Spring Training Primer: Orioles' outfield options expanding; Tillman's return; Mullins' moment - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Spring Training Primer: Orioles’ outfield options expanding; Tillman’s return; Mullins’ moment

Photo credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports

What’s happening – While many fans have been fixated on the additions to the starting staff over the last week, the Orioles have now added two veteran major leaguers in the last three days to compete for outfield jobs.

Obviously, the signings of Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman are important, but all offseason the Orioles had searched for left-handed hitting bats, too.

Many had linked the Orioles with Jarrod Dyson, Carlos Gonzalez and Jon Jay, but instead, they signed Alex Presley and Colby Rasmus.

Interestingly, the Orioles now have four candidates for outfield jobs who can play all three outfield positions. Besides Presley and Rasmus, they have right-handed hitters Craig Gentry and Joey Rickard.

Gentry, Presley and Rasmus were all signed to minor league contracts while Rickard, a former Rule 5 pick, is on the 40-man roster.

As Adam Jones has aged, the Orioles have looked for outfielders who can play center on occasion to spell Jones; Gentry, Presley, Rasmus and Rickard all have played center in their careers.

The Orioles also have made improving their defense a point of emphasis this spring.

“That was a challenge for us. We want to get better there,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We also want to have better depth to give Adam (Jones) some time. It’s something that was really a challenge for us. I don’t want guys playing because we don’t have somebody else.”

The signings of Gentry, Presley and Rasmus are low-risk because none is guaranteed a major league job.

Adding Presley and Rasmus increases the chances that top prospect Austin Hays begins the season in the minor leagues, especially since the Orioles may carry Anthony Santander for the first 44 days of the season to allow him to fulfill his Rule 5 requirements.

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Santander, a switch-hitter, does not play center field.

Jaycob Brugman, the player the Orioles designated for assignment to make room for Tillman on the 40-man roster, is primarily a left-handed hitting center fielder, but the team liked its other choices for center better.

** Tillman threw a bullpen session roughly two hours after his signing was made official Wednesday.

The first report of Tillman’s signing came Monday morning, and it took nearly 48 hours for the deal to be consummated.

“It is a relief. I’ve been stuck inside looking out the windows for the last three days, so it feels good to finally be able to join the team and get out and get my feet under me,” Tillman said.

The contract is worth $3 million guaranteed and could reach $10 million if Tillman eclipses certain innings requirements. According to FanRag Sports, some of the incentive money is deferred, but basically Tillman can earn a $1 million bonus for logging 125 innings and again for 150 innings; a $1.5 million bonus for reaching 175 and 190 innings and an additional $2 million bonus for hitting the 200-inning mark.

** The Orioles, who now have 63 players in camp, will play a four-inning intrasquad game at 12:30 p.m. today at Ed Smith Stadium.

Showalter says that few of his regulars will play in the intrasquad game because the team plays home games Friday and Saturday, and the regulars are likely to play then.

Something to think about – When camp began on Feb. 13, there were many roster spots still uncertain. Nine days later, there is less uncertainty.

Cashner’s and Tillman’s additions mean there is only one starter’s spot vacant. Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette floated Rule 5 draft pick Nestor Cortes’ name as a possibility.

The Orioles would like a left-hander in the starting rotation, and there aren’t many appetizing choices left in the free agent market.

The addition of Presley and Rasmus sharpens the outfield competition.

There are a few openings in the bullpen, and the competition for the backup catcher’s job will be keen.

Duquette mentioned that the team was still in the market for another infielder, and the jockeying for the utility spot will be fascinating to watch.

A name to consider – Cedric Mullins was not invited to spring training list year, but was often added as an extra player for Grapefruit League games.

The 5-foot-8 outfielder was slowed by a hamstring injury last season. He hit .265 with 13 home runs and 37 RBIs at Double-A Bowie.

“It was a very humbling experience, just knowing that I was getting the opportunity regardless of what I was able to put together last year along with the injuries,” Mullins, 23, said of his spring training invitation.

“It’s a great way to show that I’m back, I’m healthy and I’m able to perform.”

Mullins has speed, something lacking in the Orioles’ organization. He stole 30 bases in 2016 at Low-A Delmarva.

