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O’s Call Up 2015 First-Rounder D.J. Stewart

D.J. Stewart in the batter's box.

Greeting again, Birdland. It’s been nothing but a whole lotta sadness, losing, and bad, bad baseball since we last talked. My writers are all seemingly too depressed to even analyze anything these days, as my email inbox for ESR stories has been as quiet as Chris Davis’ bat.

Hey, I can’t particularly blame them. The Birds have shown zero signs of life lately, and the great majority of the “kids” getting playing time these days are either not kids at all or are kids but are performing quite poorly.

The Birds are 41-102, and now have a chokehold on the 2019 #1 draft pick, especially after being swept by Kansas City a couple weekends back. They’re now seven games worse than K.C. in the standings. Since sweeping the Blue Jays for their first and only three-game sweep of 2018, the Orioles have lost eight of nine.

Beat writers are tweeting encouraging things like this:

In short, everything is awful, and every time we think maybe – just maybe – we’ve hit rock bottom, the floor gives way, revealing yet another sub-basement.

There’s no reason for hope. Nothing about which to get excited. Basically, if you’re tuning in these days, it’s to watch Cedric Mullins…and that’s about it.

Perhaps the Birds have just given us downtrodden lot another reason to turn on the games though. They finally called up a guy who may actually be a real prospect, though the shine has slightly dulled from the apple after reemerging a year ago.

2015 first-round pick D.J. Stewart is joining the team today. Per Roch Kubatko, Stewart, in addition to making his MLB debut, will earn the honor of being the 55th player used by the Orioles in 2018, a new franchise single-season record.

Congrats, Demetrius!

Stewart, 24 (25 in November), hit .278/.378/.481 with 21 HR and 79 RBI 126 games for Bowie in 2017. He was at .235/.329/.387 with 12 HR and 55 RBI in 116 games for Norfolk this year.

Will D.J. make it any more likely the Orioles are able to crack 50 wins (find the odds here)? Will he be a part of the next good Orioles team? I’m not personally optimistic, but I’m certainly more interested to tune in tonight than I was a couple hours ago. Good luck, Mr. Stewart, and welcome to The Show.

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Is This a Rebuild or Sell Off?

cartoon of sad orioles bird face

As the 2018 season mercifully nears its end, I have started to play a little game.

What game you ask?

Allow me to bring in Petyr Baelish to explain:

I was ecstatic as the Orioles began to make their much needed moves, trading valuable pieces in Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman and Brad Brach.

It was a vital first step to start the arduous rebuild process for a team in need of not only organizational depth, but one in need of increased talent at virtually every position with the big league club as well.

What if, however, the entire “rebuild” is a ruse, and nothing more than a salary dump disguised as a rebuild?

What if, this process has been started to put the current ownership group in a position to sell?

What would this look like?

Let’s play a game:

 

Saving Money vs. Talent Acquisition

If the Orioles were more interested in decreasing long term financial commitments instead of a true rebuild, they would refuse to chip in any cash in the trades they made, and instead, accept less value in return. The trades made to date have seen all the teams receiving players from the Orioles absorb 100% of the remaining contracts.

After seeing what the Rays acquired in return for Chris Archer, could the Orioles have gotten more talent for Gausman? Maybe, but we will never know. But what didn’t help was also tossing in Darren O’Day and the $13M remaining on his contract. What would the Braves want with a guy on the 60-day DL as they are in the middle of a playoff push?

Sure they’ll have him next year, but that move screams salary dump and it cost them vital organizational talent in the name of cutting payroll, as did not picking up some of the money on the other players they dealt. To me, a true rebuild would maximize the talent on the returns, not the cash saved on the MLB roster.

 

International Bonus Money

Some may say, “Sure they may have not gotten impressive returns on the trades, but look at all that international money they acquired!” On the surface, this seems true. The moves the O’s made provided them with more than double the pool money to the next closest team, and put them in a strong position to sign Victor Victor Mesa.

BUT, what if they don’t sign him? What if, they only spend a small portion of the available funds (because they were late to the international signing party), and the rest goes to waste as the pool money follows a “use it or lose it structure.”

If this scenario plays out, it only further dampens the work they’ve done toward a rebuild and raises more questions about the organizations intentions.

 

Who is the Architect?

Who is conducting this rebuild? On what planet would an organization let someone dictate the future of their club that would no longer be an employee at seasons end? Is that the case with Dan Duquette? What about Buck Showalter? What role, if any, does Brady Anderson play in all of this? Maybe the inner circle of the organization knows the answers to these questions, but is it possible that they don’t?

Is it possible they don’t care because the long term objective is to sell?

 

Invest the Savings?

With arbitration awaiting Schoop and Gausman, it is difficult to pinpoint an exact dollar amount of money saved for the Orioles, but a conservative estimate is $60M came off the books. Throughout the start of this process, we have heard how payroll would be cut to accommodate increased spending in the areas of scouting and analytics. In a months’ time, the Orioles slashed $60 million. Were they spending any money before on scouting? As payroll presumable continually goes down over the next couple of years, is the plan to invest $100M in off the field activities? Color me skeptical.

In isolation, none of these items means anything. The O’s could be dumping payroll to invest in scouting and analytics, they could have a concrete plan in place for who is the architect of this rebuild and they could be on the verge of signing VVM.

Put everything together however, and at the very least it should have eyebrows raised.

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Series Preview: Orioles (40-94) @ Royals (42-91)

Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium.

After recording their first three-game sweep of 2018 against the Blue Jays, the Orioles will be looking to bank a few more tallies in the win column during their upcoming three-game set in Kansas City.

The Orioles (40-94) can also match a season-high four-game win streak with a win in tonight’s series opener. The last time they managed to do so was with two straight wins against the Royals and the Rays at Camden Yards from May 9th-12th.

The Royals (42-91) will be feeling good after taking two of three against the division-leading Indians and notching a two-game sweep of the Tigers over the past week. They’re 4-1 over the first five games of their current eight-game home stand and own a solid 11-10 record at Kauffman Stadium during the second half of the season.

Andrew Cashner (4-12, 4.79 ERA) will take on Brad Keller (6-5, 3.33 ERA) Friday in the opener.

Cashner turned in a solid outing during his last start against the Yankees, but took the loss after allowing three runs on nine hits over seven innings. Over his last four contests, the Orioles righty has posted a 1-2 record and a stout 3.66 ERA through 27 innings of work. He’s also posted four quality starts over his last six attempts.

Keller took the no-decision after allowing two runs over five innings against Cleveland in his last outing, but will be looking for another strong performance against the Orioles. Through five starts in August, the Royals rookie has notched a 2-1 record and an impressive 3.07 ERA over 29 1/3 innings pitched.

Dylan Bundy (7-13, 5.37 ERA) will go up against Heath Fillmyer (2-1, 4.24 ERA) in Thursday’s contest.

Bundy took the loss after allowing four runs over five innings during his latest start against the Yankees, and will try to snap out of his current dip in form against the Royals. Bundy has gone 0-4 with a 9.24 ERA through five starts in August and is 1-6 with an 8.87 ERA over his last nine starts.

Fillmyer earned his second win of the season after holding Cleveland to a single run on three hits over six innings during his last start, and will be aiming for a second straight against the Orioles. Over his last four starts, Fillmyer has gone 2-0 with a 4.71 ERA and he hasn’t lost a start in seven straight contests.

David Hess (3-8, 5.08 ERA) will match-up against Jorge Lopez (0-4, 4.86 ERA) in Friday’s series finale.

Hess put forth yet another strong display by holding the Blue Jays to just four hits over six scoreless innings en route to his third win of the season, and will be aiming for a fifth straight strong performance in Kansas City. Over his last four starts, the Orioles in-form rookie has notched a 1-2 record and a sensational 2.19 ERA through 24 2/3 innings.

Lopez took his third straight loss after allowing five runs over four innings against Cleveland, and will be trying to notch his first win as a Royal in the finale. The 25-year-old was a top prospect in the Brewers system before headlining the trade for Mike Moustakas back in July. Over three starts with Kansas City, the rookie right-hander has gone 0-3 with a 7.90 ERA.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to continuing the streak!

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Series Preview: Orioles (37-94) vs. Blue Jays (60-70)

Kendrys Morales of the Blue Jays.

After getting swept against the Yankees over the weekend, the Orioles will now aim to salvage a positive note at home before embarking on a nine-game road trip.

Need a reason to watch? Jays’ slugger Kendrys Morales has now homered in seven straight games, a streak that started against the Orioles last week (because of course it did), and can tie the MLB record (shared by Ken Griffey Jr., Don Mattingly, and Dale Long) tonight. Unfortunately for Kendrys, Dylan Dinger Bundy pitched last night, but other O’s hurlers haven’t exactly kept the ball in the yard either. We may well see MLB history over the next couple games.

The Orioles (37-94) will also be looking to snap a season-high eight-game losing streak in tonight’s series opener. Their current skid has resulted in a 5-19 record in the month of August and a dismal 2-15 mark over their last seventeen games.

The Blue Jays (60-70) will come into town feeling good after taking two of three from the Phillies and going 5-1 over their latest home stand before hitting the road. They’ll also look to improve upon their season record of 12-1 record against the Orioles as they head into their fifth head-to-head clash of 2018.
David Hess (2-8, 5.50 ERA) will go up against Sam Gaviglio (3-6, 4.94 ERA) in tonight’s match-up.

Hess took a tough loss in Toronto after allowing just one run on three hits over seven sparkling innings in his last start, but will be looking for a fourth straight quality start against the same squad. In his last three contests, the Orioles rookie owns an impressive 2.89 ERA over 18 2/3 innings.

Gaviglio will be looking to shut the Orioles down again after holding them to two runs over seven innings during his last start in Toronto. The Blue Jays righty snapped a fifteen-game winless streak in that contest and picked up his first win since May 25th against the Phillies.

The Orioles have yet to name a starter to take on Thomas Pannone (1-0, 1.59 ERA) in Tuesday’s clash.

