The Orioles have spent the months of March and April acquiring pitchers you’ve never heard of and may never hear about again for minimal cost. They made another one of these moves on Thursday night, acquiring 25-year-old righty reliever Damien Magnifico from the Brewers in exchange for an international bonus slot.
Magnifico had been designated for assignment by the Brewers on Sunday. His addition necessitated the Orioles sending someone to the great DFA in the sky as well, and so Jason Garcia’s time has come up. Magnifico was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk.
That’s a bit of a surprise if only because the Orioles seem to love those Rule 5 picks and former Rule 5 picks. Garcia was notoriously dragged through a whole season on the roster in 2015, complete with a questionable extended disabled list stash.
When they could option him to Bowie last year, he wasn’t very good and had a bad first start with Bowie this season too. In the end, the Garcia experiment cost them little and won them even less.
An added little bit of this move, although they are technically separate moves, is that the Orioles traded Oliver Drake, himself DFA’d by the O’s earlier in the day, to the Brewers for a player to be named later or cash.
Magnifico has a fantastic name, although in general I don’t know if a guy whose nickname on his Baseball Reference player page is “Wild Thing” is a exactly the player you want to see come and join the Orioles.
The Dan Duquette quote bot actually sounds like a human being when discussing Magnifico:
Duquette: "Damien Magnifico has an excellent sinker, a strikeout pitch in his slider & a knack for keeping the ball down and in the ballpark— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) April 14, 2017
As we know, every time the Orioles bring a sinkerball pitcher to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, an angel gets its wings, so maybe that will work out.
A cursory look at Magnifico’s recent minor league history supports both the idea that Magnifico has a good strikeout pitch and that he keeps the ball in the ballpark. Magnifico struck out 61 batters in 62 innings for Milwaukee’s Triple-A Colorado Springs last season. He only allowed two home runs the whole season, which is very good for that amount of time pitching in the Pacific Coast League.
The problem for Magnifico - as you might expect for a guy nicknamed Wild Thing - is a case of the old walks too many dudes. Giving up 33 walks in 62 innings is not good, even if you’re striking out that many batters. Maybe the Orioles can clean him up.
This pattern held in a short big league stint last year, with Magnifico walking three batters in three innings over three games late last year. According to Fangraphs, he averaged 96.7mph on his fastball with the Brewers last year. It is a small sample size, but 97 is 97.
Maybe the thing that appealed the most to the Orioles about Magnifico is that he has an option available for this year and next year as well. If he has any value at all then he can ride the Norfolk-Baltimore shuttle for two years, and if he has a little more value than that then they can just leave him in the big league bullpen beyond that.
In general, it’s probably not a positive for the Orioles to trade an international bonus slot in order to acquire a player who’s already been designated for assignment, but they’ve sufficiently demonstrated that they aren’t going to use those slots anyway so they might as well get something out of it.
The bonus slot, according to Baseball America’s Ben Badler, is worth $885,300. That slot money expires on June 15.
This is the third straight year the Orioles have made a trade like this. They also acquired lefty Chris Lee, now on the 40-man roster, in this fashion, and minor leaguer Franderlin Romero. Magnifico is the first time they’ve picked up anyone with any MLB experience at all in such a trade.