I think it’s fair to say that if we all put down money on which free-agent Oriole from 2016 would be the first to re-sign with the big-league club this winter, none of us would have offered up Logan Ondrusek.
The Ondrusek family may not have guessed Ondrusek would be the first one re-signed.
The 6-foot-8 right-hander with the flowing mane agreed to a one-year, $650,000 deal with a 2018 club option, which was first reported by FanRag Sports on Monday night and confirmed by the Orioles on Tuesday.
A veteran reliever of five years with the Cincinnati Reds, the Orioles signed Ondrusek out of Japan last July and immediately promoted him to the majors. He pitched in seven games, allowed seven earned runs (9.95 ERA) and was designated for assignment in August. He cleared waivers and was sent back to the minors. His 2017 option was declined this November and he became a free agent. That seemed like it would be the end of the Orioles’ line for Ondrusek.
But now he is back – and again on the 40-man roster (which sits precariously at 39 players).
Giving Ondrusek a roster spot and big-league deal, to me, was a curious decision by executive vice president Dan Duquette, who said in a statement, “Logan brings veteran experience to our bullpen and his ability to induce ground balls is an asset to our pitching staff.”
Let’s face it, this is Duquette’s wheelhouse. There may be no one better – or more versed – in dealing outside of baseball’s margins. If he thinks this guy is worth a second look, who am I to judge?
But the contract did surprise me. So, I dug a little deeper into the specifics.
One, the $650,000 salary for 2017 isn’t guaranteed. The Orioles can recoup some of that if they cut him before Opening Day (the amount they save would depend on exactly when he was cut loose). The Orioles have made those decisions before – as recently as last spring with Miguel Gonzalez.
Secondly, the team option for 2018 is $1.5 million, so Ondrusek will make a nice increase in guaranteed money if he pitches well in 2017. That 2018 contract would be guaranteed if the option is picked up.
Third, Ondrusek, 31, could make a real bump in salary this upcoming season if he stays in the big leagues. His contract includes a $100,000 bonus when he reaches 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 appearances. So, he’d earn an extra $500,000 if he pitches in 60 games in 2017 (something he did in each of his first three seasons with the Cincinnati Reds from 2010-12). He’d receive the same appearance bonuses in 2018 if his option is picked up.
And here’s maybe the most important part of the Ondrusek decision. I’ve been told he can be sent to the minors in 2017 without passing through waivers, so it gives the Orioles a little flexibility – which is always important with the way Buck Showalter handles his bullpen.
Basically, there’s not a lot of risk here. They’ve secured Ondrusek’s services for next season, but can let him go at a percentage of the agreed salary or can have him in the minors for a spell. If his sinker returns to form, they could have him for two seasons. If not, they could cut him loose in, say, March.
Theoretically they wouldn’t be eating much money if they need the roster spot sooner.
So, yeah, not a big deal. But one worth looking into a bit as we wait for everything – or anything – else to occur.