The Orioles might have filled the Alex Cobb-sized hole in their rotation before it even opened. Baltimore is bringing back veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc on a Minor League contract, which the club officially announced Wednesday night. Sources told MLB.com the deal includes an invitation to Spring Training and it will pay LeBlanc $700,000 if he makes the team out of camp.
MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported the two sides had agreed to a deal minutes before the club finalized its trade of Alex Cobb to the Angels for Jamhai Jones on Tuesday night.
A veteran of 12 big league seasons with eight teams, LeBlanc signed a similar deal with the Orioles last winter and earned a rotation spot out of camp, going 1-0 with a 8.06 ERA before a stress reaction in his left elbow ended his season after six starts. The 36-year-old did not require surgery and returned home to Louisiana, raising money for his native Lake Charles community ravished by Hurricane Laura.
The opportunity to return to Baltimore stems from the considerable turnover the O’s rotation saw after LeBlanc’s injury, notably the departures of Asher Wojciechowski (DFA), Tommy Milone (via trade) and Cobb (trade). In the meantime, the O’s watched two of their top 15 prospects -- Dean Kremer and Keegan Akin -- and another rookie, Bruce Zimmermann, enjoy impressive 2020 debuts. That should position them as favorites to claim the four open rotation slots behind John Means, with Jorge López, swing man Thomas Eshelman and now LeBlanc entering that mix.
The O’s also added former Cy Young Award winner Félix Hernández on a Minor League deal, and are expected to give long looks to No. 8 prospect Michael Baumann and No. 11 prospect Zac Lowther in camp.
LeBlanc has pitched in nearly every role, and in every division, during his journeyman career. All told, the crafty southpaw is 46-47 with a 4.55 ERA and 1.35 WHIP across 240 games (120 starts) for the Padres, Marlins, Astros, Angels, Yankees, Mariners, Pirates and O’s.