Brian Matusz, the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft, is headed to the bullpen at Triple-A Norfolk as the Orioles try to figure out whether he might be able to help them next month.
Expected to be one of the Orioles’ best starters in 2011, Matusz instead turned in the highest ERA ever for a pitcher with at least 40 innings pitched, finishing 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA in 12 starts. He appeared much improved this spring and won a rotation spot, but the success didn’t last; he lost his last five starts and was sent down at the beginning of July with a 5-10 record and a 5.42 ERA.
Matusz’s Triple-A outings have been a mixed bag. He pitched a shutout in his first start on July 6, but he had allowed 18 earned runs in 32 innings since.
It was righties that killed Matusz in the majors this year, so the Orioles think he could have success in a short role out of the pen. Lefties hit just .174 with two homers in 86 at-bats against him this season, whereas righties were at .347 with 12 homers in 265 at-bats.
That trend hasn’t carried over in the minors, though. Since arriving at Norfolk, Matusz has given up a .269 average to lefties and a .218 average to righties.
With the Orioles still in contention in the AL East, the move makes sense on at least a short-term basis to see if Matusz can provide some value in September. It shouldn’t be a permanent switch, though; regardless of how September goes, Matusz needs to be put back into the mix for the rotation next spring.
The Dodgers have signed lefty Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract.The deal was reported to be imminent over the weekend, but was finalized today following Hill’s physical.
Hill missed a good deal of time in 2016 with blister issues — and he’ll be 37-years-old on Opening Day — but when he was healthy he was fantastic, posting the best season in his 12-year career. He had a a 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings between the Athletics and Dodgers.
Along with a healthy Clayton Kershaw a maturing Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rotation looks to be a strength in 2017.
UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that a deal is in place pending a physical. The financial terms are not yet known. UPDATE: Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears it’s in the four-year, $62 million range. That will make him, temporarily at least, the highest-paid closer in baseball history.
12:15 PM: Ken Rosenthal reports that the San Francisco Giants are close to a deal with closer Mark Melancon.
Melancon had an outstanding 2016, posting a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and a 5.42 K/BB rate in 71.1 innings while saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals. You may recall that the Giants had a strong interest in Melancon last summer. It was a well-founded interest given the bullpen woes which waylaid San Francisco in the second half of last season and continued on into the playoffs.
The terms of the apparently impeding deal will be known soon enough, but Rosenthal reported yesterday that Melancon was fielding offers in the four-years, $60 million range. That’s a lot for a closer, but it’ll probably look like a bargain compared to the deals signed with the other two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Some have speculated that Chapman could get a deal closer to $100 million than $50 million, though that seems optimistic.
What the past couple of seasons have shown, however, is that having a top bullpen will get you very, very far in Major League Baseball. Champan may have been gassed at the end of Game 7, but he was essential to the Cubs’ World Series title. Powerful bullpens gave the Royals a title in 2015 and the Indians an AL pennant this past year. A weak one was, obviously, the Giants’ achilles heel.
Their great need at the back end of the pen, according to Rosenthal’s report, is apparently about to be filled.