Pannone will be looking for a repeat performance against the Orioles after silencing them to the tune of a single hit over seven scoreless innings during his last start at the Rogers Centre. The rookie southpaw notched his first career major league start and win in that match-up and owns a stout 1.59 ERA over his first 11 1/3 innings of work in the show.

Alex Cobb (4-15, 5.00 ERA) will match-up against Ryan Borucki (3-3, 4.12 ERA) in Wednesday’s series finale.

Cobb turned in yet another impressive outing during his last start against the Yankees and finished the game having allowed just two earned runs over six innings. The Orioles’ in-form righty now owns a 2-1 record and a superb 1.80 ERA over 35 innings through five starts this month. Over his last eight contests,

Cobb has gone 2-4 with a sparkling 2.24 ERA over 52 1/3 innings.

Borucki notched his third win of the season after holding the Phillies to just two runs over 6 1/3 innings during his last start, and will be looking for more of the same against the Orioles. The Blue Jays rookie southpaw has been fairly impressive this season and has notched seven quality starts in eleven attempts.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to snapping the skid.

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Series Preview: Orioles (37-90) vs. Yankees (79-47)

Zach Britton pitches in Yankees pinstripes.

After getting swept in Toronto, the Orioles will now return home and take on the Yankees for a four-game set over the weekend.

The Orioles (37-90) are coming off of a 1-5 road trip and will try to snap a four-game losing streak in tonight’s series opener. They’ll also look to use an upcoming seven-game home stand to improve upon their 5-15 record in the month of August.

The Yankees (79-47) are missing a few key players at the moment, but still hold a four-game lead over Oakland for the top wild card spot in the American League. However, the injury-hit Yankees squad will have a hard time catching the Red Sox as they find themselves 9.5-games behind the division leaders.

Alex Cobb (4-15, 5.09 ERA) will take on CC Sabathia (7-4, 3.32 ERA) in tonight’s match-up.

Cobb dominated en route to a complete-game win over the Indians and went the distance having allowed just two runs on five hits. The Orioles’ in-form veteran hurler now owns a 2-4 record and an outstanding 2.14 ERA over his last seven starts. Over four starts this month, Cobb has gone 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA over 29 innings of work.

Sabathia took home his seventh win of the season after holding the Rangers to a single hit over six shutout innings versus the Rangers in his last start, and will look to do the same against the Orioles. The Yankees veteran righty has posted a 1-0 record and a 1.84 ERA over three starts in August.

The Orioles and Yankees will go-head-to-head in a double-header on Saturday, and neither squad has determined their rotation order as of yet. What we do know is that Andrew Cashner (4-11, 4.84 ERA) and JA Happ (14-6, 3.84 ERA) will take the mound in one of Saturday’s clashes.

Cashner took the loss after allowing six runs on seven hits over five innings during his last start in Toronto, and will look to bounce back against New York. He’s allowed two runs or less in six of his last nine contests and has recorded a 3.60 ERA over 19 innings during his last three starts combined.

Happ earned his fourth straight win after allowing two runs over 5 1/3 innings against Toronto, and will be aiming to make it five in a row in Baltimore. Since being traded to the Bronx, the former Jays All-Star has gone 4-0 with a sublime 2.22 ERA over four starts.

Dylan Bundy (7-12, 5.31 ERA) will go up against Luis Severino (16-6, 3.28 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale.

Bundy was tagged by the Blue Jays during his last start and allowed seven runs on ten hits over just four innings. He’ll be looking to snap a nightmare-ish run of form in which he’s posted a 1-4 record and an 8.67 ERA over his last seven starts. Over four starts in August, he’s gone 0-3 with a 9.74 ERA.

Severino may have picked up his 16th win of the season after allowing two runs over five innings against Toronto during his last outing, but has been struggling as of late for the Bombers. The Yankees’ All-Star ace has gone 3-4 with a 7.02 ERA over his last eight contests.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to ending the losing streak.

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Thursday Thoughts: Bundy, Andreoli, & 2019 Schedule

Dylan Bundy jogs in Spring Training.

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. (Today we have a Billy Ripken version) – A.S.

Before we get going with this week’s Thoughts, I want to do a real quick shameless plug. I spoke with Justin McGuire of the Locked On Orioles podcast yesterday about a piece I wrote earlier this week over at MASNSports.com. We discussed the O’s offensive philosophy heading into the rebuild as well as Chris Davis and what exactly to do with him. Listen to it here.

1. I don’t think anyone would’ve come into this season expecting Dylan Bundy to be barreling toward September with an ERA of 5.31, but everything is awful and now here we are.

Bundy has been especially abysmal in August, posting an ERA of 9.74 along with seven homers in 20.1 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .387 off him in August. It’s just all bad.

When the Orioles traded Kevin Gausman last month, I was a little puzzled as to why Bundy wasn’t also exiting. I don’t think the O’s would’ve dealt Gausman (who has pitched to an ERA of 2.00 in his first 27 innings in Atlanta, so, yeah) if they expected his value to increase come this winter. The same should’ve gone for Bundy, who is obviously seeing his stock fall, and not just fall, but plummet. Bundy has just one more year of team control than Gausman, but at this point, none of that matters.

[Related: What’s Wrong with Dylan Bundy?]

It was supposed to be these two guys leading the charge in this rotation for years to come. Now one of them is gone, and the other is showing no signs of being a competent big league pitcher, much less front-line starter.

2. Many were up in arms the other day when the Orioles claimed 28-year-old outfielder John Andreoli and it took him just a few days to get on the roster. Why are the Orioles wasting their time on a veteran journeyman rather than calling up one of their outfield prospects? There were a lot of people angered by this, in a season that I’ll remind you, does not matter.

I get it, on the surface. The Orioles have once again gone “dumpster diving” for a player, claiming him off waivers and immediately sticking him in the lineup. But there’s also no real benefit to bringing up a top prospect like D.J. Stewart or Austin Hays at this point, either. The Orioles can trot out Andreoli for now and see if he’s capable of being the 25th man on the roster next year. I’m sure we will see more prospects come up once rosters expand in September.

There’s also something to be said for not exposing young players to this type of dreadful atmosphere around the team.

Regardless, I’m not going to be the guy complaining about who is on the roster right now.

3. There’s been fans trashing roster construction over the past week, but there’s also been fans still choosing to trash Adam Jones over the past month. That’s something I won’t really stand for. Fans are still on this wacky bit where they are mad at Jones for exercising his rights to veto a trade at the deadline. I don’t really understand why fans believe that it’s Jones’ job to help the club from within the front office as well as on the field.

He signed up to a long-term extension when things were bad in Baltimore, and he helped make them good again. He’s done everything asked of him on the field and everything he didn’t have to do off of it. Jones is looking out for himself in his career, and for his family. I see nothing wrong with that. I only see fans complaining about it.

It’s silly and it needs to stop.

4. The Orioles got word on their 2019 schedule yesterday, and personally, I like it. I see opportunities to travel to a few west coast cities I haven’t seen baseball games in. There’s potential for me to head to Denver for a weekend series in May against the Rockies as well as a trip for a weekend series in June in Seattle.

Selfishly, the Orioles will also make a return to Arizona, where I reside. That happens in late July. The last time the O’s were in Arizona, it was ugly. Three straight games, three straight walk-off losses. I was at each game, and each one hurt a little more. This was in mid-August of 2013, and it probably sent Jim Johnson packing. The O’s ended up missing the postseason that year, despite managing an 85-77 record.

What I noticed about next year’s schedule, is that it includes two west coast swings, which is not uncommon. The first is in June, with three in Oakland followed by four in Seattle. The second is the late July trip that starts in Arizona, then heads to Anaheim to face the Angels for four followed by two games in San Diego. But the O’s trip to Colorado is sandwiched between two home series against the Yankees and Tigers.

So the O’s will play on Thursday, head to the Mountain Time Zone for three against the Rockies during the weekend, and then be back at Camden Yards for a game on Monday. That’s a tough scheduling break.

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Cobb & Bundy Heading in Opposite Directions

Alex Cobb and Dylan Bundy.

As we search for things to potentially keep us engaged in this 2018 Orioles debacle, we’re pretty much reduced to hoping to “win” the race for the number one draft pick, yes, but shouldn’t we also have some positive and/or interesting things to watch on a nightly basis NOW, as the team plays out the string?

There’s Cedric Mullins, who could very well be this team’s centerfielder of the future. There’s Renato Nunez, making a surprise case that he could be a cog in the rebuild. There could very soon be more call-ups from Norfolk and/or Bowie, like Austin Hays, D.J. Stewart, or others.

And what there should be, what we’d hoped to be able to count on, was that at least we can watch Dylan Bundy deal every fifth day.

Yeah, not so much.

Bundy has been abysmal over his last dozen or so starts, and things don’t appear to be likely to improve any time soon. On Wednesday in Toronto, he gave up seven runs for the third consecutive start.

Is that bad?

It’s more than a little distressing. Let’s try to see if we can figure anything out (because Dylan sure can’t, HEYO!)

Let’s first look at Dylan’s ERA by month in 2018:

April – 3.68

May – 6.12*

June – 1.98

July – 8.38

August – 9.74

May included the ridiculous clunker against the Kansas City Royals, when Bundy faced just seven batters, allowing five hits, two walks, and four home runs, for seven earned runs in 0.0 IP. We can give him a mulligan for that one – in that case, his May ERA drops to 4.18. Not great, but certainly more in line with April and June.

Since tossing eight scoreless against Boston on June 11, Bundy has just three quality starts in ten tries. In that same span, he’s allowed five or more runs six times, including seven in each of his last three starts. After that June 11 game, his season ERA stood at a very respectable 3.66. It’s now 5.31.

So what the heck is going on?

Perusing the data on BrooksBaseball.net and BaseballSavant.com, there are some potential indications, but nothing really jumps off the page. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The first thing I noticed was Bundy’s horizontal release point. Here it is by month in 2018.

Dylan Bundy horizontal release point.

Based on this, one would assume Bundy has moved on the rubber. However, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Here’s Dylan back on Mother’s Day:

Dylan Bundy pitches against the Rays.

And here’s Dylan last week against the Mets:

Dylan Bundy pitches against the Mets.

