It’s been nearly a year since Nick over at “Dime Boxes” did one of his “Short-Term Stop” posts. I enjoyed the series, and I suppose Nick might get back to it someday, but right now he’s in semi-retirement so I felt inspired to take up the cause, at least this one time.
There’s one significant difference between this post and Nick’s posts… He made up a lineup of short-term players, while I’m just making a list of notable players who spent one season or a part of one season with the Orioles. The following players are ranked from the most games to the fewest games.
Nelson Cruz, 2014, 159 games
Came: Free agent (from Texas), February, 2014
Went: Free agent (to Seattle), December, 2014
Featured card: 2014 Topps Chrome
Nelson Cruz is one of two players on this list to have been an All-Star while with the Orioles. He also lead the Majors with 40 homers. Cruz was signed to a one-year contract just as Spring Training was gearing up, but played himself out of the Orioles’ price range for the following season.
Harold Reynolds, 1993, 145 games
Came: Free agent (from Seattle), December, 1992
Went: Free agent (to San Diego), January, 1994
Featured card: 1993 Topps Stadium Club
Most people know Reynolds as a broadcaster, but he played 12 seasons as a second baseman. In 1993, he formed a double-play combo with Cal Ripken (turning 110 over the course of the season) and played in 141 games at second. Although he signed with the Padres for 1994, he was traded to the Angels during Spring Training and spent his last MLB season there.
Vladimir Guerrero, 2011, 145 games
Came: Free agent (from Texas), February, 2011
Went: Free agent (to Toronto), May 2012 (but he never played for them)
Featured card: 2012 Topps Heritage
Guerrero was like Nelson Cruz, a “He’s still out of work, let’s see if he’ll take our offer” free agent. Vlad was coming off an All-Star season where he hit 29 homers, 115 RBI, batted .300 and won a Silver Slugger. Although his average with the O’s didn’t fall off much, his hit only 13 homers (while playing home games in Camden Yards, I may remind you). Toronto gave him a chance the following season, but he never played another MLB game after the Orioles.
Reggie Jackson, 1976, 134 games
Came: Trade with Oakland, April, 1976
Went: Free agent (to N.Y. Yankees), November, 1976
Featured card: 1988 Score
I’m sure that many of you thought of Reggie as soon as you saw the subject line. The two principals in the April trade were players in their walk years… Reggie and Don Baylor. The Orioles also got Ken Holtzman – another short-term Oriole who would pitch 13 games before being involved in a 10-payer trade that June – and a minor leaguer, while the A’s got Baylor, Paul Mitchell and Mike Torrez.
Reggie was NOT an All-Star with the Orioles. It was the only season from 1971 to 1984 where he was not so honored. He did lead the league in slugging percentage (.502) and finished 16th in A.L. MVP voting.
Sammy Sosa, 2005, 102 games
Came: Traded with Cubs, February, 2005
Featured card: 2005 Topps Total
One of these days I’m going to write about all the players I regard with disdain, and Sosa will be on that list. Not high on the list, but he’s there. The best I can say about him is that the Orioles didn’t give up much for him (Jerry Hairston, Mike Fontenot and Dave Crouthers). With the Orioles he batted .221 and hit 14 homers, had a -1.0 WAR and earned a special place with Orioles fans.
After the season he got some offers, but he refused to take a minor league contract so he went unsigned. He made a comeback with the Rangers in 2007, hit 21 homers and made it past 600 career homers. Yay.
Dwight Evans, 1991, 101 games
Came: Signed as free agent after his release by the Red Sox, December, 1990
Went: Released, March, 1992
Featured card: 1991 Bowman
Dwight Evans looks freakin’ WEIRD in an Orioles uniform.
After 19 seasons, 8 Gold Gloves, 2 Silver Sluggers, 3 All-Star teams and two World Series with the Red Sox, he was released after the 1990 season. The Orioles picked him up and he played right field and DH in 1991, batting .270 but only 35 runs and 38 RBI. He was back with the team the following spring, but was released halfway through Spring Training and would not play with another team.
Joe Carter, 1998, 85 games
Came: Free agent (from Toronto), December, 1997
Went: Traded to San Francisco, July, 1998
Featured card: 1998 Score Rookie and Traded
I don’t mean to diss Joe Carter, but this is getting repetitive. Slugger in his late thirties with declining power numbers. He was traded to the Giants mid-season for Darin Blood, a pitcher who got derailed by injuries and peaked in AAA (but made it on a few Bowman cards).
After his stint with the Giants, Joe Carter retired.
Lee Smith, 1994, 41 games
Came: Free Agent (from N.Y. Yankees), January, 1994
Went: Free Agent (to California), December, 1994
Featured card: 1994 Topps Traded
Finally, a break from aging sluggers! Lee Smith is the other Short-term Oriole All-Star. He lead the Majors with 33 saves while only pitching 38.1 innings and had a 1.174 WHIP. Smith had been the career saves leader until he was passed by Trevor Hoffman.
