O's sign infielder Galvis to one-year deal

January 27th, 2021

The Orioles have found their new shortstop. The club on Tuesday filled its most glaring position player need by agreeing to terms with veteran shortstop on a one-year contract. To make room on the 40-man roster, first baseman/outfielder Chris Shaw was designated for assignment.

The deal will pay Galvis $1.5 million and an additional $250,000 if he’s traded, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

Best known for his durability and defensive acumen at short, Galvis immediately jumps to the top of the depth chart on an Orioles team hungry for stability at the position after trading José Iglesias in December. Previously, the O’s primary shortstop options were Richie Martin, utility man Pat Valaika and natural second baseman Yolmer Sánchez.

“He definitely looked like a really good fit all along,” O’s general manager and executive vice president Mike Elias said. “We wanted to target some proven veteran middle infield presences, and I think Freddy Galvis is an ideal solution for us to that end, with what he brings to the table with his accomplishments, being a proven commodity and how we feel he’s going to fit in with this young lineup.”

Like Iglesias, Galvis earned a reputation with his glove before growing into a more productive offensive player later in his career. After the switch-hitter managed just 20 homers over his first four big league seasons with the Phillies, Galvis hit 20 in 2016, 25 from '17-18 and a career-high 23 in '19 for the Blue Jays and Reds. Galvis slumped to a .220/.308/.404 line in 47 games with Cincinnati in '20, with seven homers.

All told, Galvis, 31, is a career .247/.291/.385 hitter with 95 home runs over parts of nine seasons with the Phillies, Padres, Blue Jays and Reds.

“When I was young in Venezuela, I just loved to take ground balls," Galvis said. "I was always at shortstop and I never paid much attention to hitting. At that point, what I loved to do was take grounders and try to make crazy plays like Omar Vizquel. When I got to the U.S., I learned little by little how to hit. The last three or four years, I’ve been working really hard to fix my swing.”

On the defensive side of things, Galvis racked up 23 Outs Above Average at shortstop since the stat began tracking in 2017, with 10 OAA each in ’18 and ’19. That kind of defensive reliability made him a Gold Glove finalist from '16-18, and regularly kept him in the lineup despite below-league average production at the plate. He averaged 157 games played from '16-19, appearing in all 162 in both ’17 and ’18. He’s also played second and third base and made cameos in left and center field.

In Baltimore, bringing Galvis into the fold slots Sánchez in as the everyday second baseman, with Rio Ruiz returning to get the lion’s share of reps at third. The hole the Orioles had to fill was sizable not only because of the departure of Iglesias, but also because of their decision to non-tender Hanser Alberto earlier in the winter. Complicating matters slightly was Wednesday’s news that Martin recently suffered a broken left hamate bone that will require surgery, though Elias said the injury would only sideline Martin for roughly five weeks. Martin missed all of 2020 with a broken right wrist.

Before inking Galvis, the Orioles explored multiple options via trade and free agency, kicking the tires on old friend Jonathan Villar, Daniel Robertson and others, according to reports. By dealing Iglesias and signing Galvis to replace him, the Orioles effectively saved $2 million while netting two pitching prospects, including No. 26 righty Garrett Stallings.

“We’ve been very consistent about the fact that this team is still prioritizing the development [of] our talent infrastructure, our pipeline,” Elias said. 

What’s next? Elias acknowledged the possibility of handing out at least one more Major League deal before winter’s end, with pitching depth remaining as a considerable need. Like they did with Galvis, the Orioles will need to wait out the market given their financial restraints; after playing with baseball’s second-lowest payroll in 2020, Baltimore's projected ’21 Opening Day payroll is roughly $61 million, per Cot's Contracts. That’s a 20 percent decrease from their Opening Day figure from '19. Galvis was the club's first free-agent signing of the offseason.