He certainly appears to be pitching from the first base side of the rubber in both instances.

So if he is standing in the same spot, why is his horizontal release point changing? Could a look at his vertical release point give us any further insight?

Dylan Bundy vertical release point.

If anything, Bundy appears to be coming more over the top, as opposed to letting his arm leak out to the side, which we’d expect could be accounting for the change in horizontal release point.

I’m no doctor, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I’ll offer one other potential explanation (I welcome yours as well):

Remember, Bundy injured his ankle running the bases in Atlanta in June. Since coming back from that, he’s turned in only two quality starts in eight tries. Perhaps his ankle is still bothering him, and it’s affected his push-off or his landing (I don’t know which ankle it was that he hurt – fill me in if you do).

I admit, I’m fishing for answers here (as I’m sure he and the coaches are). If you’ve any alternative theory for the change in horizontal release point, I’m all ears.

What about his velocity? Well…

Dylan Bundy velocity chart.

Anything jump out to you? The fastball dipped under 92 in July, but has creeped back above here in August. The change-up looks the same as it did in his very good April-May-June, as does the slider. The curveball has fluctuated a bit and is at a season-low in August.

Movement (vertical)?

Dylan Bundy movement chart.

Now we may be getting somewhere. His slider and curve have stopped moving. The slider is dropping a half-inch or so less, while the curve has lost nearly two inches of movement since April (and half an inch since May).

How often is he using said pitches? Here are his pitch percentages:

Dylan Bundy pitch usage chart.

So Bundy is using his four-seamer, curve, and slider less (much less for the first two) than he was earlier in the year, and has made up for it with a lot more two-seamers and a couple more change-ups. He’s throwing over 20% two-seamers in August, up from 5% in May. Curious.

I also looked at some spin rates on BaseballSavant.com. I expected to find a significant dip to point at and say A-HA!, but I did not. I went through the trouble of doing this though, so you’re gonna look at this graph!

Dylan Bundy spin rate.

The spin rates on his four-seamer and slider were actually the lowest during his best month. So scratch that theory.

Maybe it really is just a location thing?

Here’s June for those three pitches:

Dylan Bundy heat map.

And here’s August:

Dylan Bundy heat map.

It certainly looks like Bundy was doing a better job keeping his pitches out of the middle of the plate in June, compared to this month. Just look at all the red toward and just outside of the edges of the zone in the first heat map, compared to the second, where pretty much all of the red is IN the zone.

So, that’s my investigation of nerd data on Dylan. To conclude: His pitch selection has changed markedly, and his horizontal release point is oddly floating, despite his appearing to still be pitching from the first-base side of the rubber. His spin rates don’t appear to be a concern, but his breaking pitches aren’t breaking nearly as much as they were, and his command is suffering as a result of…something.

If you have a subscription to The Athletic, it’s worth checking out this piece from friend of ESR Matt Kremnitzer. He wrote it back at the end of July, before things went even further off the rails for Bundy, but it’s still instructive.

Bundy insists he is healthy. Let’s hope, for our sakes and his, that he isn’t being totally honest in that assessment. I think it’s far past time to either shut him down for the season, or to at least start giving him 5-6 days off between starts (after all, that’s helped him in the past) to see if he can regain some effectiveness in this lost season’s final month. At this point, the only thing running him out there every fifth day guarantees is that the opposing team will score at least seven runs that day.

So that’s Dylan.

Let’s end on a bit of a positive note, shall we?

Alex Cobb is good again! Cobb’s ERA by month:

April – 13.11

May – 4.67

June – 6.67

July – 4.34

August – 1.55

What’s been so different for Cobb in August, when he’s allowed just five ER on 23 hits in 29.0 IP, with 19 strikeouts, five walks, and just three HR allowed over four starts?

Well, for one thing..

“The Thing,” of course, is Cobb’s split/change. He’s using it more…

Alex Cobb THING usage chart.

It’s breaking more…

Alex Cobb THING break chart.

And it’s getting a lot more whiffs!

Alex Cobb THING whiff chart.

All great news. Hopefully it’s sustainable. This version of Cobb has plenty of value to the organization, whether they decide to keep him around or try to move him before his contract is up.

That’s our story of two Orioles pitchers, whose seasons have taken very different trajectories. One of them has gone from must-see TV to cringe-worthy, while the other has done the complete opposite.

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The Rundown: Gausman Shines, Bundy Flops, Harvey Hurt

Gas Man Gausman graphic.

The playoff race should be exciting in Major League Baseball over the final weeks of the season, but in Birdland, we’re focused on the first overall pick in next year’s draft. The Royals are trying their best to finish with the worst record in baseball, but the Orioles’ schedule in September is much more difficult which should give them the edge to winning the number one pick in June.

 

Harvey Shut Down Again 

In order to speed up a rebuild, a lot has to go right. Injuries, especially to key prospects, can derail any plans that you have. The Orioles thought they were finally over the injury hump with pitching prospect Hunter Harvey, but a fluke injury in which the right-hander dislocated his shoulder has now turned into elbow problems once again. Harvey has been shut down for the foreseeable future. Buck Showalter noted how they thought if everything went as planned, Harvey would be pitching with the big league team now.

Instead of Harvey getting a taste of the majors that would hopefully allow him to hit the ground running in 2019 like centerfielder Cedric Mullins, it appears we are still far away from seeing the 23-year-old in an Orioles uniform.

 

Gausman is a Stud, Bundy is a Dud

Even though it was predictable, it doesn’t make it any easier seeing Kevin Gausman dominate for the Atlanta Braves. The righty hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his four starts which includes completing eight innings in two of those starts.

We have seen Gausman have these type of stretches for the Orioles so this isn’t a complete Jake Arrieta situation. The biggest issue with Gausman has always been consistency and when he does struggle, it gets ugly quick. It remains to be seen if this is just another good stretch for the 27-year-old or if it’s the start of becoming the pitcher we all thought he would be when in Baltimore.

Regardless, it’s frustrating and annoying.

Meanwhile, Gausman’s former teammate Dylan Bundy has completely forgotten how to pitch. Bundy has now allowed seven earned runs in three straight starts and has allowed at least five earned runs in six of his last eight starts. The ERA is now 5.31 which is unacceptable. I hope we find out Bundy has been hiding some kind of injury because this dramatic of a decline from someone with his pedigree and track record should get a lot of people fired.

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Series Preview: Orioles (37-87) @ Blue Jays (55-69)

Rogers Centre in Toronto with the roof open.

After dropping two of three in Cleveland, the Orioles will look to end their road trip on a high note during their upcoming three-game set in Toronto.

The Orioles (37-87) come into Toronto with a 4-7 record on the road and a 5-12 record overall in the month of August. While it may not be a lot to write home about, the Orioles’ form on the road has improved since going 0-10 away from Camden Yards last month.

The Blue Jays (55-69) will look to bounce back after getting swept in the Bronx over the weekend, but they haven’t been in the best of form as of late. They’ve won just three of their last ten and have gone 9-17 since sweeping the Orioles in the first series of the second half back in July.

Andrew Cashner (4-10, 4.71 ERA) will take on Marco Estrada (6-9, 4.87 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Cashner picked up his fourth win of the season after allowing just two runs on five hits over seven innings against the Mets during his last start, and will be looking to continue his outstanding run of form in Toronto. Cashner has recorded eight quality starts in his last twelve contests and has allowed two earned runs or less in six of his last eight outings. Over his last two starts, he’s allowed just three earned runs over an impressive 14-inning stretch.

Estrada earned his sixth win of the season after allowing four runs over 6 2/3 innings against the Royals during his last time out, but hasn’t been at his best this season. He’s posted a 2-3 record and a 5.35 ERA over his last seven contests.

Dylan Bundy (7-11, 4.99 ERA) will match-up against Sam Gaviglio (2-6, 5.13 ERA) in Tuesday’s clash.

Bundy was tagged for seven runs on eleven hits over just 5 1/3 innings during his last start against the Mets, and will be aiming to end his struggles and bounce back into vintage form against the Jays. Over his last seven starts, Bundy has gone 1-4 with a 8.33 ERA. He’s also posted just three quality starts over his last nine attempts.

Gaviglio took the loss after allowing five runs on eight hits over just 4 1/3 innings against Kansas City, and will be hoping to finally end up in the win column against the Orioles. Gaviglio has now gone fifteen straight starts without a win and has recorded just three quality starts during that span. Over his last seven contests, he’s gone 0-3 with a 5.82 ERA.

David Hess (2-7, 5.95 ERA) will go up against Thomas Pannone (0-0, 4.15 ERA) in Wednesday’s series finale.

Hess held a dangerous Indians squad to just two runs on five hits over six innings during his last start, but took a tough loss in the end. The Orioles rookie has now turned in two straight solid starts and owns an 3.86 ERA over 11 2/3 innings during that span. Prior to that, he had recorded five consecutive starts with having allowed five runs or more. He’ll be looking to leave that in the past and build on his current momentum.

Pannone will be making his first career big league start against the Orioles after impressing out of the bullpen recently. Having just made his debut on August 10th, the 24-year-old Rhode Island native will be looking to impress the Jays staff in order to keep a spot in the rotation going forward. The southpaw went 30-18 with a 3.38 ERA over 85 career starts in the minors before recieving the call-up to the majors.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to coming home with a few in the win column.

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Alex Cobb Turns the Corner – Now What?

Alex Cobb of the Orioles pitches.

Coming off arguably his best start since 2013, Alex Cobb appears to have turned the corner. Over his last six starts, Cobb holds a 2.02 ERA. During that span he has lowered his ERA from 6.41 to 5.09. Overall, it’s not what the Orioles expected heading into a four-year, $57 million deal. However, Cobb could provide the Orioles value, and here I’ll explore their options with regard to his future.

 

1. Trade Cobb this August

Now, this is probably the unlikeliest of options, because he won’t bring much value in return, the Orioles would be selling very low on an established veteran starter, and he’d have to waive his full no-trade clause (hey, what veteran wouldn’t want to get out of Baltimore if they could right now though, right?)

