The Orioles finally figured out what to do with one of their extra relievers, nailing down a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers on the off day on Thursday afternoon. The trade sends Ryan Webb to LA, as well as minor league catcher Brian Ward. Two minor leaguers, names currently not known, are said to be coming back to the O's. The trade was first reported by MASN's Roch Kubatko.
The Baltimore Sun's Eduardo Encina reported that the Orioles will also be sending their competitive balance pick to the Dodgers in the trade. That pick is #74 overall in the draft and carries a slot value of $827,000, according to Baseball America.
Brett Hollander of WBAL Radio identified the two minor leaguers coming back to Baltimore: 26-year-old righty reliever Ben Rowen, who got a cup of coffee with the Rangers last year, and Chris O'Brien, a 25-year-old switch-hitting catcher who has yet to break above Double-A. O'Brien was on the break camp roster of the Dodgers' Double-A affiliate in Tulsa. He batted .266/.341/.438 in Double-A last season at age 24.
The trade of the draft pick makes this into a bit more than a nothing trade. The O's no longer will have four of the first 74 picks in the June draft, though they still have three of the first 68. This trade will reduce their overall available bonus pool to about $6.8 million, which is still more than triple what they had last year.
Despite making the initial roster the Orioles released for Opening Day, the Orioles designated Webb for assignment before any games were played, replacing him on the roster with catcher Ryan Lavarnway. So in that sense the O's haven't actually cleared up any of the reliever logjam at all, because they've still got an eight-man bullpen full of guys they can't or shouldn't option. They've just found a landing spot for someone they were already done with.
Webb is in the second year of a two-year, $4.5 million contract, but after putting up a 3.83 ERA in year 1, he became expendable to the O's in their current roster situation.
Ward is a 29-year-old catcher who only broke into the Triple-A level for any significant amount of time last season. He has a good defensive reputation but has a .657 career OPS over six minor league seasons in the Orioles organization.
The Orioles also were in a position of having a bunch of catchers on their Norfolk roster, so the trade of Ward is not a surprise in that regard. When Steve Clevenger was optioned to Norfolk after spending one day on the O's MLB roster, the O's briefly had four catchers who seemed to be ticketed for Norfolk: Clevenger, Ward, spring training acquisition Audry Perez, and offseason minor league signing J.P. Arencibia.
Just before the news of the trade broke, the O's quietly announced that they had released Arencibia. With Ward being traded, that sets up Clevenger and Perez to catch at Norfolk.