HomeMLB RumorsOrioles Sign Tony Kemp, Designate Nick Maton

Orioles Sign Tony Kemp, Designate Nick Maton

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The Orioles announced that they have signed infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp to a major league contract, with infielder/outfielder Nick Maton designated for assignment in a corresponding move. Kemp will make a salary of $1MM, per Andy Kostka of The Baltimore Banner, a bit north of this year’s $740K league minimum.

Kemp, 32, is coming off a decent stretch with the A’s over the past four years. His 11.7% strikeout rate was quite low and he drew walks at a solid 10.5% clip. He didn’t provide much thump when putting the bat on the ball, as he hit just 20 home run in his 1,488 plate appearances in that time. But his .240/.330/.345 batting line was still close to average, translating to a 97 wRC+.

Unfortunately, the most recent season of those four was the worst, as he hit just .209/.303/.304 in 2023. He settled for a minor league deal with the Reds this winter and had a nice spring, slashing .333/.391/.619, though in a tiny sample of 23 plate appearances. Despite that good form, he wasn’t going to make the roster of a Reds club that has a fairly crowded position player mix, so he returned to the open market. He had an opt-out on his minor league deal and he either triggered it or the Reds simply let him go to explore other opportunities.

The Orioles are also loaded with position player talent but will find a way to squeeze Kemp in somehow. They seem to have opted to get some of their talented youngsters more playing time at the Triple-A level, with guys like Jackson Holliday, Coby Mayo, Kyle Stowers and Heston Kjerstad all being optioned or reassigned last week.

While those guys are getting regular playing time on the farm, Kemp will take on a multi-positional bench role with the major league club. He’s not really an option at shortstop, with just two career innings there, but he has plenty of experience at second base and left field.

Kemp has fairly neutral platoon splits in his career, 100 wRC+ versus lefties and 93 against righties, but Ramón Urías and Jordan Westburg are both right-handed. Since Urías and Westburg will likely be covering second and third base in some combination, Kemp can provide a lefty-swinging complement. Left fielder Austin Hays and first baseman/designated hitter Ryan Mountcastle are also right-handed, which perhaps provides another path for Kemp to factor into the club’s plans.

He also had double-digit stolen bases in each of the past two years, which could allow him to serve as a pinch-runner at times. His left field defense has been considered around league average though the metrics are split on his work at the keystone, with seven Outs Above Average but -17 Defensive Runs Saved.

More to come.

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