I suggested a week or so ago that they should consider trading him, mainly because he would almost certainly pass through waivers and teams get desperate for starting pitching heading into the playoffs. I’ve rethought this, realizing that they may get a decent piece or two in return, but they shouldn’t sell low again like I feel they did in the Kevin Gausman deal.

I could see teams like the Brewers or Yankees having interest (the O’s trade deadline trading partners, coincidentally), but how much would they give up for a starter with a high contract sporting a 5+ ERA?

The answer is probably disappointing for Orioles fans. If Cobb passes through waivers, the front office should at least listen, but considering Cobb hasn’t put together a fully consistent season, it’s unlikely for teams to bite. To me, a Cobb August trade could resemble the JA Happ trade of this year. Happ was a 1.1 WAR player with Toronto but is a pending free agent. Cobb is a 0.7 WAR player with the Orioles, but has three years and $42 million left on his deal. Yes teams value control, but $43 million left on a deal for an aging pitcher is probably about as desirable as trading for a pending free agent.

In that deal, the Blue Jays received Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney. Drury has only had one positive WAR season since his rookie season in 2015 and McKinney has always been regarded as a good prospect, but has now been traded three times since being drafted five years ago. Drury does have promise, but injuries have kept him from ever being on the field consistently. McKinney could provide value as a power outfield bat, but all of his attributes are fairly average, and no tool stands out more than the next. If the Orioles seriously consider trading Cobb by the end of the month, this is the type of package I’d think they could expect in return.

Worth it? Probably not, at this point. Let’s cross that one off.

 

2. Trade Cobb in the Next Year or Two

Now we’re talking.

This is probably the likeliest of scenarios. It’s doubtful Cobb pitches on the next Orioles playoff team. He theoretically could in 2021, but that would be the last year of his contract. If Cobb were able to bounce back next year, he could drastically improve his stock. The O’s don’t have too many tradeable pieces left after parting with six veteran players last month, so Cobb could help to infuse more talent into the system. If he’s performing up to his standards and the Orioles get a bit further into his contract to shed more money, teams would be more apt to acquire the starter.

 

3. Keep Cobb through Length of Contract

Now, this may not make sense on the surface, but Cobb staying for four years could provide tons of value to the future Orioles. Regardless, the Orioles will need pitching next season – and thereafter – to not only provide innings, but also to allow pitching prospects to further develop so as not to be rushed. You’ve gotta run SOMEONE out there on the mound every night, and I don’t think having Cobb (or Andrew Cashner, for that matter) in the rotation next year would be counterproductive to their rebuild at all.

Cobb could give the Orioles quality pitching over the next few years and allow the youngsters to learn from him. Pitching coaches have to do their jobs, but in between starts, Cobb could act as a mentor. As I previously mentioned, it is doubtful Cobb would pitch on the next winning O’s squad, but if the Birds are back in contention in 2021, they could conceivably be relying on him down the stretch as a staple in the rotation.

With the recently abysmal Ubaldo Jimenez contract fresh on Orioles fans minds, having Cobb provide 3.5 out of 4 years of quality performance would give the fans some confidence in the front office making judgment calls for future free agent pitchers.

Like I said, I still think the likeliest of scenarios is that they trade him at some point over the next two years or so, because the Orioles seem intent on reducing MLB payroll. However, if they were somehow able to shed the Chris Davis deal in the next few years, Cobb may both fit in the budget and make sense timeline-wise, giving the Orioles pitching prospects the proper amount of time they need to develop.

Let’s hope what we’re seeing now is a sign of things to come. The Cobb contract still has the potential to be a very valuable one for the franchise.

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Series Preview: Orioles (36-85) @ Indians (69-51)

progressive field in cleveland

After splitting their two-game series with the Mets, the Orioles hit the road and take on the first-place Indians for three games before heading to Toronto.

The Orioles (36-85) come into Cleveland with a 4-10 record so far in the month of August, but their struggles away from Camden Yards have been a glaring problem all season long. Since July 1, the Orioles have gone just 3-15 on the road.

The surging Indians (69-51) will kick off the series on a five-game win streak after sweeping the Reds in Cincinnati earlier this week. They’ve now built a massive 12-game lead over Minnesota in the race for the AL Central title and own an outstanding 11-3 record so far this month. They’ve also been one of the hottest teams in the majors with a 17-8 record since the end of the All-Star Break.

David Hess (2-6, 6.25 ERA) will take on Carlos Carrasco (14-6, 3.50 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Hess turned in a decent performance during his last start against the Rays, but took the no-decision after allowing three runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings. After bursting onto the scene earlier this season, Hess has struggled with an 0-4 record and a 9.79 ERA over his last six starts.

Carrasco picked up his 14th win of the season after shutting down the White Sox to the tune of just three hits over seven shutout innings and will be looking to stay in sparkling form against the Orioles. Over his last seven starts, the righty has posted a 5-1 record and a sublime 1.59 ERA while notching 52 strikeouts over 39 2/3 innings during that span.

Alex Cobb (3-15, 5.31 ERA) will go up against Adam Plutko (4-2, 4.75 ERA) in Saturday’s match-up.

Cobb took another tough loss in his last start after holding the Red Sox to a single earned run over seven stellar innings, but will look to keep his excellent run of form going against the Tribe. He’s now 1-1 with an outstanding 1.35 ERA over his three starts this month and over his last six contests.

Cobb has posted a superb 2.17 ERA over 37 1/3 innings of work.

Plutko will be getting the nod for the first time since allowing three runs on six hits over four innings against Cincinnati on July 11. After picking up a win in each of his first three starts of the season back in May, Plutko has posted a 5.40 ERA over 23 1/3 innings in his six appearances since.

Yefry Ramirez (1-4, 5.40 ERA) is in line to face Mike Clevinger (8-7, 3.38 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale, but the Orioles have yet to confirm and it is still listed as TBD.

If given the nod, Ramirez will look to pick up where he left off after allowing just two runs over five innings against the Red Sox. Like Hess, Ramirez has struggled a bit as of late after bursting onto the scene earlier this year and has gone 1-1 with an 8.64 ERA over his last four starts.

Clevinger picked up his eighth win of the season after holding the Reds to two runs over five innings, and will be looking to keep the ball rolling against the Orioles. After an off-key July, Clevinger has returned to his vintage form and owns a 3.00 ERA through 18 innings in three starts this month. Over his last five starts, he’s gone 1-2 with a 3.03 ERA over 29 2/3 innings.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to going road tripping!

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O’s Promote Cedric Mullins, DFA Danny Valencia

Cedric Mullins in the batter's box.

The move that many Orioles fans have been pining for for at least a month here in this lost season was finally made a reality today, as the Orioles announced that they have promoted Cedric Mullins from AAA Norfolk.

Mullins, the Birds’ 13th-round pick in 2015,  burst onto the O’s prospect scene in 2016 in Delmarva, hitting .273/.321/.464 with 37 doubles, 10 triples, 30 stolen bases, and 14 home runs in 124 games. He followed that up with a .265/.319/.460 line in Bowie last year. He hit 19 doubles, a triple, and 13 homers for Bowie, but was limited to just 76 games due to a couple hamstring injuries.

This year, he was hitting .313/.362/.512 in 49 games for Bowie before being promoted to AAA Norfolk. For the Tides, he was putting up a .267/.332/.425 line with 17 doubles, three triples, and five homers in 59 games, many in notorious pitcher’s paradise Harbor Park. Combined in 2018 between the two levels, he’s at .288/.366/.465 with 29 doubles, eight triples, 11 home runs, and 21 stolen bases in 22 attempts.

He’s immediately being slotted into centerfield, which Adam Jones must have agreed to. AJ had his typical interesting tweets about the situation.

We know that it’s not easy to get a decent reading on advanced fielding metrics with a small sample size, so it’s doubtful we’ll learn too much about Mullins’ defensive abilities from that avenue for six-seven weeks of baseball, but it’ll at least be fun to see what our eyes tell us. And Jones moving to right field is obviously a gigantic step up from the likes of Mark Trumbo and Danny Valencia.

Valencia, by the way, was designated for assignment in the corresponding move. Danny had an OPS+ of exactly 100 this season, which makes him perfectly average. He mashed lefties in his typical fashion, putting up an .873 OPS with six homers in 129 AB compared to .610 and three dingers off righties in 146 at bats.

Congrats to Cedric Mullins – let’s see what ya got, kid!

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Series Preview: Orioles (35-80) vs Red Sox (81-35)

The Orioles are back at Camden Yards for the first time since July 29 to begin a four-game series against the surging Boston Red Sox.

The Orioles (35-80) finished their recent road trip at 3-6, and their offensive output was the lone bright spot over that stretch. Over their last 12 outings, the Orioles have pushed 80 runs across the plate, good for an average of 6.6 runs per game.

The MLB-best Red Sox (81-35) are now running away with the division as we head into mid-August, owning an eight-game lead over the second place Yankees. On top of posting a 13-5 record since the end of the All-Star Break, the Red Sox have an outstanding 25-7 record since the beginning of July.

Dylan Bundy (7-10, 4.38 ERA) will match-up against Nate Eovaldi (5-4, 3.38 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Bundy turned in a solid performance during his last start in Texas, but took the loss despite having allowed just one earned run over six innings. Over his last five starts, Bundy has gone 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA.

Eovaldi was sublime during his last start against the Yankees and allowed just three hits over eight shutout innings en route to his fifth win of the season. He’s now won back-to-back starts while notching 15 scoreless innings since moving to Boston, and he owns a stellar 4-1 record and 2.32 ERA over his last seven appearances.

Yefry Ramirez (1-4, 5.66 ERA) is expected to take on David Price (11-6, 3.93 ERA) in game one of Saturday’s double-header, but the starters for game two on Saturday night are still TBD.

Ramirez was tagged for five runs over just 1 2/3 innings during his last start against the Rangers, and will be looking to bounce back into form against the Red Sox. After starting his Orioles tenure in fine form, Ramirez has posted a 10.80 ERA over 11 2/3 innings during his last three contests.

Price took the no-decision in the Red Sox eventual win over the Yankees in his last start after allowing two runs on four hits over six innings. Price has been in outstanding form during his last four starts as he’s posted a 2-0 record and a 2.00 ERA over his last 27 innings combined.

