Yesterday, the Orioles came to terms with reliever Luis Ayala. Ayala will be another late-game bullpen option for Buck Showalter along with Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop, Kevin Gregg, and Matt Lindstrom (in some order).
Ayala, 34, has pitched in the majors since 2003. He had a bit of a comeback season last year for the Yankees, when he finished with a 2.09 ERA in 56 innings. Still, he was a bit lucky and wasn't nearly as good as that ERA indicates. Oddly enough, he walked the most batters per nine innings (3.21) in his career last season, and he also finished with an absurdly high left-on-base percentage of 85.7. There's no way that he'll be able to repeat that number, though duplicating his 50 percent ground ball rate would certainly be beneficial.
Ayala's deal is for one year and $925,000, and it includes a $100,000 buyout and a $1 million team option for 2013. The O's waited a little while and got a serviceable reliever for not a lot of money. Not bad.
Signing Ayala is fine, but the better news is that the O's are apparently out of the Manny Ramirez sweepstakes. Signing Ramirez would not have made much sense, and that's without considering his 50-game ban for previously testing positive for banned substances. He can only fill the designated hitter spot at this point in his career, and such a signing is really a luxury that the O's don't need. Ramirez could possibly have served as a decent DH platoon option with Wilson Betemit, but I also doubt Showalter would consistently employ that type of strategy.
Betemit will likely be the main DH, though that should also allow Showalter to keep some guys (Matt Wieters, Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis, Nolan Reimold, etc.) off the field but in the lineup on occasion. Lineup flexibility is important; apparently that's something that was learned from the Vladimir Guerrero signing.