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Orioles reach agreements with reliever Mike Gonzalez, third baseman Garrett Atkins


thundercleetz
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Orioles turn a double play: Team reaches agreements with Mike Gonzalez, Garrett Atkins

 

Filling two of their biggest offseason needs, the Orioles on Wednesday agreed to a two-year deal with free-agent left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez and a one-year pact with third baseman Garrett Atkins, according to industry sources.

 

Both deals are pending physicals, which could take place in Baltimore within the next couple of days. Gonzalez, who is represented by Scott Boras, will earn $12 million over two years with escalator and incentive clauses allowing him to make an additional $4 million. The terms of Atkins' one-year deal are not known.

 

Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail didn't return a call Wednesday night seeking comment. He traditionally declines to discuss free-agent deals until the player passes a physical. The addition of Gonzalez and Atkins, coupled with last week's acquisition of veteran starter Kevin Millwood in a trade with the Texas Rangers, leaves filling the void at first base as the primary objective of the Orioles' front office the rest of the offseason.

 

The signing of Gonzalez, who is a Type A free agent and declined the Atlanta Braves' arbitration offer earlier this month, will cost the Orioles their second-round pick (currently 43rd overall) in the 2010 first-year player draft. Team officials had said all along that they wouldn't hesitate to surrender a draft pick if they could sign a player who would significantly upgrade their current roster.

 

Considered one of the top relievers on the free-agent market, Gonzalez, 31, went 5-4 with a 2.42 ERA, 17 holds and 10 saves in 80 appearances for the Braves last year, while primarily serving as a left-handed setup complement to Rafael Soriano. He struck out 90 batters in 74 1/3 innings, and opponents hit just .209 against him.

 

 

I love the Gonzalez signing, he has been solid his whole career and has experience closing in Pittsburgh. The question is how will he transition to pitching in the AL? Atkins is a low risk-high reward type player. I love how this is a one-year deal, it clears the path for Bell. And Atkins also has experience at first base should Bell force his way to the majors earlier then expected.

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The only thing I don't like about Atkins is it's another Ty Wigginton, Kevin Millar, Jay Payton type signing... I'm just tired of them.

 

I get the "upside" argument shoved down my throat all off-season... all early season, even when the guy slumps... and especially during the one or two week hot streak.

 

Every year, there's a couple new faces of the same style... guys who I know won't do anything, but I get to listen to the announcers and Trembley (who I love), tell me how good they are in the clubhouse and how much they really can do "when they find it."

 

If Atkins and Wigginton play the way Wigginton did last year, they should both be cut by June 1 and we can let Snyder, Bell and anyone else with a pulse take a shot. No reason to hold kids back now. A sloppy veteran is a sloppy veteran. Period.

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The only thing I don't like about Atkins is it's another Ty Wigginton, Kevin Millar, Jay Payton type signing... I'm just tired of them.

 

I get the "upside" argument shoved down my throat all off-season... all early season, even when the guy slumps... and especially during the one or two week hot streak.

 

Every year, there's a couple new faces of the same style... guys who I know won't do anything, but I get to listen to the announcers and Trembley (who I love), tell me how good they are in the clubhouse and how much they really can do "when they find it."

 

If Atkins and Wigginton play the way Wigginton did last year, they should both be cut by June 1 and we can let Snyder, Bell and anyone else with a pulse take a shot. No reason to hold kids back now. A sloppy veteran is a sloppy veteran. Period.

 

I think Atkins is better than Wigginton, Millar, and Payton. The bottom line is that we do not need a long-term third baseman, we already have him in Bell. We needed a guy to hold down the hot corner for a half-a-year, a year at most. Atkins is a career .811 OPS hitter. Unlike Wigginton, Millar, and Payton, Atkins is a career fulltime player, these other guys are career part-timers. In 2006, Atkins hit .329/.409/.556/.965 for 29 HR and 120 RBI, in 2007 Atkins hit .301/.367/.486/.853 for 25 HR and 111 RBI, and in 2008 he hit .286/.328/.452/.780 for 21 HR and 99 RBI. What I am saying is that he should at least be as good as Wigginton with the bat, and has a good chance to be drastically better. Another advantage to Atkins is that he is a true third baseman. The guys you mentioned are utility players with no true positions and very poor defense. Atkins, while not a wizard with the glove, should give us average defense at third. Wigginton was a disaster at third.