Alex Cobb (3-14, 5.55 ERA) will go up against Chris Sale (11-4, 2.04 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale.

Cobb took a tough-luck no-decision after allowing just a single earned run over seven innings against the Rays, but will look to stay in red-hot form against the Red Sox.  Over his last five starts, Cobb has recorded a superb 2.37 ERA over 30 1/3 innings.

Sale has been sensational all season long, but has been simply out of this world in recent memory. After blanking the Twins over six innings during his last start, Sale now owns a perfect 5-0 record and a microscopic 0.59 ERA over his last seven contests. During that span, he’s allowed just three runs over 46 innings of work while also notching a whopping 78 strikeouts.

That’s it for now, folks!

Here’s to the weekend.

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Prospect Profile: Rogers Making Great First Impression

Josh Rogers of the Norfolk Tides pitches.

A few days after the Zach Britton deal, I wrote that Cody Carroll would likely be the first of the three players acquired to reach the big leagues – even though Dillon Tate was widely viewed as the better overall prospect. I didn’t mention the third pitcher the Orioles received, 24-year-old Josh Rogers.

Rogers doesn’t have a blazing fastball or wipeout breaking ball like Carroll and Tate, nor is he ranked on the Orioles’ Top 30 Prospects list. Despite this, the left-hander has pitched extremely well in his first three starts in Norfolk following the trade. He’s given up just three earned runs in 20.1 innings as a Tide, good for an ERA of 1.33.

The Yankees selected Rogers out of the University of Louisville in the 11th round of the 2015 draft, paying him a draft bonus well over the recommended slot value. Like Carroll, Rogers underwent Tommy John surgery before ever pitching in a collegiate game. In two years for the Cardinals, he went 11-4 with an ERA of 3.46 and 129 strikeouts in 145.2 innings.

He broke out during his first full professional season in 2016, pitching to a 2.38 ERA in 136.1 innings between the Yankees’ Class-A affiliates in Charleston and Tampa. He followed that campaign up with a 3.24 ERA in 91.2 innings in 2017 before an elbow injury ended his season prematurely. His command is arguably his biggest strength: he walked just 38 hitters in 2016 and 2017 combined over a total of 228 innings.

I had the opportunity to see Rogers’ most recent start in a Tides uniform, which came against his former AAA teammates from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Going up against a lineup and coaching staff that undoubtedly know his tendencies well, Rogers nonetheless managed to toss 7.1 scoreless innings, striking out three while yielding four hits in an extremely impressive outing.

One night after six Tides pitchers combined to throw 181 pitches, Rogers needed just 96 pitches to make it into the eighth inning on the mound. He primarily worked in the upper 80’s with his fastball, though the pitch reached as high as 94 on the night. He also mixed in a sharp breaking ball in the low 80’s that he tended to use with two strikes. One trait that stuck out in particular was how he was able to induce soft contact early in the count, helping to keep his pitch count down.

Outlooks on Rogers’ long-term viability as a major league pitcher vary. Though Baseball Prospectus holds a more pessimistic view of his future – writing that “(Rogers) profiles as an upper-level arm who offers emergency utility as an up-and-down starter,” Yankees writer Lou DiPietro of YES Network went so far as to compare his repertoire and profile to CC Sabathia, arguing that his abilities could play well at Yankee Stadium.

Regardless of the projections for Rogers’ future role, one thing is becoming apparent through his first three outings (I know, I know…small sample size): he’s proving that he deserves a major league opportunity sooner rather than later. With one former Yankees prospect already in Baltimore and two more knocking on the door, the O’s have to be pleased with the early returns from the Britton trade.

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Thursday Thoughts: With Little to Talk About, Fans Focus on Mullins

Cedric Mullins gets ready in the OF.

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. (Today we have a Billy Ripken version) – A.S.

1. Everyone seems to be talking non-stop about Cedric Mullins lately, and when he’ll be called up to the Orioles. I guess, when there’s nothing else to talk about, this is what we have.

I have no doubt that Mullins will be up with the O’s in the near future. It may not be until September, it may be this weekend. Either way, he’ll get some time with the big club. Adam Jones was even shagging fly balls in right field the other night at Tropicana Field, possibly making way for Mullins to come up and play in center. Mullins could provide a shot in the arm for a team that desperately needs it, or he could come up and struggle mightily.

Who’s to know?

The Orioles have a lot of outfield prospects in their system and need to sort out who is going to be around long-term. Mullins could be joined next season or soon after by the likes of Austin Hays, Yusniel Diaz or D.J. Stewart. Then there’s the issue of what happens to Trey Mancini and the looming question of whether or not Jones is brought back. At this point, it looks unlikely that #10 would return, but who knows what the market will look like for him this winter?

Seeing Mullins, who is hitting .288/.346/.465 with 21 stolen bases in 108 games between Double-A and Triple-A this season, up with the big club would be a nice treat for O’s fans who have suffered so harshly this season. A glimpse of the potential future is just about the only reason to keep an eye on this team that is barreling toward 100+ losses.

2. One thing we’ve seen change dramatically since the trade deadline is the new-look Orioles infield. It was obviously going to happen after trades of Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado, but going forward it could look pretty similar to the way it does now. That’s at least the case for the short-term future.

Chris Davis has been stuck on first base, despite his historically bad season. I’d almost rather the Orioles play Mancini at first and limit Davis’ at-bats, but when you’re paying someone that much it’s not likely to happen. Ideally the O’s would find a trade partner for Mark Trumbo and get Davis and Mancini into the DH role from time to time, with the other at first. It would also open up an outfield spot.

At second base, Schoop has been replaced by another Jonathan (Villar). The man who came over from the Brewers in the Schoop deal actually has a chance to stick at second going forward. He can be fully capable of being a starter on a bad team. He also gives the Orioles something they haven’t had in years – speed on the bases. Villar’s 2016 campaign goes mostly forgotten, but he led the National League in stolen bases and carried himself quite well at the plate.

Tim Beckham is back to playing shortstop on a regular basis, and like Villar, is not set to be a free agent until 2021. By that time, the Orioles will hopefully be looking to become a winner and can find replacements for each that are suitable. Beckham at shortstop, just like Villar at second, is fine for now. He can be a starter on a bad team.

In recent days, third base has gone to Renato Nunez. Like with the other members of the infield, Nunez’s playing time is coming mostly out of necessity. There’s really no one else to put there. I’m not sure Nunez is part of the plans even going into 2019, but there certainly aren’t other options on the horizon.

Part of the biggest issue with the Orioles as a franchise is their lack of prospects within the infield. Ryan Mountcastle is probably the best hope of getting 2019 infield help. Others like Cadyn Grenier, Jean Carmona and Jean Carlos Encarnacion are likely a few years away from reaching the bigs.

3. The Orioles are still pretty far away from playing meaningful games, but they still need to figure out what they are doing at the catcher position. Since the departure of Matt Wieters, it’s been a position put together with glue and tape. Last season, Welington Castillo was the primary backstop with Caleb Joseph taking a little fewer than half the starts. This year, Chance Sisco was expected to mostly split time with Joseph. He’s since been sent up and down between the minors a few times, with Austin Wynns taking his spot. At other points, Joseph has been sent down to Triple-A with Andrew Susac getting some time as well.

Having four catchers means the Orioles don’t really have one. There is still hope for Sisco as the future, but 2019 will be big for him. Prior to debuting in the majors, Sisco was expected to be a weak defender but an offensive threat. He hasn’t been nearly as bad defensively as people expected, but he’s been abysmal with the bat.

The Orioles received catcher Brett Cumberland in the Kevin Gausman trade with the Braves, so there is still more depth down on the farm. There’s also a chance the O’s could be in a position to draft Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman next June. Like with the rest of their roster, the Orioles have some time to figure out the catching position.

But it’s one they should start figuring out now.

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Jones Proves Baseball’s Lack of Loyalty is a 2-Way Street

Adam Jones sunglasses.

The story of Adam Jones over the trade deadline was a curious one. For a player to stay with a team and be questioned over whether they have the interests of the team at heart or not, is an extreme rarity. While his decision to stay has riled some Orioles fans, the majority realize that he has earned the right to do what he wanted.

For a rental who is 33 with an OPS in the low 700’s, it’s doubtful that Baltimore would have got anything significant in return, but it’s clear that they were happy to take anything they could get. For the remaining months of the season, Jones will be one of the last significant links between the old and the new. The business of baseball works both ways and, just as a club wants to do the best thing for itself, a player will want to be able to do the best thing for him and his family. In baseball, however, it’s rare that a player will be able to have such power over his future.

As shown on Baseball Reference, this is a breakdown of Jones’ standard batting stats.

[Source: Baseball Reference – Public Domain]

 

Glory over loyalty – the new way?

The collection of players that were traded had little idea of where they were going to be and, for players like Manny Machado, they still don’t know where they are going to be in a few months. Jones didn’t want that and you have to respect him for making a decision that he thought was in the best interests of him and his family. Whether or not that was the right decision remains debatable. He could have chased the glory and tried to win a World Series with a contender, and it could well be the last time he’ll ever get to attempt that. Though Jones’ right to stay has been further asserted by ESPN, amongst other news outlets, his days at Baltimore appear numbered in any case.

He took the safe option and you can hardly blame him. If he went to the Phillies, then he might have found himself consigned to a bit-part player role, in a team that could well miss out on the playoffs altogether. These days, staying out of the spotlight isn’t the best idea if you want one last big contract. Those that would rather see Jones gone do have some ammunition for the water cooler. All he can bring do for the team right now is help them avoid having their worst season ever. It has been a sobering season for the team but perhaps selling all the proverbial ‘family gold’ would have made it an even hollower one.

Adam Jones discusses his decision to stay with the Orioles

[Source: Youtube]

 

Jones to be inspiration for youth?

