Orioles sign Luis Ayala, apparent bullpen help

On Monday's conference call with reporters, the Orioles' Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, Dan Duquette, talked about how he was still looking to strengthen the bullpen heading into spring training. Fast forward a few days to today, where we now know what he meant by strengthening: as first reported by MASN's Roch Kubatko, the Orioles have signed Luis Ayala, a right-handed reliever, who spent 2011 with the Yankees, accumulating a 2.09 ERA in 52 games spanning 56 innings pitched.

If you're like me, you're probably wondering why a guy with that kind of superficially good stat line was still on the free agent market in February. Diving into the world of Baseball Reference gives us some possibilities as to why. Ayala is 34, so whatever he is, he's probably not changing. And what is Ayala? Well, he had a pretty nice 2011, but let's wind back into the past and look at... oh. Oh God. Back away slowly. Back away, don't make any sudden movements, just back -- RUN FOR YOUR LIVES THEY'RE COMING OH GOD AIEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Where was I? Oh yeah, Ayala's career numbers. Turns out he was a nice surprise find for the Yankees in 2011, perhaps another part of the same Satanic pact that allows them to get the likes of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon at bargain basement prices and turn them into useful pitchers for a season. In 2010, Ayala did not even sniff the major leagues, probably because he spent the whole year in AAA across three different organizations, during which time he put up a 6.42 ERA in 47.2 IP. In 2009 he was in MLB between the Twins and the Marlins, and he had a total of a 5.63 ERA in 40 IP. In 2008 he was with the Nationals and the Mets and he had a 5.71 ERA in 75.2 IP.

So that's probably why Ayala was still on the market to be signed on February 10. Ayala has a career K/BB ratio of 2.63, though last year it was only 1.95 (39 K, 20 BB), which is probably why his FIP was 4.19 against that 2.09 ERA. Reports are that the contract is a major league deal, meaning that there will be a forthcoming DFA to clear room on the 40-man roster. I think if I'm any fringe roster guy that Dan Duquette didn't bring on board, I'm not looking forward to any phone calls for the next couple of hours.

There's no word on the dollar signs involved in the contract, though Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal thinks there is an option year involved in the deal. Orioles fans can only hope the dollars aren't too high for a guy who had one good year out of the last four.

UPDATE: The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly reports that Ayala's contract is worth a guaranteed $925,000 and has a team option for 2013. That's not bad from a money standpoint.

UPDATE 2: To make room for Ayala on the 40-man roster, the Orioles have designated OF Matt Angle for assignment.

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