I had my fourth radio show on WOYK 1350 on Monday – you can listen here or download it as a BaltimoreBaseball.com podcast from iTunes – and one of my guests was Marc Carig, who covered the Orioles for The Washington Post about a decade ago.
Carig is now the New York Mets beat writer for Newsday, and he had a chance to watch right-hander Gabriel Ynoa pitch for a chunk of 2016.
His assessment is exactly what I gathered from talking to other people: The Orioles may have gotten a steal last Friday when they traded cash considerations to the Mets for the 23-year-old Ynoa.
Carig said he was a bit surprised that the Mets gave up on Ynoa, and that it was more because of a crowded 40-man roster than anything Ynoa did or didn’t do. Carig said the emergence of right-handers Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo “bumped Ynoa down the ladder,” and when the Mets had to make a 40-man roster move to make room for free-agent relievers, Ynoa became “the odd man out.”
Carig, however, still believes that Ynoa, a sinkerballer with good control, can be an effective major league starter, and he thinks the plan detailed by Orioles’ executive vice president Dan Duquette is right on: Insert Ynoa into the Triple-A rotation and let him sink or swim there instead of moving him between the rotation and long relief in the majors the way the Mets did.
Although he doesn’t have the same upside as Ynoa, Carig also believes 26-year-old right-hander Logan Verrett, whom the Orioles acquired from the Mets in November for cash considerations, can help the Orioles this year.
I asked Carig whether he thought Verrett, whom the Orioles had briefly as a Rule 5 player two springs ago, was a legitimate major-league pitcher. Carig immediately said yes. He thinks Verrett may have put too much pressure on himself when he was given an opportunity to stick in the Mets’ rotation. But as a swingman/long reliever, Carig thinks Verrett will do fine in Baltimore.
Check out the link above for more of the interview.
Castillo’s WBC decision a questionable one
Also as part of Monday’s show, I talked with MASNSports.com’s Roch Kubatko about a few issues facing the Orioles this spring. One of the more intriguing developments is the involvement of several players in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
Kubatko points out that the initial concern was about the workload for young Team USA pitcher Mychal Givens, but the Orioles have received assurances that his use will be monitored and he won’t be called on to make multiple-inning appearances.
And that, Kubatko said, means the club’s biggest concern now is catcher Welington Castillo’s decision to play for the Dominican Republic team. I share the Orioles’ disappointment on that one.
Yes, playing for your country is a real honor. And that’s especially important for players that come from Latin American countries where baseball is king and being able to compete with much bigger nations is a tremendous source of pride.
Plus, Castillo is 30; he may never get this chance again. So, I get why he would feel drawn to play for the Dominican. But it just seems like a bad idea given that he is entering his first – and perhaps only – year with the Orioles. He doesn’t have a relationship with the club’s pitchers yet. He isn’t known for his defense. And he’s replacing Matt Wieters, an exceptionally popular player among teammates, including pitchers.
This is a huge year for Castillo, who was non-tendered by the Arizona Diamondbacks in November. A productive season at Camden Yards and he could be looking at a financial windfall next winter. A slow start — offensively, defensively or both — could really hamper him throughout the summer.
It’s admirable he wants to play for his country. But his first priority should have been the team that is paying him to perform in 2017 and the new pitchers he must learn.
O’s sign Johnson as inexpensive insurance, good story
Chris Johnson may not be the best on-field fit for the Orioles. He’s 32, has had consecutive down seasons and basically only plays the corner infield, where the Orioles are set.
But the Orioles have tried to get him for years, partially because they like his grittiness and partially because no one in the organization knows the veteran better than Triple-A Norfolk manager Ron Johnson, Chris’ dad.
The younger Johnson likely will play this year for his father at Norfolk, but is a cheap insurance policy in case Manny Machado, Chris Davis and/or Mark Trumbo get hurt. Johnson is still owed $9 million this year (and $1 million as part of a buyout in 2018), which is the responsibility of the Cleveland Indians.
So, the Orioles are only on the hook for the prorated league minimum (of $535,000) if Johnson plays at the major-league level at all in 2017.
At worst, they have a cool, father-son story at Norfolk. At best, they have a seasoned veteran available at the lowest possible salary.