 

Wigginton was not horrible with the bat last season, a .714 OPS is respectable. It is just his defense was so horrible that his contributions with the bat were very minimal. As stated Atkins should not hurt us at third. I do agree with though, if Atkins is hitting at a .650 OPS like in 2009, he needs to be cut. I do not think this signing will keep Bell out of the majors though, how fast Bell gets here will be up to how well Bell does in MLB spring training/AAA.

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A number of responses to these things...

 

1. Wigginton's numbers lie. Wigginton was AWFUL last year, all around. He had a few moments of glory here and there, but his occasional pop was far outdone by his unbelievable rally-killing powers. Just unbelievable. I cannot believe he is still on this team.

 

2. I certainly see Atkins upside. And I am extraordinarily hopeful that it comes through. But that doesn't mean I trust it. I don't at all. Look at his splits. Even in his best seasons, his splits say that he is a product of Coors Field and mile-high baseball. And his absolute collapse last year hardly makes me believe that he'll have any success changing that this year.

 

3. I will also absolutely agree that Atkins defensive ability is one of his great upsides, but Mora was still solid defensively last year. It didn't do much for the team.

 

4. Atkins could certainly keep Bell or Snyder out of the majors. Roster space is limited. We've got 4 outfielders fighting for playing time, plus Lou Montanez. You've got Roberts, Izturis, Andino and now Turner in middle infield. You've got Wieters and a back-up catcher. And then Luke Scott, Ty Wigginton and now Atkins. And Michael Aubrey. And we still don't have a legitimate first baseman. While moving Montanez, Andino, Aubrey or Turner may seem easy to option out... except for Turner, they are all short on options. And Turner deserves to be up here.

 

The bottom line is that I simply don't see the Atkins move as improving this team in any meaningful way. But it is taking up roster space and 4 million in payroll.

 

But my biggest problem remains that I am going to be told for the next 5 months (and then months beyond that) about how great Atkins COULD be... but in all likelihood, I'll never actually get to see it. And as positive as I try to be, that's what I see/feel here. Just another player for Thorne and Hunter to rave about while he hits 220, because "when he gets in a groove" or "he's the kind of guy that has the ability to take any pitch out of the park."

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A number of responses to these things...

 

1. Wigginton's numbers lie. Wigginton was AWFUL last year, all around. He had a few moments of glory here and there, but his occasional pop was far outdone by his unbelievable rally-killing powers. Just unbelievable. I cannot believe he is still on this team.

 

2. I certainly see Atkins upside. And I am extraordinarily hopeful that it comes through. But that doesn't mean I trust it. I don't at all. Look at his splits. Even in his best seasons, his splits say that he is a product of Coors Field and mile-high baseball. And his absolute collapse last year hardly makes me believe that he'll have any success changing that this year.

 

3. I will also absolutely agree that Atkins defensive ability is one of his great upsides, but Mora was still solid defensively last year. It didn't do much for the team.

 

4. Atkins could certainly keep Bell or Snyder out of the majors. Roster space is limited. We've got 4 outfielders fighting for playing time, plus Lou Montanez. You've got Roberts, Izturis, Andino and now Turner in middle infield. You've got Wieters and a back-up catcher. And then Luke Scott, Ty Wigginton and now Atkins. And Michael Aubrey. And we still don't have a legitimate first baseman. While moving Montanez, Andino, Aubrey or Turner may seem easy to option out... except for Turner, they are all short on options. And Turner deserves to be up here.

 

The bottom line is that I simply don't see the Atkins move as improving this team in any meaningful way. But it is taking up roster space and 4 million in payroll.

 

But my biggest problem remains that I am going to be told for the next 5 months (and then months beyond that) about how great Atkins COULD be... but in all likelihood, I'll never actually get to see it. And as positive as I try to be, that's what I see/feel here. Just another player for Thorne and Hunter to rave about while he hits 220, because "when he gets in a groove" or "he's the kind of guy that has the ability to take any pitch out of the park."

