The Orioles have announced the signing of 31-year-old Colby Rasmus to a minor league deal, giving the outfielder another chance at the game he stepped away from last year.
Assuming Rasmus is ready to get back at it, the move makes plenty of sense.
It’s also a transaction that is going to be met with a series of shrugs from Orioles’ fans. Not only is this guy on the downside of a solid career, but he has a history of injuries and is a free-swinging type who strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk a ton (career .311 on-base percentage).
So why in the world would the Orioles want him?
Well, a former first rounder in 2005 who came up as a center fielder, he can play all three defensive spots in the outfield. That’s something the Orioles covet because they need right field help and they need someone who can occasionally spell Adam Jones in center.
They also desperately need a left-handed hitting outfielder. The only offensive players on their 40-man roster who hit left-handed are first baseman Chris Davis, catcher Chance Sisco and switch-hitters Anthony Santander and Engelb Vielma.
Also, this is a minor league deal for Rasmus. We’re not talking about a significant risk or expense here. If it doesn’t work out this spring, he either goes to Triple-A Norfolk or he goes away.
And, if he is healthy, the guy is a major leaguer. He batted .281 with nine homers in 37 games for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017 but didn’t play after June 18.
Initially, he went on the disabled list with left hip tendinitis – the same hip he had had surgically repaired during the 2016-17 offseason. But the Rays announced last July that Rasmus was stepping away from baseball and wouldn’t be playing again in 2017.
The Orioles have researched Rasmus and his off-field persona for years – manager Buck Showalter once visited him in Alabama when he previously was a free agent – and there is no concern that he won’t be able to fit seamlessly into the Orioles’ veteran clubhouse.
But, yeah, this guy is the ultimate crapshoot. You don’t know what he has left, mentally and physically, and he doesn’t exactly bring a new skill set to the club outside of hitting left-handed.
The bottom line for me is that I think it is an OK move (credit for first reporting it goes to mlb.com and The Baltimore Sun). And it has the possibility of becoming a Dan Duquette, Under-The-Radar Special that helps at some point in 2018.
But I also think this should not close the door on acquiring another left-handed outfielder. Jon Jay is still out there. So is Carlos Gonzalez. In my opinion, they are better players, better fits than Rasmus. They are also more expensive.
The question is how much more? If either one of those player’s demands plummet, the Orioles need to jump in – like they did with Nelson Cruz in 2014.
Rasmus is a fine Plan B, better than Alex Presley as Plan B.
But I’d still be looking for Plan A, even if it is late February.
Tillman’s deal official, and solid
Chris Tillman is officially an Oriole again, the club announcing Wednesday his one-year deal with incentives that could reach $10 million in 2018.
It seems like it’s been a mixed reaction in Birdland. Some fans wanted Tillman back at a reasonable, prove-it deal, and that’s what this is.
But others say it’s the same old Orioles — not paying for quality starting pitching.
Because I’m accustomed to the Orioles’ philosophy concerning large deals for free agent pitching – a philosophy that was cemented after Ubaldo Jimenez’s four-year, $50 million pact became arguably the worst in club history – I wasn’t expecting the Orioles to reel in any of the four top pitchers on the market (Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn).
Because three of those four are still available, fans are hammering the Orioles for adding Tillman and Andrew Cashner and not a Lynn, Arrieta or Cobb.
I say relax. If these two can be what they should be – Cashner reasonably replicates his 2017 and Tillman reasonably escapes his 2017 – the Orioles have improved their rotation.
Now, given what their starters did last year, improving from that franchise-worst rotation is a shoelace-high bar. I got it.
But given my tempered expectations based on what the Orioles are willing to spend for starting pitching, the Orioles did fine here. Especially a $3 million-base deal for Tillman. Such low risk.
I’ve known Tillman for a long time, and I wouldn’t bet against him. He’s had struggles in the past and has always overcome them. Of course, overcoming a disastrous 2017 will be the biggest challenge of the 29-year-old’s career.
Slightly surprised by Brugman’s DFA
To make room for Tillman on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated left-handed outfielder Jaycob Brugman for assignment.
The Orioles acquired Brugman from the Oakland Athletics in November for future considerations, which eventually became minor league pitcher and former 12th round pick Jake Bray.
To my knowledge, I’ve never seen Brugman play live. That’s a disclaimer that needs to be made.
But he’s only 26, is a left-handed hitter and showed good on-base skills in the minors (.344 on-base percentage) and in his brief time with the A’s (.346 OBP in 162 MLB plate appearances last year).
Obviously, the acquisition of Rasmus (and Presley) made Brugman’s chances of making the Orioles more remote. But he had minor league options remaining and is financially controllable through the 2023 season.
Oh, and the Orioles have about six billion pitchers on the 40-man roster (while having five outfielders) and no one knows how many can actually pitch effectively in the majors.
Maybe Brugman gets through waivers and there is no harm, no foul. But since he fit some of the needs they have, and he’s a lot younger than Rasmus, I would have thought they’d at least take a hard look at Brugman before passing.
If he gets claimed by someone, I’m calling this decision short-sighted – even though I haven’t seen the guy play (which may be short-sighted of me).