The Orioles found one of the left-handed hitting corner outfielders they've been said to be seeking on Wednesday, signing Colby Rasmus to a minor league contract. The signing was first reported by MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
As a general rule, it's not worth getting excited about minor league contracts because they don't matter unless the player makes the MLB team. That may prove to be the case in this instance as well, although with Rasmus, the fact that the Orioles have no lefty outfielders could mean that they've signed him with the idea that he could be the favorite to make the club in that role.
What makes the 31-year-old Rasmus interesting is that he just walked away from baseball in the middle of last season. This is not necessarily the good kind of interesting, but it's certainly different from every other free agent.
Rasmus started out the year on the disabled list recovering from hip surgery, came off the DL in May, played for about a month and a half, went back on the DL in late June, and then in July, was placed on the restricted list after deciding to step away from baseball.
I don't know what that's about. It's strange. It's just unusual that a player who was performing well just... stopped. Rasmus, in 37 games, was batting .281/.318/.579, although he had struck out 45 times in just 129 plate appearances.
Hey, this looks familiar. Power, a not-great on-base percentage, and a lot of strikeouts...? No wonder the Orioles had their eyes on him.
The other thing about Rasmus is that the Orioles have had their eyes on him for a while, as MASN's Roch Kubatko reminds us:
#orioles have been interested in Rasmus for a while now, dating back to Buck's visit to his home in Alabama prior to 2015 season. But they questioned whether he wanted to continue playing in 2018. Yes, he does.— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) February 21, 2018
The O's reportedly had some interest in Rasmus prior to the 2015 season but they did not want to sign him for more than $7 million, the salary Rasmus made in 2014. Rasmus instead signed with the Astros for $8 million.
This was a poor decision by the Orioles, one where their pinching of pennies cost them bigger in the long run. By not signing Rasmus, who posted a 2.6 WAR season in 2015 for the Astros, the Orioles instead went cheap in salary by trading for Travis Snider from the Pirates. Snider's salary that year was only $2.1 million. This trade cost them pitching prospect Steven Brault.
Snider was an absolute failure as an Oriole and did not solve their corner outfield problem as a result, earning a midseason release. Snider's failure meant that the Orioles had to again search about for a corner outfielder at the trade deadline, leading them to eventually trade Zach Davies to the Brewers for Gerardo Parra. This trade was also a disaster as Parra, in the middle of a good luck-fueled career year, had his luck turn around once he got to Baltimore.
The $1 million that the Orioles were not willing to spend here cost them two pitching prospects. Not having Brault and Davies in the system has snowballed into other bad moves, including the signing of Yovani Gallardo - which cost the team a draft pick - and the trade for Wade Miley, which cost them more money and more bad pitching.
None of that matters for today's Rasmus signing. It's a minor league deal. There are many reasons why it may never matter. He might not even make the team or want to stay on the team if he does make it. He might get hurt. He might make the team and look more like 2016, when he hit just .206/.286/.355, rather than one of his better years.
The Orioles got their man three years too late. Hopefully he can make the difference in 2018 that he wasn't able to make in 2015.