 

You make very good points and I actually agree with you. I now feel a lot worse about this Atkins signing. Now that you mentioned it, Wigginton's hits did come at the most unopportunistic times. And his defense was terrible. I love watching Wigginton play defense, he will make routine plays look like the hardest plays in the world. He struggles so much to make these plays it is hilarious. I am tired of Wigginton as well, at least this is his last year here.

 

Atkins is only on a one-year deal as well. His home-road splits are eye-popping now that you mentioned it. But Camden Yards is no Safeco or Petco Field, he still should be substantially better than Wigginton. Good point on the Mora defense though, hopefully Atkins' bat will at least be average for the position. You cannot say that about Mora/Wigginton last season.

 

We still have a logjam in some areas. We must decide what to do with Luke Scott. Honestly, I think Reimold is already better than Scott. Teach Reimold how to play a little first base, and let him switch between 1B/LF/DH, mainly being our fulltime DH, and LF against LHP. We have seen what Scott can do as a fulltime player, and he is just too streaky to be relied upon. He will go on a stretch where he looks like the next Babe Ruth, but when he tanks, he TANKS. Wigginton, Montanez, Andino, Aubrey or Turner, none of these guys are going to take bats away from Bell. McPhail got Bell for a reason, to be our 3B of the future.

 

When Bell is ready he will play. At the very least Atkins provides a good LHP sub for Bell. As bad as Atkins was last year, he still had a .791 OPS against LHP, and is a career and from 2007-2009 has posted a .856 OPS against LHP. Bell as a switch hitter is not so good from the right side against LHP, so Atkins gives him room to ease into hitting LHP. 2010 is a critical year for the Orioles in our rebuilding, and McPhail realizes this. For us to make a run in 2011, we need guys like Jones, Reimold, Pie, Snyder, and Bell to progress as much as they can to be in a position in 2011 to contribute. 2010 is the year to make the mistakes to get better, I do not think McPhail will be as tolerant in 2011. This is why Atkins, Wigginton, or any other of the older vets will not take away at-bats from Bell or Snyder if they are ready. The bottom line is that Wigginton and Atkins will not be on this team in 2011.

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Batista really wasn't bad defensively.

 

Wigginton, as cleetz said before, had an amazing knack for making even the easiest plays look like webgems.

 

My favorite was the very first time he was put at 2B for the O's (can you imagine, the oaf at 2B?), a light tapper was hit directly at him... and he's running... and charging... and running... and charging... and and and.... Robert Andino, from the SS position, gets across the diamond to the ball before Wigginton does. Runner safe on no throw.

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Well, it looks like McPhail did his research on Atkins and genuinely believes that Atkins has a solid chance of returning to 2006-2008 form. This is encouraging to hear:

 

'I have a lot to prove' with Orioles, Atkins says

 

Oriole officials watched extensive tape of Atkins and feel that his problems at the plate are fixable. He was willing to accept a short-term deal, meaning that he wouldn't be a long-term block for the organization's two top corner infield prospects, third baseman Josh Bell and first baseman Brandon Snyder.

 

And perhaps most importantly, Atkins can play both first and third base, offering Orioles manager Dave Trembley more flexibility. MacPhail is still looking to add another corner infielder and Atkins' presence on the roster allows him to consider first and third basemen.

 

MacPhail said Atkins' position will become "self-evident" before spring training begins, depending on what other moves the Orioles make. While he has played primarily third base during his pro career, Atkins said he'd be fine playing either corner spot, as long as he was given an opportunity to get comfortable at one of them.

 

"Here we had the opportunity to take a little bit of a risk and a flyer on a guy who was one of the most productive National League hitters going into last season," MacPhail said. "We're very confident that he's going to be able to get back to where he's been in the past. I have a lot of confidence in [hitting coach] Terry Crowley. Terry has always been a believer that, if it's in there, he can get it out. We're excited about the possibility of adding a big right-handed bat."

 

Atkins' best season came in 2006, when he hit .329 with 29 homers and 120 RBIs. He had another good year in 2007, hitting .301 with 25 homers and 111 RBIs. However, his numbers have declined in the past three seasons, culminating this past season, when Atkins lost his starting job at one point.

 

"I just got off to a rough start and the coaches started tinkering a little bit," he said. "I couldn't really get a handle on it. Then when I started to feel decent, I lost my starting spot. It was just a tough situation."

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