The Orioles announced the signing of catcher Jacob Nottingham to a minor league contract on Wednesday (the MLB.com transactions page reported he signed on December 1st). Nottingham gives the Orioles at least one catcher with major league experience as they await the highly anticipated debut of top prospect Adley Rutschman in 2022.
The four catchers who played for the Orioles in 2021 — Nick Ciuffo, Pedro Severino, Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns — are no longer in the organization.
Severino signed a $1.9 million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, and the others are free agents. Sisco was claimed on waivers by the New York Mets on June 25th and let go by the end of the season.
Nottingham was Houston’s sixth-round pick in 2013. In the last four seasons, he played 53 games for Milwaukee and Seattle, hitting .184 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs. Eleven of the 14 runners who have tried to steal against him have been successful.
As the Orioles looking to add at least one more catcher in free agency, there aren’t many with experience looking for work. According to MLBTradeRumors.com, there are five free-agent catchers besides Sisco and Wynns: Robinson Chirinos, Greyson Grenier, Wilson Ramos, Kevan Smith and Kurt Suzuki.
Ramos had surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in September, so he’s not a consideration.
Smith, 33, could make sense for the Orioles. In the last six seasons, Smith has hit .259 for the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay and Atlanta. He’d be comfortable in a backup role. Smith has thrown out just 16 percent of basestealers.
Taylor Davis, who was in the Orioles’ organization in 2021 until he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in June, was released by Pittsburgh last month. Manager Brandon Hyde is familiar with Davis when they were both with the Chicago Cubs in 2018.
The Orioles do have Brett Cumberland, who was obtained from Atlanta in the July 2018 trade for Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day. Cumberland, who has never played in the major leagues, hit .187 with 10 home runs and 23 RBIs in 84 games for Triple-A Norfolk. He struck out 110 times and had 40 walks. Cumberland was hit by pitches 28 times, boosting his on-base percentage to .352.
In 55 games behind the plate for the Tides, Cumberland threw out 30 percent of the runners attempting to steal (13 of 44).
The Orioles also have Chris Hudgins, who was selected in the 2020 Rule 5 minor league draft. Hudgins hit .198 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs in 60 games for Double-A Bowie. He threw out 37 percent (16 of 43) runners attempting to steal. Hudgins was 1-for-9 (.111) in three games for Norfolk.
The only other catcher in the Orioles’ organization who has caught in the higher minor leagues in 25-year-old Cody Roberts, who was their 11th-round draft pick in 2018. Roberts played 51 games at High-A Aberdeen, Bowie and Norfolk, hitting a combined .253 with five home runs and 23 RBIs. He also walked 23 times for a .359 on-base percentage and had a .768 OPS.
Roberts threw out 26 percent of runners attempting to steal (12 of 46) and was on the taxi squad for one road trip.
Another former Orioles farmhand, Stuart Levy, who was the team’s 27th-round pick in 2015, left the organization after playing with Bowie and Frederick in 2019. He played for High Point of the independent Atlantic League in 2021 and would like to return to the Orioles.
Minor league pitcher added: The Orioles acquired minor league pitcher Tommy Wilson from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for cash considerations. Wilson, a 25-year-old right-hander, was selected by Seattle in Wednesday’s Triple-A Rule 5 draft from the New York Mets’ organization.
Wilson was the 19th-round pick of New York in the 2018 draft and was 1-0 with a save and a 2.35 ERA in 10 games for Double-A Binghamton.
No minor business: On Wednesday, Diamond Baseball Holdings, a division of Endeavor, a sports and entertainment company, agreed to purchase nine minor league baseball teams.
Endeavor, which owns the UFC and the large talent agents WME and IMG, will operate some of the most well-known minor league teams.
Including in the deal are the Iowa Cubs, Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate; the Memphis Redbirds, St. Louis’ Triple-A team; the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees; and New York’s High-A affiliate, the Hudson Valley Renegades. The group also purchased the San Jose Giants, the High-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
Endeavor also will purchase the four affiliates of the Atlanta Braves: Triple-A Gwinnett, Double-A Mississippi, High-A Rome, and Low-A Augusta.
The Augusta GreenJackets were once owned by Cal Ripken Jr.
Endeavor would reportedly like to add 40 more minor league teams to its portfolio.
It’s an interesting trend and one that bears watching in the coming months.
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