What they are saying — “Here’s a contract where Chris can give us the innings and if he pitches well, he can be rewarded and he could go back out on the market. Some people call these a pillow contract. The important thing for the player is you don’t fall asleep on that pillow contract.” — Dan Duquette on Tillman’s contract.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Dblack2508

    February 22, 2018 at 8:14 am

    John Jay would have been my choice to sign for the outfield spot. Good defense, gets on base, works the counts good. In principle I like the minor league contract of Rasmus, but he strikes out a ton.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 22, 2018 at 10:54 am

      He does. To me, Jay is the perfect fit. I just don’t know what the finances are. But it sure seems to me he’d be obtainable reasonably now

  2. Orial

    February 22, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Hitters striking out a lot shouldn’t even be a concern anymore,it’s in vogue(semi kidding). All this questionable glee over Tillman’s return still doesn’t answer my glaring question–is he healthy? if not why the return? I don’t see any more pitching moves and sadly see the outfield moves being complete though I still yearn for John Jay. Getting very curious with Arrietta,Cobb,Lynn. Starting to wonder where they will end up and for how much.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 22, 2018 at 10:55 am

      Ive been curious about their destinations and finances for a while now. Still a lot of good players available. And we won’t truly know about Tillman’s health until major league hitters tell us.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    February 22, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Mr. Duquette … R.A. Dickey is still lookig for a job …..

    • Dan Connolly

      February 22, 2018 at 10:55 am

      Yes he is. If he definitely wants to come back.

  4. ClyOs

    February 22, 2018 at 10:17 am

    ” Cashner’s and Tillman’s additions mean there is only one starter’s spot vacant.”

    Everyone keep talking as if Tillman is the confirmed fourth starter. I understand for 5 season’s he was a solid starter who was the ace of the staff. However based on how he performed when on the field in 2017, it would seem his shoulder is still an issue. His only win came in his first start of the season. After that he was horrible finishing the year 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA. I’m a wait and see guy, so I’m jumping on the Tillman’s back band wagon just yet, and the fact not a lot of teams showed an interest this offseason makes me think I’m not the only one. I mean the Orioles only did one year with incentives. Let wait and see how he does this spring before we pencil him in as the Tillman of old.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 22, 2018 at 10:57 am

      If anyone was convinced he were the Tillman of old he’d be penciled in as the No. 1 of this staff. But when you give a guy $3 million you are, indeed, giving him a starting spot. Especially in this organization.

  5. GSISDANNO

    February 22, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    You write about all the Orioles’ outfield options but their options are severely lacking. Presley and Rasmus are guys who failed elsewhere. What makes people feel they will be successful here?
    With the exception of Adam Jones, the Orioles’ corner outfield situation has been below par since Markakis left in 2014.
    I don’t understand how everyone is pencilling in Tillman as the 4th starter this year. Were they watching last season? He may have been the worst starting pitcher in the majors. It would be awesome if he returned to form this season but we can’t count on him yet. I am not sure he was even healthy last season.

    • Birdman

      February 22, 2018 at 2:14 pm

      I fully agree.

      Signing guys like Presley and Rasmus to minor league contracts is really nibbling at the edges, not making a significant upgrade. And, as you note, a lot of folks seem to be suffering from 2017 amnesia when it comes to Tillman. Tillman didn’t just have an “off year,” he was historically bad. This is borne out by the fact that reportedly not even one other team was willing to make Tillman a major league contract offer, and only a couple of teams were even interested enough to offer him a minor league contract.

      Yes, the signing of Cashman has been a modest upgrade to the team. But beyond that signing, the Orioles organization has done nothing to show fans that they are actually serious about fielding a competitive team in 2018.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        February 22, 2018 at 2:43 pm

        I believe hanging onto Manny alone, is a sign that they’re serious about fielding a competive team. How soon we forget how competive this core of players has been since 2014. Given a little luck in the pitching department, they could definately be competiive this year.

  6. willmiranda

    February 22, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    Just a dream, but I’d like to believe that D. J. Stewart has seen the light and can be this year’s Mancini. He’s still young, is a 20-20 man, and knows the strike zone. If he’s really 6-foot and
    230, as he’s listed, his power numbers aren’t a minor league fluke. Otherwise, the competition looks like a last-man-standing situation. Ditto the starting rotation.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 22, 2018 at 9:55 pm

      I think Hays is s better bet. But I am intrigued by Stewart a little.

  7. deqalt

    February 22, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    Dan,

    Do you not think the Orioles are in that bad spot of being half in on 2018? Signing a Lynn or CarGo is going for it as best they can. Manny is gone and there will be a rebuild why not do it now if your gonna sign players like Rasmus? Orioles fans would get a rebuild rather than this…

    • Dan Connolly

      February 22, 2018 at 9:58 pm

      Oh, I would certainly endorse an all-in or rebuild choice. But that’s not what these guys do. It’s not gonna happen. They don’t do extremes. The Astros lost 100 three years in a row. The Orioles have lost 100 or more twice in their franchise. Never under this ownership. So I construct everything I write with that prism in mind.

  8. willpatten

    February 22, 2018 at 10:24 pm

    I’m beginning to think that the obstacle to success is our manager. Maybe a young firebrand who is not entrenched in “track record” would appreciate what the fans already do: it’s a young man’s game. Bring up the kids and light a fire under their arses.

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