The Orioles’ acquisition of Jair Jurrjens won’t become official until he has a physical this week, but all signs point to the right-hander joining the O’s cluttered starting rotation mix.
Jurrjens, who turns 27 tomorrow, will make a $1.5 million base salary in the one-year deal and could make up to $4 million with incentives. From what I’ve seen, his addition has been welcomed by the Orioles’ fan base. Many fans see Jurrjens as a low-risk, high-reward player who fits Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette’s method of reaping the rewards from giving players second-chance opportunities.
Duquette hit the jackpot with Nate McLouth, picked up off the scrap heap after he was released by the Pirates last year. He also plucked Lew Ford from the International League’s Long Island Ducks. And he gave minor league deals to the likes of Miguel Tejada, Dontrelle Willis and Jamie Moyer. Those never panned out, but kudos for the effort.
Jurrjens, who was a National League All-Star just two summers ago, is Duquette’s latest undervalued asset. And now with just more than two weeks before spring training, we take a look at other low-risk, high-reward additions and ask which one could be Duquette’s “Get of the Year.”
Here are some candidates:
Jurrjens: At the age of 25, Jurrjens was 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA at the 2011 midseason. He was named to his first All-Star Games and was beginning to establish himself as one of the league's top young pitchers. But he lost three of his four second-half starts, hindered by a bulky right knee that was surgically repaired the previous offseason. Last season, he spent the majority of the season in Triple-A and was 3-4 with a 6.89 ERA in 11 major league appearances. Jurrjens said he spent last season pitching with a brace on the knee and was set back by a quad injury. But if he’s healthy, which he says he is, he could be a valuable starter for the Orioles.
Danny Valencia: He played 154 games in 2011 with the Twins, but since that season, Valencia has struggled to prove he’s an everyday player. Duquette loves his ability to hit left-handed pitching – he owns a career .316 batting average – but he will have to show more to emerge as more than a platoon player. He put up a .188/.212/.310 line in 44 games last season between the Twins and Red Sox. He could play third and contribute at DH.
Travis Ishikawa: The Orioles tried to sign Ishikawa last season, but he signed with the Brewers instead. This season they got him for cheaper, inking him to a minor league contract. He will have his opportunity to win a roster spot this spring and Duquette loves him because of his defense. He has a career .995 fielding percentage at first, and comes into camp as an option there if Chris Davis struggles. The left-handed hitter has never shown that corner-infielder pop needed at the major league level, but he is steady against right-handed pitching (.266/.333/.416).
Daniel Schlereth: The left-handed reliever is a former first-round draft pick and is just 26 years old. He actually had solid years in 2010 and 2011 with the Tigers, going 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA. He landed on the DL in April with shoulder issues last season and never returned. The Orioles signed him to a minor league deal. If healthy, he could be a huge addition. Left-handed relievers are always a valuable commodity.
Zach Braddock: A left-handed reliever with great promise just two years ago, Braddock hasn’t pitched since May, when the Brewers released him. He didn’t pitch after spring training last season, placed on the Triple-A inactive list in April because of an undisclosed personal issue. Braddock had previously been on the DL with a sleep disorder. Braddock had a 2.94 ERA with 15 holds and 41 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings in 2010, but his velocity and command diminished since. But he’s only 25, and the Orioles are confident he’s sorted out his personal issues.
Trayvon Robinson: Robinson was acquired by trade this offseason for Robert Andino, but he’s on the list because the Orioles and Mariners essentially swapped players who were likely non-tender candidates. Robinson is 25, but has no minor league options remaining, so he needs to make the team out of camp or the Orioles risk losing him. The Orioles outfield is a crowded place, so Robinson faces an uphill climb. He hasn’t shown the ability to be an everyday player and he really struggles against lefties, but he can play all three outfield spots.
Who do you think has the most promise?