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January 8, 2011

The Orioles' lefty reliever dilemma (Ohman to White Sox)

Former Orioles reliever Will Ohman has agreed to terms with the Chicago White Sox on a two-year, $4 million deal, according to multiple reports, including one from’s Jon Heyman.

We told you yesterday that the White Sox were the favorites and that the Orioles originally had some mild interest in re-signing Ohman, but they were not willing, at this point, to guarantee him a major league spot.

Ohman, 33, did a nice job for the Orioles -- he held opponents scoreless in his first 25 appearances of 2010 -- before the club dealt him to the Florida Marlins in July for Rick VandenHurk.

Ohman’s a hard worker, and definitely a character, and it is nice to see him rewarded with such a lucrative deal a year after coming into Orioles’ camp on a minor league contract.

So it’s great for him -- but not so great for the Orioles. Because Ohman is another in a growing list of lefty relievers signing multiple year deals (Scott Downs, Pedro Feliciano and Randy Choate) and that does not bode well for the club.

The Orioles want -- and need -- another lefty to go with Michael Gonzalez in the bullpen. The only other lefty relievers on their 40-man roster are Troy Patton, who has mainly been a starter in his career and certainly isn’t a lefty specialist type at this point, and Pedro Viola, who doesn’t appear ready to be a major leaguer.

The Orioles would prefer to do what they did last year -- strike gold with an Ohman-type on a minor league deal. The club would consider giving a one-year, big league contract to a lefty reliever, but almost certainly not two or more years.

And the list of what’s available is not super inspiring. The best of the bunch is Brian Fuentes, who saved 24 games for the Los Angeles Angels last year and likely will be paid like a pseudo-closer. He has multiple-year deal written all over him.

The best of the rest includes Joe Beimel, Ron Mahay, Randy Flores, Denys Reyes and a trio of former Orioles: Tim Byrdak, Mark Hendrickson and Bruce Chen.

Beimel is also likely in line for a multiple-year deal. Mahay, who has pitched for Buck Showalter in the past, also could be depending on how this market plays out.

So here is what I think are the three most likely scenarios for the Orioles in filling their left-handed relief hole:

1. They’ll scour the waiver wire and pick up a lefty reliever like they did with Viola last April.
2. They’ll make a small trade for a lefty reliever, ideally someone with minor league options remaining in case he doesn't stick in spring training.
3. Re-sign the 36-year-old Hendrickson. They did it last February and probably will do it again if he hasn’t found a job late into the offseason and they still have a need. The Orioles love his professionalism and versatility and his quiet, confident nature makes him a favorite among teammates. The problem is that Hendrickson is coming off a sub-par year and has never been particularly effective against left-handed hitters -- they have batted .267 against him in his career, including a .317 mark in 2010. If Hendrickson is the club’s only other southpaw reliever and the oft-injured Gonzalez gets hurt in 2011, the Orioles will be exceptionally vulnerable to left-handed hitters.

An out-of-the-box thought it is to put top prospect Zach Britton into the big league bullpen to begin the season the way teams used to ease their young pitchers into the majors. But I can’t see that happening. Too much risk; too high of an investment these days. Although it’s possible they’ll do that with Patton if they feel he can contribute in the majors in 2011.

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Posted by Dan Connolly at 3:06 PM | | Comments (36)


I haven't seen Mahay's name linked to a lot of teams, though I am not sure why. Sure he is turning 40, but his numbers are about as good as anyone's last year.

I could see him fitting on a rather affordable 1 year deal, and maybe the Orioles luck out and get him on a minor league deal (in technicality only so that they can take time to make a roster move after Spring Training) that is a split contract deal. Hendrickson signed something like that. The minor league deal is worth several hundred thousand and then is worth a million or so "if" they make the club.

From out here in Colorado (his home state), I hear rumblings that Tippy "3 Pick-offs in One inning" Martinez is considering a comeback. Thoughts?

