BRADENTON, Fla. — In an attempt to lessen their glut of big league pitchers, the Orioles have contacted teams to let them know veteran right-handed reliever Luis Ayala is available in a trade, according to an industry source.
It’s unclear exactly what the Orioles are looking for in return, but the club is interested in adding players with minor league options that don’t necessarily have to be placed on the 40-man roster. Its biggest need is catching depth behind starter Matt Wieters and oft-injured reserve Taylor Teagarden.
And the Orioles are one of the few clubs in the majors that has major league arms to deal.
Ayala, 35, pitched in 66 games for the Orioles last year, going 5-5 with a 2.64 ERA in 75 innings. He served a variety of roles, including one-inning stints in the middle and late innings and eight different games in which he pitched two innings or more.
This winter, the Orioles picked up Ayala’s $1 million option for 2013 – a reasonable contract that should entice teams looking for bullpen help. It appears, the source said, the Orioles are more motivated to move Ayala than right-handed reliever Tommy Hunter, who is out of options.
Ayala, who has been brought along slowly this spring after pitching winter ball, appeared in his first road game of the Grapefruit League season on Sunday, retiring all three of the batters he faced. He also threw two perfect innings Thursday night against the Pirates and has given up just one run in five innings (four games) this spring.
The impetus to trade Ayala is connected to Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland, whom the Orioles selected from the Cleveland Indians this winter. If he doesn’t make the 25-man roster, McFarland would have to clear waivers and then be offered to the Indians, who almost certainly would bring him back.
The Orioles want to keep the 23-year-old lefty, but the bullpen is currently set with right-handers Ayala, Jim Johnson, Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop and Hunter and lefties Troy Patton and Brian Matusz, assuming Matusz loses the fifth starter’s battle.
If the Orioles dealt Ayala, they could create room for McFarland, who is technically in the rotation competition but starts for the first time this spring Monday. McFarland also could be kept if the Orioles need to place a pitcher on the disabled list, such as starter Chris Tillman, who is attempting to build up his innings after being sidelined with abdomen soreness.