Baltimore Orioles Minor League Signings: Any Steve Pearce?


Sep 13, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce (28) celebrates with teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Yankees won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, the Baltimore Orioles announced a small boatload of minor league contracts being signed. Most of these players have been the in minor leagues for some time and are among the older ages one will see still hoping to make it to Major League Baseball.

The truth of the matter is that most of these guys will never wear a big-league uniform. They are the AA-AAA-AAAA types of players that Dan Duquette particularly signs a number of, often to the derision of fans.

So why does he do this? Let me suggest three primary reasons …

Populating Depth and Quality in the Minor League System

There is no doubt that the Baltimore Orioles farm system has more quality players than any other time in recent history. This is especially true of pitchers. But it is not as it there are 75 future major leaguers in the top three teams on the farm.

In 2014, the Norfolk Tides were 65-79; and only one other of the 14 teams in the International League had a worse record. The Bowie BaySox were in the very middle of the Eastern League with a 72-70 record. The Frederick Keys were 65-72. That is a combined 19 games under .500.

For the future stars of the Baltimore Orioles to grow and develop, they need sufficient quality teammates to fill out the rosters and make it all competitively possible and the most enriching experience.

Depth and Fallback Options for the Orioles in the Event of Injuries

Thank God this past year for Caleb Joseph and for all of the years the Orioles stuck with him in the minor leagues, developing him from a defensively-challenged catcher into one with plus skills to fill in for the injured Matt Wieters.

The same could be said for a player like Brad Brach, who was a critical arm in the great Orioles bullpen in 2014. Brach was drafted in the 42nd round in 2008 by the Padres. Though he has pitched in MLB in portions of seasons since 2011, he has also spent time in the minor leagues in all seven of his years in professional baseball.

The Hope of a Late Bloomer Breaking Through

The poster boy in MLB this year as a breakthrough player was the Orioles’ Steve Pearce.

After batting .293 with 21 home runs in 2014, Pearce has raised his career batting average to .255 with 38 homers. That is over a period of eight seasons of bouncing around between four major league teams: O’s, Pirates, Yankees, Astros.

Pearce was originally a 2004 pick of the Red Sox in the 10th round. He also spent time in the Twins organization.

All totaled, Pearce has played for 10 different minor league teams and four in MLB… that’s 14 different uniforms. That is also a crazy story, but it is one that paid off in 2014 in a big, big way.

Probably most of you have already seen Roch Kubatko’s article and brief summary on each of these players signed on Wednesday. Beyond Ozzie Martinez (whom I wrote about on Tuesday), the O’s re-signed last year’s Rule 5 infielder Michael Almanzar – who was returned from Boston with Kelly Johnson in the late-season trade of Ivan De Jesus and Jemile Weeks.

I was pleased to see Chris Jones able to be retained. He was at least decent with the Tides this past year, posting an 8-8 record and 3.64 ERA. You may recall him as coming to the Orioles in the Luis Ayala trade. That’s still a good deal!

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The others include if/of Derrik Gibson, LHPs Frank Gailey and Ronan Pacheco, and RHPs Kenn Gasperek, Tim Gustafson, and Mikey O’Brien. Maybe the O’s very capable pitching coaches at AA and AAA can make something of one or two of these guys.

In the Duquette era of baseball in Baltimore, it would not be a shocker at all to see one or more of them contribute at some point.