Truly an overblown subject. We'll end up with some ONE OUT LEFTY for an inexpensive contract. Really, Patton could get the job done and rotate with Gonzo when the need arises. I'd rather have a quality RH who gets everyone out, see JJ, than settle for someone like a Hendrickson again. Much to do about nothing! SIGN VLAD!

There are some ways to respond to this article. But I am going to try to not only remain calm, but hopefully on point.

1.) Is Ken Williams feeling ok? To give Will Ohman a 2 yr deal and 4 million dollars. Is just plain "Nuts"! He should have his head examined immediately to make sure everything is working properly.
2.) Also, the White Sox should also investigate the scout who suggested bringing him on aboard. That person is clearly in need of some help as well.
3.) It's my opinion that Thanksgiving came early for the Orioles. We ought to send the White Sox a Cornucopia filled with goodies and some Omaha Steaks for preventing us (Orioles) from re-signing him.
4.) Doesn't anyone remember the Red Sox game that Ohman blew. Grant it, it was some bad luck involved, but it lead me to believe he simply didn't throw hard enough to saw off anyone anymore.
4a.) He blew a save in his first time out with the Marlins after the trade.
5.) Needless to say I am not apart of the Will Ohman fan club!
6.)Dan C, I can't believe you forgot Taylor Tankersley. He is someone I would seriously consider. I can't believe the White Sox were not interested. Especially, with the amount of money they gave Ohman. Does Tankersley want as much? Are folks concerned about his elbow? What's the deal here? Bring in Tankersley for heaven sake!
Also, see if Fuentes is interested in coming to Baltimore. I am not sure how much money we can give him. Since someone stated there's a budget issue now. I would think Fuentes is going to be more expensive then Tankersley.
Also, for heaven sakes someone ask some Orioles players off the record to see what they would think of signing Vlad G. I am curious as to what they think!

PS: Pedro Viola..... NO! NO! That guy couldn't getiing minor leaguers out last year! Why is he still here???? We should include him with the gifts to the White Sox for helping us out for free! Oy Vey!

Mahay is the best option, but the O's are going to have to do a major league deal and not an invite. I like Joe Beimel, but not for 2 years. What I like about Mark Hendrickson is that he could start a game if he had to and he can pitch 4+ innings if a starter gets knocked which saves the BP for the next night. He didn't have a great year in 2010, but we know he loves the area and he's not going to demand a 2 year deal.

It's kind of stunning to see so many relievers being gobbled up in trades and free agent signings while 4 DH's like Thome, Damon, Vlad and Manny haven't received many bites. It goes to show that the pitching staffs are built to go 5 or 6 innings so guys in the 7th and 8th, have become just as important as the closer.

Mickey said it all. The LH reliever will happen....... sign VLAD!

I think it's hilarious when Oriole fans cluck about other teams overpaying while the Orioles come up with 2nd and 3rd tier free agents. The market is what it is. The truth is that Angelos doesn't want to play in the pool with the big guys. If he doesn't want to compete and spend the money he should sell the team to someone who does. Even some of the local writers seem to have gotten a case of the "overpay' sour grapes. Andy Macpahil promoted that philosophy when he wined to the USA Today last year that The Orioles just can't pay like the Yankees and the Red Sox and that it wasn't fair. Many of the local fans have apparently bought in to this sore loser philosophy.

The bottom line is acquire the talent necessary to win the AL East, you are going to have to pay for it. If the Orioles want to continue to act like a small market team on a tight budget, they will continue to perform like one.

And please, spare me the Macphail anecdote that we will spend the money "when the time is right." The time has been right since he got here in June 2007. I also crack up when fans parrot Macphail when he said that overpaying was how we got here in the first place. The last two times the Orioles got into the postseason was because they "overpaid." Doling out the money to marquee talent is an inexact science to be sure, but if the Orioles continue on the present course they will be perenniel losers.