Being able to watch a player like Jones every night at least gives fans something to watch, when watching this team has been so difficult. It’s a team right now that is living for the occasional win against the likes of the Red Sox and the Yankees. The former’s potential to be a dominant force was most recently reflected upon by USA Today, and this stance extends to other circles. As of August 5, the former is now -700 on Betway, while the Orioles are +500,000. Ultimately, the Orioles are still in the process of working out how best to move on for the 2019 season.

It’s a long road back for Baltimore, and that magical 2014 season seems a very long time ago right now. It’s hard to predict when there will be another winning season for the Orioles, while their geographical peers thrive. The Red Sox and the Yankees seem to be in a very good position to have a dominant few years, so now looks like a good time to rebuild.

 

The right to leave with dignity

If nothing else, 2019 will see prospects emerge but, for the rest of this season, Adam Jones will be able to patrol centerfield at Camden Yards. In the short-term, his presence could yet help the younger men around him until the end of the year. It is something he has done since 2008 but Orioles fans shouldn’t be resentful of the fact that he could have had a new home sooner. Baltimore fans never get a chance to say a proper goodbye to most of their favorite players. Loyalty is a two-way street. And, if the sport gives you none, then you shouldn’t be expected to give any back. Jones acted in the best interests of his family and, as much as he earned the right to veto a trade, he’s also earned the right to a great send off.

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Thursday Thoughts: Trying to Digest the Orioles’ Sudden Turn

sun setting over camden yards

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. It’s taken me a couple of days to fully wrap my head around what the Orioles did earlier this week. In fact, I still don’t think I’m completely there. But, it’s Thursday, and I’m here to opine.

I actually told our editor Derek Arnold here at Eutaw Street Report that I’d send him over some reaction to Tuesday’s deadline trades the other night when they happened, but I couldn’t actually get anything down that made sense (Ed note: True!). Days later, perhaps it still won’t make sense.

I learned that the Orioles had traded Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day and Jonathan Schoop via an alert from the MLB At-Bat app on my phone. It happened as I was walking out of work Tuesday, just about 30 minutes after the deadline had passed. I wasn’t glued to my phone throughout the day, because frankly I didn’t expect news from the Orioles.

My mouth ended up agape (literally) when I looked down and saw that the O’s had kicked their rebuild into full gear. My initial reaction was actually excitement. I was excited that the Orioles were mashing down the gas and pushing it to fifth gear on this thing. I quickly switched to some sadness when I realized that those three players would no longer be Orioles.

From excitement to sadness, I also felt hope and regret all at the same time. It’s been quite the emotion tornado this week.

2. I think one of the important things to take away from this week, is that no one knows what the next few years will bring for the Orioles. I’ll be the first to openly admit I hadn’t heard of most of the prospects that came back the Birds in trades they made prior to the deadline. I’m going to estimate that at least 95% of the readers of this column hadn’t either.

Experts can have their opinions, and they are informed ones, don’t get me wrong. But projecting MLB farm systems is an inexact science, even for the experts. In the last few days, I’ve already heard a number of opinions from both the experts and the fans that claim the Orioles didn’t get enough in these trades or that they valued quantity over quality. This is all well and good, but it can’t really be evaluated for about another two years at a minimum.

I’ve heard others claim that if the Orioles put their money where their mouth is and go out and sign Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa, then it will have all been worthwhile. That’s insane as well. No fan had heard of Mesa before last week.

The one thing that did puzzle me about these trades is the O’s acquisition of Jonathan Villar from the Brewers. Villar is a 27-year-old major leaguer who is already established. He’s simply a stopgap player in Baltimore. I question why the Orioles couldn’t have used someone else in a stopgap role while they are going to be down, rather than acquiring someone. Perhaps the Brewers weren’t offering another prospect or maybe they wanted the O’s to take back Villar as a condition of the deal. But the Orioles should be getting younger in everything they do right now. Villar doesn’t help them accomplish that.

These moves the Orioles pulled off, more than anything, saved them money. If that money is allocated toward improving scouting and development, then I’m all for it. That’s exactly what Dan Duquette says it’s going toward. But the Orioles need to do two things simultaneously. They need to allocate money toward scouting and development while also knowing when to strike on actual Major League talent in free agency.

It’ll be a while before they need to do that, but that day will come.

Adam Jones bangs his donut off his bat.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

3. One player some people expected to head out the door this week is Adam Jones, but he’s still an Oriole. The veteran center fielder exercised his 10-5 rights and decided to stay in Baltimore – and anyone giving him grief for that can kindly put a sock in it. I

don’t even need to elaborate, because Jones said it all. He earned his rights, and took advantage of them. There’s nothing wrong with it. What many fans failed to even think about is where Jones stands in all of this. If he had agreed to go to a team like the Indians or Phillies, he’d be joining a pennant race. But he’d also potentially be joining a team that wouldn’t play him as much as the Orioles might. As a veteran heading into an offseason where he could be potentially be getting his last contract, that wouldn’t help his value.

There are also Jones’ off-field endeavors to think about. He’s extremely involved in the community, and I’m sure that factored in his decision. Picking up and moving in the middle of a season is not something that would be easy to go through for anyone. Jones may or may not be back next season. I have no real clue what kind of market will be out there for him this winter. There obviously wasn’t much of one in the trade market.

Jones may also face some reduced playing time this year if Cedric Mullins is called up to the O’s. Mullins is viewed as part of the future in Baltimore. For a team with a lack of serious organizational depth, the Birds do have their fair share of outfield prospects. It’s going to be crowded in the future. In addition to Mullins, top prospect Yusniel Diaz (acquired in the Machado deal), Austin Hays, Ryan McKenna and D.J. Stewart could all be knocking down the door in the coming years.

If Jones wants to come back and be a veteran presence next year and beyond, I’m all for it. In fact, there’s very little Jones could do to have my opinion of him change. He’s the most beloved Oriole since Cal Ripken Jr.

That won’t change whether he’s wearing Baltimore across his chest next season or not.

4. There’s one thing coming out of this trade deadline that remains a massive question in the same way that it was before the deadline:

What exactly are the roles of Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter moving forward?

Buck Showalter & others stand around the O's training facility.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Duquette supposedly made all these moves, and you wouldn’t think a franchise that has any kind of organization (insert jokes here) would allow an outgoing GM to do such a thing. Some say this deadline proves Duquette is now more likely to stick around.

But how does that shake out with Showalter, with whom he obviously doesn’t jive? Does Showalter even want to stick around for a rebuilding process? It doesn’t seem like something he’d want to take part in at this point in his career. The thinking had been that next year it would either be one or neither of them coming back.

The only thing that’s been made clear is that no one knows what will happen and no one knows who is making the decisions. But that was clear beforehand as well. My mindset with these types of things has always been that if you don’t think you can get someone better to do the job, you keep the person in place. That goes for both the GM and the manager.

I don’t know who the O’s would go out and get at this point that is better than Duquette or Showalter. But it still seems like they won’t co-exist in Baltimore.

Outside of who will make an appearance on the field the rest of this season by way of prospects, knowing what’s happening off of it remains the organization’s biggest question.

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Taking Stock of the Orioles’ Revamped Farm System

Ryan Mountcastle swings.

We have seen a lot of change over the last month in what looks to be a shift in the Orioles’ mindset moving forward. If you believe Dan Duquette’s words, this shift focuses an emphasis on international scouting and international free agents, developing analytical and scouting resources, and spending on technology. These were the main bullet points he provided following the Manny Machado trade, and he’s echoed them over the past 48 hours or so.

This should certainly give Orioles fans hope that…they’re finally becoming a competent organization?

All jokes aside, this is a major step in the right direction. I wrote the first installment of this piece back in the first week of July and a good bit has changed since then. Here is a rundown of where the affiliates currently sit.

These rankings are reflective the MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospects

 

Triple-A Norfolk Tides

Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): Cedric Mullins #9, Cody Carroll #17, DJ Stewart #25, Luis Gonzalez #26

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Mullins is knocking on and practically breaking down the door at this point. He has great speed and a tremendous outfield glove. He’s made highlight play after highlight play and is showing promise to fill the shoes of Adam Jones in center (whose defensive metrics have been declining). Whether Jones leaves the organization or not, Mullins seems to be the successor in centerfield. Across the minors this year, Mullins holds a .814 OPS with 18 stolen bases and 11 home runs. Mullins should be the first of many to be brought up and could provide Orioles fans with a fresh face to root for in a rebuild.

Cody Carroll was acquired in the Zach Britton trade and interestingly was not the headliner. Dillon Tate, the headliner, is a better prospect, but Carroll’s stuff is just as good. Carroll has received rave reviews in the industry and dominated in the Triple-A All-Star game. Across systems this year, Carroll boasts a 2.47 ERA, 11.7 K/9, and hitters are only batting .182 against him. Scouts call his delivery “effortless” and he grades out at a 75 Fastball on the 20-80 scale. With the subtractions of Britton and Brad Brach, Carroll has just found his way up to the Orioles bullpen. He pitched a clean seventh inning in his O’s debut Wednesday.

The other outfielder to take note of on this roster is D.J .Stewart. Stewart was the 1st-Round Pick in 2015. He basically disappointed his first two professional years, but last year started to show some of that 1st Round promise. Stewart hasn’t been hitting as of late, but what I personally like about Stewart is his keen eye at the plate. Stewart can work counts, and once he gets on the base paths, has the ability to wreak havoc. I see Stewart as another outfielder that will be added to the 25-man, if not by September, definitely by next season. He will have to prove himself though, as the question remains whether he can hit major league pitching and solidify himself.

A few other notable names include: John Means, Josh Rogers, Chance Sisco, Breyvic Valera, Drew Dosch, and Mike Yastrzemski.

Mullins is the best of the group, but keep an eye on Carroll. I like his upside.

Overall Grade: C

 

Double-A Bowie Baysox

Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): Yusniel Diaz #1, Ryan Mountcastle #2, Austin Hays #4, Dillon Tate #6, Luis Ortiz #7, Hunter Harvey #8, Keegan Akin #12, Ryan McKenna #13, Dean Kremer #16, Rylan Bannon #23, Branden Kline #26, Zach Pop #27, Brett Cumberland #30

Hunter Harvey throws as Darren O'Day watches.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Bowie is clearly the most top-heavy team in the system with five of the top seven prospects in the organization. However, I’d like to focus on the new guys acquired via trade: Yusniel Diaz, Dillon Tate, Luis Ortiz, Dean Kremer, Rylan Bannon, Zach Pop, and Brett Cumberland.

