like this is where I need to be."

Cobb gets $14 million in each of the first three seasons and $15 million in 2021, and he would earn a $500,000 bonus in each year he pitches 180 innings. Baltimore will defer $6.5 million from this year's salary and $4.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

He gets $2 million of the deferred money on Nov. 30, 2022, and $1.8 million annually on Nov. 30 from 2023-32. If he doesn't pitch at least 130 innings in 2020, an additional $5.25 million of the final's year salary would get deferred, payable $1.75 million annually on Nov. 30 from 2033-35.


Cobb has a full no-trade this year, then can list 10 teams from 2019-21 that he cannot be dealt to without his consent.

He had spent his entire six-season big league career with Tampa Bay and was the last big-name starting pitcher available in a slow-moving free agent market. He joined Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman, who were signed last month, in a revamped rotation that includes holdovers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.

Cobb was 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA in 29 starts last season. He pitched 179 1/3 innings in his first full year back after missing nearly two seasons because of Tommy John surgery.

He had turned down the Rays' $17.4 million qualifying offer in November, and Baltimore pursued him from the start of free agency.

"They didn't stop bothering me the whole offseason," Cobb said. "They were very persistent, and I think that you notice that confidence they have in you just by the way they speak to you and the questions you ask and not questioning anything that's gone on. Everyone's got flaws that they come with and potential things you could really harp on that might not be your strong suit, but they never went down that avenue. They always told me how much they like certain aspects of what I do on and off the field, and just kept repeating how well I fit in here."


Cobb is 48-35 with a 3.50 in six big league seasons. Baltimore will lose its third-highest draft pick, currently No. 51, and the Rays get an extra selection after the first round as compensation.

Jose Mesa Jr. was designated for assignment Wednesday to clear a roster spot.

Baltimore opens on March 29 at home against Minnesota, but Cobb won't be ready to pitch then. He has agreed to be optioned to a minor league affiliate to help build up innings.

"I'm going to be pushing it as quick as I can," Cobb said. "That's going to be up to them. They've invested in me for a four-year period and as much as we know how much every game matters even early in April, we're going to have to look out for the overall future of this whole thing and whole contract and whatever they determine to be the way to protect me and my feedback from the bullpens I'm going to be throwing here in the next few days will probably determine the timeline."

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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."