Is George Sherrill still available?


Signed with Braves

The O's should sign Tim Hamulack to a minor league deal, he's a situational lefty that has 3 pitches and hits the mid 90s.

Why we spent all that $$$ on mediocre Gregg and we have a huge gaping hole in LH relief again totally confuses me.

Mickey completey agree (since you agreed with me earlier). Squirrel, agree with 1 thru 5.


I think your ohman comments are a bit harsh. The man pitched to a 3.21 ERA over the course of a full season. That's nothing to scoff at.

He had a 9.0+ K/9. That's really good. His walk rate is a bit high and his WHIP is too high. But, it's not awful to the level that you're making it out.

The blown save that you mentioned was the only blown save he had all season. And remember, non closers can get blown saves if they're in a hold situation and blow the lead. He didn't do that a single time beyond the one example you gave. But, he did rack up 18 holds over the course of the season.

All in all, not a great pitcher, not an amazing season. But not a bad option as a cog in the bullpen. NO one's saying that he would be the closer. We're pretty well set up on the back end of the bullpen now. But, he could be a helpful pitcher for a lot of teams, the orioles included. The contract at 2MM a year is not a terrible deal. Not at all.


I understand the dilemma, but why is this more of a concern than picking up a starting pitcher?

We have limited dollars to spend so spend the money on a Chris Young, let Tillman get better at Norfolk, and sign some marginal LH pitcher who's waived over the next 2 months.

No Hendrickson, no Chen, etc. Make a trade if you can, or sign a guy off waivers. Or roll with it. But sign a veteran starter with upside, and if he fails or gets injured, move Tillman up then.

There are some righties that can get lefties and righties out at ease so sometimes I think having a left hander just for the sake of having one, can be more of a hindrance. Ohman is a good pitcher, but not worth that contract plus these are the type of pitchers that you can easily get, but I would rather take Rauch at 4 mil for 1 season than Ohman for 2 seasons.

The big issues will be the health of Berken, Gonzo and JJ. If all are healthy along with Gregg and Koji, the BP will be excellent, but if Berken can't go full speed, I would love to see the O's try and get Rauch. I like Fuentes a lot, but he will want 2 years and similar money to what Gregg got.

More shocking to me is why aren't the O's getting more aggressive in their search for another SP? Tillman isn't ready so even if we have a killer BP, if our 5th starter gets knocked out early, the pen will be taxed early on. I know everyone thinks Francis wont come here, but have the O's even inquired about him? Zach Britton isn't ready either so if Tillman gets the job and fails, call up Zach? I'd feel much better if there was a vet to put in the middle of the rotation. I am still on the Blanton bandwagon because I think Philly will eat some of his contract plus I see him giving the O's innings and a chance to take some serious pressure of the rest of the staff because Guthrie doesn't seem to handle the pressure all that well when he is counted on to be the MAN!

Just say NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO to Mark Hendrickson. The fact that he has already pitched two season for the O's is enough. Anybody from the posts above but him.


I don't see why Ohman couldn't be on the 40 man roster if Viola can. Just looks like after the Gregg deal, they didn't want to pay what the White Sox were willing to pay.

This is one case where MacPhail's inability to act quickly cost this team. I'd much rather have Ohman than Hendrickson.

It wasn't an inability to act quickly that cost the Orioles Ohman. It was an unwillingness to go two years. That's a big, big difference.

So much for Ohman preaching about how much he'd love to come back to Baltimore. Yet another example of money talks and BS (Ohman) walks.

How ironic that after an off season that (so far) has brought Reynolds, Hardy, Harris, Gregg, Accardo, and Lee to Baltimore, the usual pathetic whiner (who posts under a different name on Roch and Steve's blog) is still complaining about Andy MacPhail not wanting to make a move and spend money.

Who cares about Will Ohman and a one-out lefty in the bullpen? With all the money Gregg, Gonzalez and Koji is getting, and with Accardo, Berken and JJ in the pen, are we going to start playing musical relievers again like in the past?

