The uncertainty of catcher Matt Wieters‘ return from an elbow injury put the Orioles in a position of need. Steve Clevenger, acquired from the Cubs in a deal involving Jake Arrieta last July, has caught nearly every day since May 9, but he profiles as a quality backup on a contender. Wieters has not played since May 10, and his elbow might require surgery, which would put him out for the remainder of the season.
So the Orioles acted decisively, shipping lefty reliever Troy Patton to the Padres for 30-year-old backstop Nick Hundley. San Diego reportedly sent $2 million to Baltimore to help pay the remainder of Hundley’s contract this season. Even after trading Patton, the Orioles still have three lefty relievers on the active roster in Zach Britton, Brian Matusz and T.J. McFarland.
“Hundley is a proven veteran catcher,” Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette wrote in a text message to BA correspondent Roch Kubatko. “(Hundley) handles pitchers well and has power to stabilize (the) team.”
Nick Hundley, c
Age: 30. Bats: R.
Service time: 5.059.
Coming off a career-high 102 starts in 2013, Hundley figures to do the bulk of the catching in Baltimore in Wieters’ absence. The righty hitter will form a natural platoon with the lefty-hitting Clevenger, though Hundley actually hasn’t hit lefties well for his career, batting .199/.276/.315 in 494 plate appearances. He has thrown out a league-average 28 percent of basestealers for his career and is an average receiver, though last season he led National League catchers with 10 errors and 81 stolen bases allowed.
Hundley is in the final year of his contract, which pays him $4 million, and he serves as an upgrade on 28-year-old rookie Caleb Joseph, who has gone 1-for-20 in his brief big league career. Hundley’s days in San Diego were numbered, based on the presence of two younger, more promising catchers in the system: third-year big leaguers Yasmani Grandal and Double-A backstop Austin Hedges, the system’s top prospect.
Troy Patton, lhp
Service time: 3.150.
Patton began the season on the restricted list as he served a 25-game suspension he earned for testing positive for an amphetamine (revealed to be Adderall). Generally effective as a matchup reliever because of his low arm slot and sharp breaking ball, Patton has limited lefty batters to a .249/.292/.360 batting line for his career. He was the odd man out in Baltimore, however, because the Orioles had two other out-of-options lefty relievers they preferred in Britton and Matusz. In San Diego, Patton joins Alex Torres as lefthanders in the pen.
“Here’s a guy that you look at the little bit of track record that he’s had over the past three years, (and) overall it’s been pretty good work,” Padres manager Bud Black told mlb.com. “He’s done a nice job against lefthanded hitters and he’s capable of getting the righthanded hitters out. He complements Torres.”