Zach Britton: “[The Orioles] took away the individual approach to everything.”

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Jake Arrieta‘s second career no-hitter, authored last Thursday, brought yet more scrutiny to the Orioles, the team with which Arrieta began his professional baseball career. The O’s selected him in the fifth round of the 2007 draft. He quickly garnered respect, as he was ranked among baseball’s top-100 overall prospects going into the 2009 and ’10 seasons by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.

However, Arrieta never found success in Baltimore. He made 63 starts and six relief appearances for the Orioles in the big leagues, but mustered only a 5.46 ERA with a 277/159 K/BB ratio in 358 innings. On July 2, 2013, the Orioles traded him with reliever Pedro Strop to the Cubs in exchange for pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger. Boy, would the Orioles like to have that one back.

Arrieta, though, was one of a handful of heralded pitchers in the Orioles’ system. Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, and Zack Britton were among the arms frequently rated among the organization’s top-10 in some order. Matusz transitioned to relief work in 2012 after struggling as a starter, where he’s had more success but hasn’t provided nearly as much value as the Orioles had hoped. Tillman has had a few solid years out of the rotation, but has mostly been inconsistent and owns a career 4.20 ERA. Britton went from failed starter to lights out reliever, with an aggregate 1.75 ERA in 149 1/3 innings since the start of the 2014 season.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports caught up with Britton, wondering why the Orioles haven’t been able to turn any of their four pitching prospects into a legit major league starter. It sounds like former pitching coach Rick Adair had a lot to do with it.

“They took away the individual approach to everything,” Britton said. “Things we did extremely well in the minor leagues to get to the big leagues – we were told that just doesn’t work here. And you’re like, ‘That’s kind of weird, right?’ You don’t just reinvent yourself in the big leagues. That was the struggle. And the struggle, as we got older, was trying to get back to what made us what we were before.”

Adair took a “personal leave of absence” in August 2013 and never returned.

As Passan notes, Arrieta had a cutter, but the Orioles forbade him from throwing it. According to FanGraphs, Arrieta didn’t throw a cut fastball until 2013, the year he was traded to the Cubs. 6.1 percent of his pitches were cutters that year, followed by 28.3 percent in 2014, 29.1 percent last season, and 23.3 percent so far this year.

Britton thinks that if Arrieta had spent time with the Orioles’ current pitching and bullpen coaches — Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti, respectively — he would have flourished. “With Dave and Dom, if Jake had the opportunity to work with them, I don’t see why he wouldn’t have done here what he’s done there,” he said. As Britton notes, Arrieta always had that kind of talent. The difference was that the Cubs allowed Arrieta to pitch the way he was comfortable pitching and the Orioles didn’t.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

tampa bay rays
Dave Nelson/USA TODAY Sports

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.