I think it's hilarious when Oriole fans cluck about other teams overpaying while the Orioles come up with 2nd and 3rd tier free agents. The market is what it is. The truth is that Angelos doesn't want to play in the pool with the big guys. If he doesn't want to compete and spend the money he should sell the team to someone who does. Even some of the local writers seem to have gotten a case of the "overpay' sour grapes. Andy Macpahil promoted that philosophy when he wined to the USA Today last year that The Orioles just can't pay like the Yankees and the Red Sox and that it wasn't fair. Many of the local fans have apparently bought in to this sore loser philosophy.

The bottom line is acquire the talent necessary to win the AL East, you are going to have to pay for it. If the Orioles want to continue to act like a small market team on a tight budget, they will continue to perform like one.

And please, spare me the Macphail anecdote that we will spend the money "when the time is right." The time has been right since he got here in June 2007. I also crack up when fans parrot Macphail when he said that overpaying was how we got here in the first place. The last two times the Orioles got into the postseason was because they "overpaid." Doling out the money to marquee talent is an inexact science to be sure, but if the Orioles continue on the present course they will be perenniel losers.



I think it is funny that somebody is going to bring up Fuentes.

He wants closer money and wants to close. He's also going to have to be on the 40 man roster. All of those things are not happening with the next reliever the Orioles are going to sign.

Why? Because there is only one 40 man roster spot left. That needs to remain open for the starter they want to add, or if by some miracle Vlad or Thome drop to them for a VERY reasonable contract.

So you get the starter and the 40 man is full. If you already had the lefty specialist on the roster, you immediately have to take somebody off the 40 man. I don't do that for a lefty specialist. I would however make that roster move if it meant Vlad or Thome was being added to it.

What has Tankersley been able to do other than get hurt every year?

Squirrel Varmat, Ohman is a specialist you dolt, and as such, opened his stint w the O's w 25 straight shutdowns of the opponent. Conversely, you have babbled on here for more than 25 times and have yet to make one single valid point. Likewise, the more you babble, the worse it gets. Fuentes has closed, saving 24 recently so he will obviously garner closer type recognition and most certainly a major league contract whereas the O's are looking to a lefty project to a minor league deal so they can save that last spot on the 40 man roster for what they have clearly stated they are still in the market for, and I might add, need more prevently than the lefty. A veteran starting pitcher.

Are the Orioles really a small market team with a small budget? I would like to know a factual answer to this question. Someone posted a player payroll of about $80-85M based on current knowledge of salaries. The other side of the equation is what do the Orioles and MASN (since they are a baseball creation for Angelos) take in? This is something that the Sun's reporters should be able to determine from public records and inside information. I think that the intake is way above the $80-85M and that Angelos could spend a good bit more. This would help me better understand what is reallt going on with this club. My own personal feeling is that a baseball owner should not be in baseball for a profit. Rather, it should be a hobby where they use all resources available to creat a winner! Hopefully, the Sun can shed some light on these questions.

Yes you might be right, sure I was a bit harsh. For some reason at some point last year with all the games I watched I had enough of Will Ohman. Ok enuff said about him.

@Birdland Todd,
I do think the Orioles are trying to do something about SP, in fact Showalter mentioned it the other day in his thoughts about various things. The Only two pitchers I would consider are Blanton and Buerhle. They are obvious trade commodities. I hear Pavano is going to probable stay with the Twins as well as Thome once everyone can agree on numbers in the contract.
To me Tankersly might be worth a gamble, he is still under thirty and a former first round draft choice. If we just use him as a left handed specialist, I see no reason as to why he can't stay healthy. If he can't stay healthy for even that alone, then he doesn't belong in the league. If we break the piggy bank and sign Fuentes, maybe that's worth it, and then again maybe not. I truly have no idea. I just assumed when the Orioles signed Gregg, they had no interest in Fuentes and then Dan C mentioned him in this article. So who knows! Also, I agree with you about Guthrie. He's a very solid #2 or #3. In fact, I think I stated I would trade him to the Red Sox for Papelbon. Unfortunately for me, I have been the only one to mention Papelbon so I guess that idea is in the trash can. Oh well some of my ideas have gone over like lead balloons, what else can I say =P.

