When you look over the initial list of Orioles minor league signings released late Tuesday afternoon, there’s some real insight into how the club operates.
The kneejerk fan reaction is always to belittle the signings. They’re not to take the place of major free agent deals, but to augment them, and players who are signed and invited to major league camp are important, not only to the Orioles, but to Norfolk and Bowie, too.
Last year, four players from outside the organization were signed to minor league contracts with spring training invitations played for the Orioles: Paul Janish, Chris Parmelee, old friend Nolan Reimold and Chaz Roe.
Another, Ryan Lavarnway, who was picked up on waivers, but later outrighted and signed to a minor league deal before spring training, made the team.
Steve Johnson, who had been with the organization, was re-signed to a minor league contract and was a late season addition.
Cesar Cabral was another minor league signing, but he never made it to major league camp, but did pitch briefly for the Orioles in June.
Cabral was one of the eight whose signing was announced on Tuesday. The left-hander pitched in 12 games for the Yankees in 2013 and 2014.
Ozzie Martinez, who conceivably could play short at Norfolk with Steve Tolleson at second, is back with the team. Martinez was credited in helping Bowie’s young pitchers develop. He has 34 games of major league experience with the Marlins in 2010 and 2011.
Audry Perez is also back. Perez caught for the Tides in 2015 and had cameos with St. Louis in 2013 and 2014.
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Tolleson, who delivered some key hits in 2012 came home, too. He’ll have stiff competition to make the club as a utility infielder with Janish and Ryan Flaherty around, but he’s a steadying presence in the clubhouse.
Pedro Beato gets another shot, too. Beato was the 32nd overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Orioles, but was lost in the Rule 5 draft in 2010. After stops with the Mets, Red Sox and Braves, Beato returned to the organization last spring training and had a creditable season with Norfolk.
Todd Redmond has returned. Redmond was claimed on waivers in Feb. 2013, and lost to the Blue Jays on waivers several weeks later. Redmond pitched in 66 games for Toronto in the last three seasons.
The only player who on the list who doesn’t have Orioles ties is Ji-Man Choi. Choi is a first baseman from Inchon, South Korea, who spent five seasons in the Seattle Mariners’ organization.
Choi has a .302 minor league average, but lost much of the last two seasons to injuries and a PED suspension.
The most interesting name on the list is Ashur Tolliver. His name is known only to fans of Orioles’ Maryland affiliates.
Tolliver was the Orioles’ fifth round draft choice in 2009, and has toiled away in obscurity since. The 2009 class failed to produce a major leaguer until Mychal Givens made his major league debut last June.
But, Tolliver like Givens, is illustrative in the way the Orioles develop players.
Givens was the Orioles second round selection in 2009 as a middle infielder, but after three frustrating seasons, the team decided to try him as a relief pitcher, and the results were astonishing.
After a terrific last two months with the team, it’s possible that Givens could be the setup man this year assuming Darren O’Day departs.
Tolliver has pitched for Aberdeen, Delmarva, Frederick and Bowie since 2009, and last year got an invitation to the Arizona Fall League.
Like Givens, and some of the other young pitchers at Bowie, Christopher Lee and Andrew Triggs, Tolliver is skilled at avoiding the home run ball. He’s allowed just 15 in 239 2/3 innings over six minor league seasons.
Unlike some other teams, the Orioles have shown patience with young, unheralded pitchers, and it paid off last year with Givens and Oliver Drake belatedly making their major league debuts.
Drake, who’ll turn 29 in January, has been in the organization even longer than Givens and Tolliver. He was selected out of Navy in 2008.
The Orioles also added Parker Bridwell to their roster last week. Bridwell, like Tolliver, has never pitched above Double-A, and he’s been in the organization since 2010.
It took Bridwell until his fifth season to advance past the Shorebirds, but he’s been higher on prospect rankings than Tolliver.
Because the Orioles can’t spend with the biggest market teams, they’re forced to be more inventive, and they’re hoping with Tolliver and Bridwell, their patience will be rewarded in 2016 and beyond.
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