Diaz was acquired as the headliner in the Manny Machado deal and immediately became the Orioles’ #1 prospect. According to mlb.com, Diaz is ranked as the 57th ranked overall prospect. Power is considered to be Diaz’ worst tool, but he hit two homers in the Futures Game over the All-Star break. All of his tools sit around 55 which suggests he’s a well-rounded prospect. The Orioles did well to get Diaz, but the ironic part of this was that he was an international free agent, and they traded for a guy they could’ve just ended up signing. Diaz, however, solidifies their outfield depth for the future and they shouldn’t realistically have to sign an outfield bat for a long while.

Dillon Tate was drafted 4th overall in 2015 and looked to be the most promising arm in the Texas Rangers’ farm system. After some mechanical changes, Tate’s velocity slowed and he quickly slipped off Top Prospect lists. After being dealt to the Yankees, Tate’s velocity ticked up and his stuff came back to life. Some would be suspicious of a 24-year-old prospect still in Double-A, but Tate pitched three years in college, and needed a little extra time to develop. Tate has starter aspirations, but may end up settling for a bullpen role, which will be perfectly fine if he can be elite (or nearly so).

Luis Ortiz was the biggest name in the return for Jonathan Schoop. Ortiz has some pretty good potential and pitched in this year’s Futures Game. Ortiz may have been the best pitcher the Orioles received in all of their July trades; he can repeat his delivery and throws a ton of strikes. Ortiz has been stuck in Double-A for a few seasons, and many would like to see him graduate. A big guy, listed at 6’3 230 lbs, Ortiz will have to watch his conditioning moving forward. Scouts seem to like his complementary slider to a fastball that sits 92-97. If Ortiz continues to develop and stay healthy, I expect him to be the best pitching acquisition of this deadline and a future staple in the rotation.

Dean Kremer, acquired for Machado, may have the most potential to become a rotation staple for the O’s. Kremer actually pitched in the World Baseball Classic for Team Israel, so he has experience on the big stage. Kremer has made a big step this year and continues to miss bats at an impressive rate. Kremer probably projects to be a #4 starter, but the Orioles didn’t get any slouches in the secondary pieces from their deals.

Rylan Bannon may be smaller in stature, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his power numbers. Bannon has 21 bombs so far and a .391 OBP in 359 at-bats. I expect Bannon, if he continues to progress, to move through the system quickly. The Orioles are starved for infield high upside depth and Bannon could provide that. He has moved to 2B at Bowie with Mountcastle at third. Now that Schoop has been traded, Bannon has the potential to be your second baseman of the future.

Zach Pop is a reliever who throws the ball from a somewhat interesting arm angle. Pop was Canada’s top pitching prospect in 2014, and that’s mainly because of his fastball velocity (91-94, can touch 96) and plus slider. Pop still has a little ways to go before he’s big-league ready, but with the Orioles stockpiling arms, he will certainly have his work cut out for him.

Brett Cumberland is the only catcher the Orioles acquired in their 15-player haul in July. The Orioles probably should get more catching depth with some questioning Chance Sisco’s catching viability moving forward. Cumberland has been fairly light hitting as of late, but is a switch-hitter, which offers flexibility. His power comes from the left side of the plate and people project him as a future backup. He’ll need to prove himself a bit, but he was a promising name coming out of college.

I had the privilege to see these Baysox over the weekend in Harrisburg and I was thoroughly impressed. They put up a 5 spot in the 1st inning, and there honestly wasn’t a glaring hole in the lineup. Couple the offense with the newly acquired pitching and you’ve got the best affiliate in the system.

Overall Grade: A

 

Single-A Frederick Keys

Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): Zac Lowther #18, Michael Baumann #12, Alex Wells #28

Zac Lowther pitching.

Earlier in July when I did this list, Frederick had a few more names in the Top 30, and now they’re down to just three. This is a reflection of both the new guys they acquired and some former bigger named prospects falling off. Alex Wells, Michael Baumann, and Zac Lowther remain the only three and provide the O’s with even more pitching depth.

Wells was awarded Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors in 2017. He was known last year for his master control, but this year, while his control has been there, he’s been hit pretty hard by Class-A hitters. Batters hit .294 against him and he’s only striking them out at a 6.3 K/9 rate. That won’t cut if he wants to consider himself a legitimate prospect. Wells may end up relegating himself to a long-relief bullpen role, which is fine, but doesn’t really meet expectations after a spectacular 2017 campaign.

The O’s went with a University of Jacksonville player in the 3rd Round in consecutive drafts and in 2017, the latter was Michael Baumann. Baumann is said to have a durable frame with a fastball that has touched 97. Meeting just a few struggles since he’s hit High-A ball, Baumann should be just fine moving forward. I like Baumann a good bit and I’m excited to see if the Orioles brass challenge him a bit by moving him up a level. He will take his knocks in the minor leagues, but Baumann has good stuff, and if he meets those challenges could provide the Orioles with an interesting under-the-radar prospect.

Zac Lowther may be the prospect I’m most intrigued about at Frederick. He has had strikingly similar numbers moving from Delmarva to Frederick. However, at Delmarva, Lowther held a 14.8 K/9, and at Frederick the strikeout numbers aren’t quite as dominant (9.5). Lowther, though, was a college pitcher who led the Big East Conference in strikeouts at Xavier and has a chance to move through the system fairly quickly if he continues this dominance.

Frederick has some promise on the pitching side, but their offensive prospects aren’t near the cream of the crop of the organization. One name I like is Wilson Garcia. Garcia holds a .911 OPS and has hit 19 bombs for the Keys. The Orioles acquired Garcia this May and he’s done nothing but rake. Garcia may only project to be a future DH only, but I like his power metrics.

Overall Grade: C+

 

Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds

Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): DL Hall #3, Cadyn Greiner #10, Jean Carlos Encarnacion #15, Brenan Hanifee #19, Cameron Bishop #20

DL Hall pitches.

Delmarva has last year’s 1st Rounder DL Hall, who has more than impressed in his first full season as a pro. Hall holds a stellar 2.27 ERA and batters only hit at a .196 clip against him. Hall recently won Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Month and looks to finish off his season strong. Although drafted just last year out of High School, Hall could shorten his ETA to the bigs if he continues his development of that strong curveball of his.

Recent College World Series champion and elite defensive shortstop Cadyn Greiner has just begun his professional career starting in the South Atlantic League. Greiner has been pegged as a light hitting shortstop, but his defense gets him by. He certainly is living up to that moniker so far, but has room to grow into a serviceable bat. His hit tool is considered to be a 50, which isn’t bad, but Greiner will have to start showing some consistent ability with the stick in the minors to be considered a major-leaguer. Greiner is a name to keep an eye on. By the way, it’s pronounced (Gren-YER).

Jean Carlos Encarnacion may have been the best prospect the Orioles received for Gausman and O’Day, but his promise is nothing to be taken lightly. Encarnacion should be the model as to why the Orioles should sign more international players. He was signed for just $10,000 out of the DR and is already the 15th ranked prospect in a major league system. He is totally unpolished, but with an upside that resembles Andrelton Simmons. The kid doesn’t have a tool under 50 and boasts an arm tool of 60. I like this acquisition for the Orioles. They received mostly high-level arms and bats, but it’s smart to sprinkle some of these lower level high upside prospects. It’s prudent to diversify the talent in a rebuild.

Brenan Hanifee and Cameron Bishop were both on the Top 30 list to start the season, but have dropped a bit with the 13 newcomers. However, they both have sub-3.00 ERA’s with good control. Hanifee is a righty and Bishop a southpaw, and both have their work cut out for them, but if they respond well to competition, expect them to move up to High-A or Double-A as early as next season.

The Shorebirds recently moved up Matthias Dietz, Michael Baumann, and Zac Lowther, or they would have gotten a slightly higher grade. The Shorebirds also have a few other notable names: Kirvin Moesquit, Ryan Ripken, and Zach Jarrett (son of NASCAR’s Dale). This squad is also coached by Zach Britton’s brother, Buck. Overall, this team has promise and a familiar name in Grenier from the 2018 Draft Class.

Overall Grade: B-

 

Single-A Aberdeen Ironbirds

Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): Jean Carmona #14, Adam Hall #29

Jean Carmona throws.

Not too many names of note on this team besides those Top 30 prospects in Hall and newly acquired Carmona. It’s possible 1st Round Pick Grayson Rodriguez to make a visit to Aberdeen to end the year, but they may just want him to stay comfortable and take it easy just being drafted out of High School. Blaine Knight, their 3rd Rounder, has yet to report to an affiliate*, but could find his way to the IronBirds. As of right now, not a wealth of talent, but that could reflective of their lack of super young/experienced talent acquired in June.

Overall Grade: D

 

GCL Orioles

Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): Grayson Rodriguez #5

 

The GCL is the rookie ball affiliate, used for young players just drafted and for others requiring more development. O’s 1st Round Pick Grayson Rodriguez is on this team along with draft picks Drew Rom and Yeancarlos Lleras. Dariel Alvarez is rehabbing there as a pitcher…remember him? Rodriguez has yet to allow a run in nine innings and so far doing what he has to. Overall, it’s exciting to see a Top 5 prospect in the system at Rookie Ball.

Overall Grade: B (considering the talent level for Rookie Ball)

Grayson Rodriguez waves to the OPACY crowd.

Twitter/@Orioles

The Orioles’ focus over this massive rebuild and relegation of talent in July was quantity over quality. That’s not necessarily the wrong decision. The best under-the-radar moves were Carmona and Encarnacion, because they give the organization a chance to develop high-ceiling talent. As it sits, this is probably a middle of the road farm, but with the potential of landing Victor Victor Mesa and next year’s #1 or #2 overall pick, the best is yet to come. The Orioles have $8.25 million to spend internationally (no that is not a typo). This will allow them to not only potentially sign Victor Victor (the best available international prospect), but it gives them the ability to sign many international players until next July.