Unfortunately, Lee Smith blew a save in the All-Star game, giving up 2 runs in the 9th as the National League tied up the game and then won in the 10th.
David Wells, 1996, 34 games
Came: Trade with Reds, December, 1995
Went: Free agent (to N.Y. Yankees), December, 1996
Featured card: 1996 Fleer Baltimore Orioles “Team Set”
This card is from a glossy Orioles team set issued by Fleer in 1996, so it’s sort of a glossy parallel. Sort of.
Wells went 11-14 with a 5.14 ERA. His 2.046 walks per 9 innings was the second-best in the league, and he finished 8th in the league in WHIP. His 20 win season and perfect game were still a couple of years away.
Fernando Valenzuela, 1993, 32 games
Came: Free Agent (from Mexico), February, 1993
Went: Free Agent (eventually signing with Phillies), October, 1993
Featured card: 1993 Upper Deck
Fernandomania did not sweep Baltimore. The former Cy Young winner went 8-10 with a 4.94 ERA, but pitched 5 complete games and was the July pitcher of the month after going 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA and 2 CG’s.
Jim Thome, 2012, 28 games
Came: Trade with Phillies, June, 2012
Went: Free Agency leading to retirement, October, 2012
Featured card: 2012 TSR Custom in the style of 1979 Topps
I don’t think there were any cards that showed Jim Thome with the O’s, other than customs (like mine from 4 years ago). Thome hit his final 3 homers with the O’s, but I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say he was a good influence in the clubhouse. I’m frankly surprised he’s not a coach somewhere. Thome will be inducted into the Indians Hall Of Fame later this month.
Andrew Miller, 2014, 23 games
Came: Trade with Red Sox, July, 2014
Went: Free Agent (to N.Y. Yankees), October, 2014
Featured card: 2014 TSR
Miller’s time with the Birds fell towards the end of his four-year absence from Topps products (2011 – 2014). Fortunately, an enterprising custom card maker was there to fill in the slack:
You know how many saves Miller had with the Orioles? Just one… He wasn’t the closer. He did have a 1.35 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and pitched 7.1 scoreless innings in the postseason. I was sorry to see him go, but I can’t blame him for going for the big bucks.
Jose Bautista, 2004, 16 games
Came: Rule V Draft from Pittsburgh, December, 2003
Went: Waivers to Tampa Bay, June 2004
(I don’t have a card of Bautista with the O’s)
During the 2004 season, Bautista went from the O’s to the Rays to the Royals to the Mets and then back to the Pirates. It would be a few years before he’d become a regular, and a few more years before he became a feared slugger.
“Joey Bats” wasn’t the first Jose Bautista to play for the Orioles; there was a pitcher in the late1980’s and 1990’s.
Lou Piniella, 1964, 4 games
Came: Trade with Washington, August, 1964
Went: Trade with Indians, March 1966
Lou Piniella didn’t appear on cardboard with the Orioles, which is not surprising since he was a 20-year-old who had just one at-bat and never played in the field. In his one at-bat, he pinch-hit for pitcher Robin Roberts, grounded out, and was replaced in the lineup by the relief pitcher Chuck Estrada. His other three games had him inserted as a pinch runner, but he never scored and was quickly replaced in each game. He would not get another cup of coffee until 1968. That fall, he was taken by the Seattle Pilots in the expansion draft, the Pilots traded him to Kansas City on April 1st… and Piniella was the Rookie of the Year with the Royals.
Tim Raines, 2001, 4 games
Came: Sold by Expos, October 3, 2001
Went: Free Agent, November, 2001
There is a card or two of Raines with the Orioles, but I don’t have one. Raines was with the O’s for one reason: To finish out the few games left in the season playing with his son, Tim Raines Jr., something he did get to do.
Special Bonus Player
This last guy gets a special mention, even though he never actually played for the Orioles… But he had been the team’s #1 draft pick in 1997, was a top catching prospect and has athletic bloodlines. Here’s the photo from the back of his 1998 Bowman card.
Can you guess who this clean-cut, bespectacled young catcher is?
Believe it or not, it’s “Captain Caveman”.
Here’s the front of that Bowman card.
Yep, Jayson Werth was supposed to be the Orioles’ next big thing behind the plate. When it didn’t work out that way, the O’s sent him to Toronto for middle reliever John Bale. The Blue Jays had read the back of his Bowman card — “Could handle outfield if Orioles choose to move him” — and the rest is history. To be fair, he really didn’t become a standout player until much later.
I could’ve mentioned a few other players, but this post is already longer than I’d intended.
I’m not sure I’ll do another one of these “Short-term” posts, but if you like the idea, it’s pretty easy to do one for your own team. If you go to baseball-reference.com, pull up your team, go to the “franchise encyclopedia” and then go to each of the links in the “Players: batting / pitching” heading. One of the columns on the left is “Yrs.”, which is the number of years with the team. Click on the header to sort, and you’ll have all of your one-year players grouped together.