Twice in two days, now former Orioles named Steve took to Twitter to say good-bye and thank you.
On Thursday night, it was Steve Pearce, who signed with the Tampa Bay Rays, and 24 hours later, Steve Johnson tweeted his message of gratitude after signing a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers.
Johnson’s signing, which was first reported by MASNsports.com, includes an invitation to spring training.
“Thank you Baltimore! I want to thank the Orioles organization for the last 7 years. I had the opportunity to play for awesome coaches, teammates and eventually my hometown fans. Being part of the team to bring playoff baseball back to Baltimore in my debut year is something that will always be special to me. I’ll never forget it! Baltimore will always be home but I’m excited for a fresh start with the Texas Rangers,” he wrote.
Within two months, two native Baltimoreans, Johnson and yet another Steve, Clevenger, leave their hometown teams. Clevenger was sent to Seattle for Mark Trumbo and C.J. Riefenhauser.
Like Clevenger, Johnson was not originally drafted by the Orioles. The son of the popular former Orioles pitcher and now broadcaster, Dave Johnson came home in July 2009 when he arrived from Los Angeles in the George Sherrill trade.
Johnson was part of the magical 2012 run, going 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 12 games. He started four games and won three of them.
Hampered by injuries and ineffectiveness, Johnson hasn’t had success in the big leagues since. He was 1-1 with a 7.47 ERA in nine games in 2013 and last year had a 10.13 ERA in six games.
Johnson’s time in the Orioles organization nearly ended shortly after it began. He was left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, and in Dec. 2009, the Giants selected him, but he didn’t make what turned out to be a World Series winning team, and was returned to Baltimore in March 2010.
It’s best for Steve that he gets an opportunity to pitch somewhere else, and here’s a hope that he’ll prosper with Texas.
Meanwhile, Yovani Gallardo, who pitched for the Rangers last year, remains unsigned. It’s becoming increasingly clear that if the Orioles want Gallardo badly enough, they can sign him.
He’s one of three remaining free agents whose signing would require the Orioles to forfeit their first round draft pick: Ian Desmond and Dexter Fowler are the others.
On Friday, Howie Kendrick re-signed with the Dodgers for two years.
Doug Fister, who the Orioles had shown interest in, signed a one-year, $7 million contract, with the Houston Astros on Thursday.
The Astros had shown interest in Gallardo, too. So had Colorado, but those reports were considered overblown.
Losing the 14th pick, which could turn out to be the 13th if Desmond signs with Tampa Bay, is quite a deterrent.
The last time the Orioles lost their first round pick was in 2014 when they signed Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz. That meant their first pick can in the third round, and the pick, Brian Gonzalez had an awful year in Delmarva in 2015, going 4-9 with a 5.17 ERA.
Gonzalez, who was invited to minicamp in 2015, didn’t get another invitation for this year’s.
The Orioles’ fourth round pick, Pat Connaughton is seating on the bench for the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers.
So far, only two players from that draft have distinguished themselves, David Hess and Tanner Scott, who were selected in the rounds following Connaughton.
The Orioles need another starter, but they also need badly to replace some of the prospects who were sent away last year when they tried to fill another hole, right field.
A fifth starter is important, but if Kevin Gausman, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman don’t all pitch well, that fifth starter won’t matter very much.
It’s obvious that in the coming Collective Bargain Agreement talks that the qualifying offer rules will be a contentious topic. This year, a record 20 players received qualifying offers, and for the first time, three players took them including Matt Wieters.
So far, eight of the 17 who signed have returned to their previous team, and it wouldn’t be crazy to see Fowler (Cubs) and Gallardo (Rangers) re-sign. Desmond is not coming back to the Nationals.
MORE ORIOLES: New Ray Pearce thanks Orioles fans