Pat Valaika has returned to the Baltimore Orioles, while Branden Kline has been designated for assignment.
Well, the Baltimore Orioles appear to have filled their need for more infield depth ahead of spring training.
As announced by the organization on Thursday afternoon, the Orioles have claimed infielder Pat Valaika off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks. With the 40-man roster full, RHP Branden Kline has been designated for assignment.
Valaika was originally claimed off waivers by the Orioles back on October 30th and later designated for assignment to make room for Richard Urena, who was claimed off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Orioles claimed Hanser Alberto off waivers twice last offseason, a move that proved to work out pretty well for Baltimore, but I think it’s safe to say that Valaika won’t provide the same sort of value Alberto was able to provide en route to a .305 batting average, the eighth-highest mark in the American League among qualified hitters.
Valaika showed some power back in 2017 with the Colorado Rockies, hitting 13 home runs in 195 plate appearances, but has since hit just .156 and .190 in each of the last two seasons in Colorado. His wRC+ in each of those seasons was a whopping 9 and 34. Remember, 100 is league average.
However, Valaika is 27 years old and has an option remaining. He also has experience playing at first, second, shortstop, third base, and left field in the major leagues.
Unfortunately, the Orioles are now at risk of losing reliever Branden Kline. A product of the University of Virginia, Kline missed two seasons (2016 and 2017) due to injuries, but the Frederick, Maryland native was able to fight back and make his major league debut in 2019.
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Across 34 appearances, Kline pitched to a 1-4 record and a 5.93 ERA. He also struck out 34 across 41 innings.
Armed with a high-velocity fastball (averaged 96 mph), Kline had success with his slider and changeup, sub-.200 average against and a combined whiff rate just north of 34% with the two pitches, but struggled mightily with his fastball. Opponents hit .349 against Kline’s fastball, hitting eight home runs and rarely missing the pitch.
The 28-year-old righty can now be claimed by another organization that still believes Kline can find success in the big leagues. Ideally, he passes through waivers and he can return to the Orioles for 2020.
The Orioles 40-man roster remains full and the possibility of giving out one final major league contract to a starting pitcher remains an option.