I see Ohman and Byrdak as interchangble. Byrdak had 199 appearances over the last 3 seasons with Houston and an ERA of 3.53. I read on Mike Silva's baseball digest that a 1 year deal was not a problem for him. Tankersley's 7.50 ERA and Hendrickson's over 5 are not what we want.

I have a bad felling that we'll be watching Scott Schoeneweis give up 7th inning bombs in an O's uniform.

R.U. serious about Tankersley? ERA over 7 last season and over 8 the year before.

Look here's Tim Byrdak's stats

Tim Byrdak had an era over 11.00 in 2000. After a few years of rest,injury or time in the minors he then came up strong for the O's in 2005 with an ERA a little over 4 and 2006 he had an ERA of almost 13! Oddly enough, he seemed to be solidly average ever since.

Look if Tankersly is healthy why not offer him some sort of deal to give him a chance to make the team.

Lastly, here's a good article that sums up what is out there. There isn't much left.

Beimel sounds like he wants at least the same money as Ohman. So if we are going to spend that kind of money, why not spend a little more and get Fuentes or like I said give Tankersly a chance, he should be cheap. Look if anyone has a better idea lets hear it! I am tired of getting insulted today. What is wrong with you people? The Ravens pull away with a good win today and everyone is quite surly even more so then usual!

You're not getting insulted when we're using stats. You quote Byrdak's ERA from 2000. Dude that's 10 years ago. 2006 he had 7 innings pitched you can't use that as any kind of gauge. Look at 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. He has been solid the last 4 seasons. Tankersley has not.

@baseball 101
look Tankersley's 7.50 ERA and Hendrickson's over 5 are not what we want

Tankersley has been hurt and to use your own stat theory. Tank has only pitched in 29.2 the past three seasons, my guess it was because he was hurt or at least not fully recovered. He was pretty good before he hurt his elbow. So how can you use Tank's injury as a gauge? If I can't use 2006 stats against your pitcher Byrdak. As far as I am concerned the rest of the remaining lefthanded pitchers are warm bodies, except for Fuentes. As I have said before if Tank is healthy, I would be very happy to give him a chance! Because, if he's healthy, he would go from warm body to having potential again. And what a nice story that would be if that happened.
Now I am done for the night! I mean it

How about Scott Schoenweiss? Since his wife passed away his homelife situation has stabilized and he was pitching reasonably well at the end of last year. Also he badly wants another shot at the bigs and would accept virtually any contract offered.

Byrdak is an example of a young guy that struggled until he finally found a niche to stay in the majors. Like Ohman he's a specialist, use him against lefties and really beware trying to have him finish out an inning if he's facing a tough RH hitter.

I really doubt that the O's would shell out the money for Fuentes, but there is a case that can be made for it. Gonzo is probably most effective as a lefty specialist. The O's badly overpaid for him as a closer, which he frankly sucked at.

The quicker you admit a mistake and then move on the better, return Gonzo to his proper role and he can be effective. He's only signed for one more year, use him as a LH specialist and then find a cheaper option in 2012.

If they signed Fuentes as a back of bullpen lefty that is good enough to pitch full innings, and returned Gonzo to a LH specialist role, then Buck's got a full hand to deal with in the pen. Yes it's a lot of money to pay for relievers, but the O's are saving a ton on their rotation compared to teams they're competing with.

The biggest problem with young starters are pitch counts, they can be tapped out on their count by the 5th inning even if they've pitched well to stay competitive. The best way to counter that is to have a deep, veteran, pen to back them up.

