Some thoughts on Orioles acquring Vidal Nuno and designating T.J. McFarland - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Some thoughts on Orioles acquring Vidal Nuno and designating T.J. McFarland

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

The Orioles need a versatile, left-handed reliever in 2017 who can get lefty hitters out, but also could pitch multiple innings.

That’s what they believed they received Sunday evening when they dealt away right-handed minor leaguer Ryan Moseley to the Los Angeles Dodgers for left-handed reliever Vidal Nuno, a move first reported by The Baltimore Sun.

“Our scouts like how Nuno competes in the American League and old-school baseball people will appreciate how he works fast, throws strikes and changes speeds,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. “We look forward to his contributions to the 2017 club.”

To make room for Nuno on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated lefty T.J. McFarland for assignment.

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Here’s why the move to acquire the 29-year-old Nuno makes sense:

One, he’s tremendously versatile. In his first four seasons in the majors, he made 42 starts and 84 relief appearances. He’s better as a reliever (3.14 ERA) than as a starter (4.40 ERA), and he should remain in the bullpen with the Orioles. Relief appears to be his best role; he was 1-1 with a 3.53 ERA in 55 games for the Seattle Mariners in 2016. He also has a minor-league option remaining, which is a plus for a team that loves to shuttle its relievers from the minors to the majors to keep everyone healthy and rested.

Two, Nuno is experienced. This will be his fifth major-league season and his sixth big league organization, though he never played for the Dodgers – they acquired him this offseason from Seattle in a trade for catcher Carlos Ruiz – or for the Cleveland Indians, the club that selected him in the 48th round of the 2009 draft.

Nuno made his big-league debut in 2013 with the New York Yankees, spending parts of two seasons in the Bronx. He posted a 4.78 ERA in 22 games (17 starts) before being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy in 2014. So, Nuno isn’t a stranger to the AL East. (Coincidentally, Nuno also was part of the 2015 trade between Seattle and Arizona that included Orioles slugger Mark Trumbo and new catcher Welington Castillo).

Third, he takes the ball, and possesses a short memory. He’s the kind of a guy that can sit for days and then deliver a solid performance – he has a 1.69 ERA in 22 relief appearances in which he had four or more days of rest. But he’s also fine on back-to-back days – he has posted a 2.52 ERA in 31 appearances in which he has had no or one day’s rest.

Fourth, the Orioles didn’t give up much – at least at this point. Moseley, 22, was an eighth-round pick last year out of Texas Tech and pitched 12 games in relief at Short-A Aberdeen, compiling a 3.20 ERA. Maybe he’ll be a major-league reliever one day, but Nuno can help the team now.  Duquette once again found a legitimate major leaguer that didn’t have a spot on his current team. The Dodgers needed room on their 40-man roster for newly signed outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, and Nuno was the odd man out. Also, Nuno isn’t expensive if he succeeds; he’s owed $1.125 million in 2017 and can’t be a free agent until after the 2019 season.

Most important, the Orioles didn’t have a lefty reliever in the bullpen besides rookie Donnie Hart and closer Zach Britton. Hart did an excellent job last year, but at this point in his career he’s best facing mostly lefties. McFarland was competing for the long-man job, but he had a disastrous, injury-riddled 2016 in which he posted a 6.93 ERA in 16 appearances. So, the Orioles filled the void with a guy who had success in the role last year.

Here’s why this move may not make sense:

Nuno is a flyball pitcher. He relies on a 90-mph fastball, a good slider and a changeup, but a lot of times those pitches go flying – 42 percent of all contact made against Nuno in his career have been flyballs, according to FanGraphs. And some of those end up going over the fence. He’s allowed 53 homers in 329 1/3 innings in his career. That’s not a good thing for someone pitching half his games at Camden Yards.

The other negative of the deal – or at least a potential by-product – is that the club could lose McFarland, who is one of manager Buck Showalter’s trusted soldiers and a favorite among the players. The 27-year-old McFarland, when he is going well, is a groundball machine who can give the club important bridge innings. He has done that in the past, most notably in 2014 when he had a 2.76 ERA in 37 games.

The problem is McFarland wasn’t that guy last year or for much of 2015, and he is out of options, which means he’d have to stick on the club this season or potentially be lost to waivers anyway. Since his value has taken a hit and he can’t be optioned, it’s very possible McFarland clears waivers and remains with the Orioles. So, he might end up at Norfolk attempting to get things turned around.

Bottom line: With the exception of Nuno being a flyball pitcher, there is little here not to like. Nuno serves a need, is a major-league pitcher and didn’t cost anything.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Boot of Reality

    February 19, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    How about his 5.28 ERA, 1.598 WHIP, .328 opponent BA, .365 opponent OBP or .951 opponent OPS away from Seattle?

    • Dan Connolly

      February 19, 2017 at 10:18 pm

      Well, he made 28 road appearances and in 2 of those he gave up a total of 14 hits and 10 runs. The only two games in 2016 — road or home — when he gave up more than 2 runs in an appearance. That sure goes a long way toward screwing up his road numbers.

  2. KingCharles

    February 19, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    I really didn’t think we needed to add anymore pitchers. I thought we could win with the rotation we had last season. It just seemed like the Orioles as a whole ran out of gas in the wildcard game against the Blue Jays. I’m a little worried about Nuno’s flyballs becoming homeruns at the smaller Camden Yards. I really think it’s all about guys getting proper rest, good rotations and not being over worked, so we can win more games late in the season and in the postseason. We will see how things turn out this season.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 20, 2017 at 10:17 am

      You can always add depth. Especially left-handed.

  3. DiamondJim

    February 20, 2017 at 8:28 am

    I applaud the O’s for trying to upgrade the lefty corps in the bullpen. And the move for Nuno looks like a good one. Donnie Hart did well in a short stint last season, but the O’s know that he’ll probably take his share of lumps in a long season, especially with all the games we play against the offense-heavy teams from the AL East. And is any O’s fan really concerned about losing TJ McFarland??

    • Dan Connolly

      February 20, 2017 at 10:13 am

      The answer appears to be yes. Below.

  4. Boog Robinson Robinson

    February 20, 2017 at 9:54 am

    All I can think is that it’ll be a crying shame if we lose McFarland. I was looking for a bounce back kinda season from him this year. He’s only 27, was injured a bit over that past year, but he’s seasoned, versatile and probably about ready to enter his prime.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 20, 2017 at 10:16 am

      I think we do forget how young he is. Just a few months older than Wilson and Wright.

  5. Benana

    February 20, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    Maybe those long balls led to his 5 wins 20 losses record.

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