As of yesterday afternoon the Orioles weren’t sure what to do with Brian Matusz, but they’ve now decided to bump the struggling left-hander from the rotation and have him work exclusively out of the bullpen for the remainder of the season.
Matusz has followed up an impressive rookie season by going 1-7 with a 9.84 ERA this year, allowing more home runs per nine innings than anyone else in baseball history with at least 10 starts.
Buck Showalter explained the decision to Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com:
There are two sides to it. I’m a father first. I don’t like to see anybody get beat up on. I don’t think that Brian is at a point right now where he can defend himself properly. It’s not going to be a matter of him throwing 94 or 93 miles per hour. He can pitch just like he is, stuff-wise. It’s just command issues and repeating his delivery and a lot of things he’s aware of. I feel for him, but not to the point where … he knows nobody is going to feel sorry for him in that other clubhouse. He’s got it. He understands a lot more than what people may perceive about what’s going on.
In other words, the Orioles don’t think Matusz is capable of getting big-league hitters out at this point and there’s no sense in letting him serve up batting practice to a salivating lineup every fifth day.
Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.
We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.
Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.
The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.
Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.
In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.
Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.
He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.
Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.
Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.
At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.
Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.
Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.
He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.