Then the O's could go into spring training allowing Berken and or Vanderhurk to compete for a rotation spot if needed. If Britton burns up AAA the O's are really only going to be looking for a placeholder for that rotation spot until June anyway.

Save that money that everybody keeps saying has to be earmarked for a SP and sign the best LH reliever out there and go aggresively after Vlad to DH.

Best way to help those young starters mature is an offense that can put those crooked numbers up on the board. I've seen some post that Vlad faded badly in the second half last year. I'd say the famous Texas heat took it's toll, but his second half power production was still an improvement over the production of the O's LFer's last year.

I still think he'd improve the O's offense at 2 positions and help slot the O's other hitters into their most productive spots in the lineup. Lee, Guerrero, Scott, and Reynolds would be as tough 3-6 as the O's have been in some time.

Good health, and a little luck, and this club could be playing meaningful games in Sept. for a change.

You know Mountain Fan, That is one of the best postings I have seen in awhile.
In fact, there's not one thing I disagree with, I haven't been able to say that for awhile =P. In for the penny, in for the pound, I say! Lets go get Fuentes and Vlad. Maybe give Tank a minor league deal to see what he has, if anything. And kick the tires with Bengie Molina, I think he would be good for competition for Catcher

Get Bruce Chen back and stop this, right now Haha! Andy MacPhail. Get yo butt on that phone boy and call Chen!

Let's hear it O's fans!


Thank You Squirrel, Does that mean I'm up for some kind of honary rodent status?

I can see why the O's are maybe taking stock of what they've got, and what's still out there. I just really think a really good case can be made to sign Fuentes to add more versitile depth to the pen instead of another starter and a LH specialist for the pen.

It doesn't just help the rotation out every 5th day, it's a move to create the kind of BP needed to be a contending team.

These young starters are the core to this team, trot them out there to get experience pitching in the majors, but back them up with one of the best BP's in the majors and a heavy hitting offense.
Don't expect these kids to win you 1-0 games in the AL East.

From the beginning of the FA signing period Guerrero was the cleanup hitter with the most proven track record. There were questions about how much he has left in the tank, and it was generally assumed that Texas wanted him back.

Now Texas needs the DH spot for Young after the Beltre signing, and Guerrero is really in play, but not many teams are looking for a DH that they want to install in the cleanup spot.

Coming to Baltimore could be attractive to Vlad in a couple of ways, a chance to DH and bat 4th, and the chance to have Scott give him a day off now and then while Riemold or Pie got a start in LF.

Everybody has got those pitchers that have their number, a day off now and then against those kind of guys can do a lot to keep a batter fresh.

Vlad could probably use a few of those days here and there and so could Lee. In Buck they would have a manager that would know how to keep them fresh and maximize their production. A real veteran manager that would help keep them fresh and sharp and give them a shot to play for a winner.

Andy's plodding ways may have really worked out, I'd have never have predicted that he could have the opportunity to sign Guerrero and Fuentes at this point. But they are there for the taking. Just hope Angelos sees the opportunity that is in front of his GM. The chance to move into contending status without signing any longterm FA deals.

Just curious, what is Fuentes asking for? Tampa wanted the guy, but backed away and the Pirates said he was asking too much.

I agree with both MountainFan and The Squirrel, in that Gonzo is a situational lefty. This wont be the 1st or last time that the O's make a bad signing, but by adding Fuentes and using Gonzo to face a batter here or there, you are bolstering the pen and keeping Gonzo healthy.

If the O's are looking at SP's and saying that these guys aren't worth the investment, use the money for a lefty that you can use in the 7th, 8th or 9th. I have to believe that Fuentes is going to run out of options soon. The guy is a 4 time All Star so he's not some bum off the street so he can help this team in a big way and if he keeps scaring off teams with his price, maybe the O's get lucky and get him with a lot of incentives?

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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