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


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

In a month full of surprising free agent moves, perhaps the most eye-opening of all was the news that the Los Angeles Dodgers granted newly signed pitcher Scott Kazmir an opt-out after the first year of his three-year contract.

The Orioles were interested in Kazmir, to be sure, but they have no interest in opt-outs, which are rapidly becoming the most desired bauble on every free agent’s shopping list.

Opt-outs aren’t exactly new. Scott Boras negotiated one for Alex Rodriguez when he signed with Texas last decade. A-Rod used the opt-out to negotiate the absurd 10-year contract that still has two years to run.

But, this offseason, Zack Greinke opted out of his deal with the Dodgers to sign a megacontract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. That came right after David Price got the right to leave the Boston Red Sox after three years of his seven-year, $213 million deal.

Opt-outs are commonplace in the NBA, too, and every big name player seemingly has one. In baseball, Jason Heyward negotiated two opt-outs in his new deal with the Chicago Cubs.

Kazmir’s contract for three years and $48 million isn’t shocking. As was written yesterday, he compares statistically with Ubaldo Jimenez, and he got a four-year, $50 million contract two free agent seasons ago.

But, what is shocking is that a left-hander who has a 98-90 record was able to negotiate the right to sell himself next year in a free agent class likely to have many fewer appetizing choices than this year’s.

Earlier this month at FanFest, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was asked about Heyward’s deal.

“These contracts that have outs, I don’t understand these contracts, because if the players don’t perform well, it’s not like they’re returning huge sums of money they’re getting. If they do well, they’re allowed to become free agents,” Duquette said. “I don’t really understand that type of structure. That type of structure wouldn’t work for the Orioles. I know that.”

Duquette’s disdain for opt-outs is understandable and widely shared, but it will be interesting to see if the club will bend on its policy.

For years, the club refused to give four year contracts to free agent pitchers. Two years ago, they relented and gave one to Jimenez and earlier this month granted one to Darren O’Day.

Kazmir’s signing gives the Dodgers a projected rotation of five left-handers, and increases the Orioles chances that they’ll have an all right-handed rotation.

Of course, the team could also reunite with Wei-Yin Chen, who may be the best pitcher still on the market, but his current demands are far beyond what the Orioles are willing to pay.

Many thought the Dodgers were a likely landing spot for Chen. Arizona, Kansas City and San Diego all have expressed interest in Chen, too.

The Orioles remain interested in Yovanni Gallardo, but now that Kazmir got that opt-out, perhaps he wants one, too.

If Chen and Gallardo go elsewhere, the Orioles are likely to go the one-year route and sign a pitcher with question marks. Doug Fister, Mat Latos and Cliff Lee have all been mentioned.

Isn’t it interesting that as 2015 ends, the Orioles have yet to officially lose a free agent?

They re-signed O’Day and Matt Wieters, are engaged with Chris Davis, and have some level of interest in Chen. Gerardo Parra is reportedly waiting for other outfielders to sign, but he has some teams interested, and Steve Pearce is lurking—waiting for the right January offer.

Of all those, Pearce was initially seen as the most likely to return to the Orioles, and he still may. He won’t get an opt-out.

With six weeks to go before spring training begins, the Orioles will still look for that elusive fifth starter, try and secure the two remaining question marks in the lineup and sign their many arbitration-eligible players to contracts.

In the first two months of free agency, the Orioles brought back the two free agents, added Mark Trumbo in a trade that cost them little and signed South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim to play left field, but they still have much, much more to do.

NOTE: Matt Wieters and his wife Maria are matching donations of up to $20,000 through midnight tonight made to BARCS (The Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter).

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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."