Bobby Witt Jr., is currently the name I’m hearing expected to go #1 next year in the First Year Player Draft. Witt, a high school shortstop and son of a former major leaguer, doesn’t have a tool under 60 and recently won the High School Home Run Derby. Considering this year’s #1 Overall draft selection Casey Mize is the #20 in the Top 100, I expect Witt to also be Top 20 if not higher. The Orioles could realistically could have five Top 100 Prospects by June of next year in Witt, Victor Victor, Yusniel Diaz, Ryan Mountcastle, and DL Hall if everything goes perfectly. And do I want Victor Victor to kick off this rebuild with bang? I think my recent tweetstorm on him says it all. Here’s to 2021!

*Blaine Knight has yet to report to an affiliate, but as the #11 Prospect, he should boost the prowess of whichever affiliate he pitches for.

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KNEE-JERK REACTIONS: O’s Deal Gausman, O’Day, Schoop to ATL/MIL

The rebuild is on! The O’s completed their fourth and fifth trades this July, and for the first time dealt guys with deals expiring AFTER 2018.

First, they traded Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to Atlanta.

Just a few minutes later, they flipped Jonathan Schoop to the Brewers.

ESR staff react to this crazy flurry of moves here…

Phil Backert

My reaction is my head is spinning and it will take awhile to sort all of this out, but the Orioles said they were in full rebuild mode and they continue to show that with the trades of Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop. The Orioles received more international bonus money to prove once again they are serious about adding talent through that avenue for the first time ever.

All in all, the O’s received 15 players and international money for six players and if they can hit on half of the players in the trades they made and then whomever they sign internationally, Dan Duquette and company would have done an amazing job ushering in the next era of Orioles baseball.

Derek Arnold

Holy crap. Do you think Adam Jones is regretting his decision to exercise his 10/5 rights today?

We all knew this needed to happen. We all said we WANTED it to happen. At the same time, I don’t think many of us thought it actually would. Around 2 PM today (two hours before the deadline), there were crickets on Twitter surrounding the O’s. Then, at like 3:30, rumors everywhere…we figured we’d see a repeat of the Zach Britton non-deal at the deadline last year. Nope! It really is a new day around here.

Folks more plugged in to prospect lists and minor-league systems than I will have to chime in on the hauls the O’s got in these deals (read the other writers’ thoughts in these here knee-jerks). I will say that I’m excited about all the new faces in AA/AAA.

I know many of the Dan Duquette haters are out in full force, adding this to their list of grievances against him. Look at it this was – either these deals are commended, Duquette and the Orioles praised, and the Birds’ future secured….OR…the deals are widely panned, baseball people start whispering about Duquette getting fleeced, the Angeloses catch wind of it, and he’s definitely gone after this season. Fair enough?

It wasn’t just lip service. The rebuild is ON. Even if it doesn’t work like we’d hope…the other way of doing things has produced five playoff appearances and no World Series berths since Pete took over in the early 90’s. Let’s try something else.

(P.S. Gausman is going to be very good in the NL East. It’s like pushing the easy button after being in the AL East all these years. Prepare yourselves now. Don’t be mad later.)

Matthew Pyne

On the surface, the return for Gausman and O’Day doesn’t look like much. But, the $2.5 million in international bonus pool money is the story here. Dumping the O’Day contract also saves $8 million. Gausman is under team control for two more years after this year, so the Braves are banking on turning him into a top-tier starter. Dom Chiti and Dave Wallace both know him and his skillset which should encourage Braves fans. Although the Braves have the No. 2 overall Farm System, they only parted with two Top-30 guys in their system.

If we look back on this trade and see the extra $2.5 million allocated to Victor Victor Mesa, this was a steal for the O’s. The Orioles have clearly shifted into a full-on rebuild, they saved $35 million and added 15 new players to the organization…cant ask for more than that.

As for Schoop, that return I like, upside-wise. Ortiz is a good pitching prospect, with a really nice slider. Jean Carmona further provides infield depth, and Jonathan Villar, although not playing the player he once was, offers this team speed and the chance to flip him at some point if he performs. Schoop needed to be dealt of they weren’t going to re-sign him. I don’t exactly get this from the Brewers perspective, but Duquette did well here. I would’ve liked Hiura or Corbin Burnes, but they were long shots anyway.

Schoop may not have warranted the same return if the offseason for only one year of control. The Orioles seem to have learned from their mistakes and have a *gulp* plan moving forward.

Joe DiBasilio

I honestly didn’t know the Orioles had more than one phone available in the warehouse. We are talking about the organization that was too inept only eight months ago to process the signing of their well-known utility man (MVP). Today, Duquette navigated two moves that will, one way or another, shape the future of this franchise for years to come (not to mention, two pieces that were referred to as “untouchables” for years by the MASN crew).

I’ve been critical for some time, but there’s an obvious change within the Warehouse. Major moves, acquisition of international funds… if I didn’t know any better, I’d say this has the look of a competent rebuild.

Good for Dan, and good for the O’s. I tip my cap to a job well done!

Jonathan French

If you just look at Top 100 prospect lists, you would immediately question the return for these three players combined, but when you dig into the profile of each and the potential that is there, while there may be lottery tickets, there’s also a lot of exciting potential.

The Orioles now have a much more international flavor in a mix of infield prospects acquiring Jean Carmona and Jean Carlos Encarnacion who could make up the future left side of their infield. Carmona is a 18-year-old switch-hitting shortstop with good defensive instincts who may be able to stick at the position and has power potential from both sides of the plate. Encarnacion is a 20-year-old third baseman who could be the next coming of Jonathan Schoop as he has a tall lanky frame with the ability to fill out and add more power. His K/BB ratio is a little concerning but the tools are there to be a major league regular at the hot corner. Brett Cumberland is a 23-year-old switch-hitting catcher just recently promoted to AA who has a good career OBP (.373) as well as a major flyball split and he also rocks a classic Orioles facial hair policy-era mustache. He may not be able to stick at catcher however as his defense is below average and he also played outfield in the Australian Baseball League last winter so the Orioles might convert him in their system.

As for the pitching in the two deals, Luis Ortiz, 22, has the highest ceiling and profiles to be a mid-rotation starter. Originally acquired from Texas by the Brewers for Jonathan Lucroy, Ortiz has battled some injury issues in college and in the minors, but currently has a 3.71 ERA in AA in 68 IP pitching in 16 games with 11 starts. Evan Phillips is a 23-year-old reliever and will probably end up in the Orioles’ bullpen soon. He had a rough debut for the Braves this season as he’s currently sporting a 8.53 ERA but he dominated in AAA this season with a 1.99 ERA and 59 Ks in 40.2 innings. Bruce Zimmerman, 23, also has quite the mustache, but he’s also a Baltimore native and pitches left-handed, so of course he was attractive to the Orioles. Zimmerman’s number in the minors also are impressive as he’s a compiled a 2.89 ERA between High-A and AA in 113.1 IP with 125 Ks in 2018 and he profiles to be able to stick in a rotation.

The final player in the deals is Jonathan Villar, and while he’s another Jonathan that will likely replace Schoop at second base, he profiles much differently than Schoop as he’s a switch hitter and has a career 8.8% walk rate, 26.8 O-Swing% and plenty of speed. I could see the Orioles try him at leadoff because of that speed even though he has a career .324 OBP. Defensively, he’s also been much better than Schoop with +6 DRS at 2B this season. He’s currently on the DL and rehabbing a sprained thumb but should join the Orioles when they play the Rangers.

Finally, the $2.5 million in international bonus money just gives the Orioles a bigger war chest to go after Victor Victor Mesa and anybody else that they wish to target. Players will have to turn down more money to sign with other clubs as the Orioles now have the biggest stash of international money in this signing period with over $8.25 million.

As for what the Orioles gave up? Gausman never really could put it together in Baltimore in spite of his potential, and going to the NL East, and reunited with Wallace with the time to home plate garbage behind him, I think he’ll finally blossom, but at least the Orioles got far more in return than they did for Jake Arrieta with much more potential future impact. Darren O’Day, while a fan favorite, has spent quite a bit of time on the disabled list over the past few years and the Orioles will be free of his contract. Schoop, also a fan favorite, showed plenty of potential and was heating up. but the odds of him re-signing were slim given how much he’d likely command in free agency, especially with his BFF Manny Machado no longer on the team. I won’t miss Schoop’s swing-for-the-fences approach though even though I appreciated his power, as he epitomized what fans both loved and hated about the Orioles’ offense.

These deals showed the true franchise-building skills Dan Duquette that he demonstrated in Montreal and in in Boston. Duquette and his scouts targeted clubs with deep farm systems and as a result, may have just built the core of the future in just a few weeks. With the stash of international cash, he can continue adding talent like Mesa and others to further boost the system. These deals have the chance to be more impactful than any trades Andy MacPhail or any other GM in the Angelos era were allowed to make. I am thankful that John and Louis Angelos finally seemingly unshackled Duquette at the deadline and allowed him to perform at his best. I think we will all be thankful in 2021 and beyond for what he and his band were able to accomplish.

Paul Valle

The non-waiver trade deadline came and went today, while three Orioles’ favorites simply went. Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day went to the Atlanta Braves, while Jonathan Schoop went to the Milwaukee Brewers. Thank God I was at work and nowhere near a computer when the news came out. My initial reaction was not pleasant. But after researching the players involved and seeing the money involved, I eventually started to come around.

For Gausman and O’Day, the Orioles received C Brett Cumberland, IF Jean Carlos Encarnacion, LHP Evan Phillips, and RHP Bruce Zimmerman, along with $2.5 million in international slot bonus money. Cumberland is a catching prosect whose bat is a bit ahead of his glove despite improved numbers against opposing base stealers. He gives the Orioles good depth at a position that was looking thin behind Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns.

Encarnacion could prove to be the prize piece of this trade as scouts like his raw power. A free swinger, Encarnacion has put up solid numbers at low-A ball this year, though his 100 K’s and .314 OBP aren’t awe-inspiring. Defensively, he is serviceable at third base with a strong arm. At just 20 years old, his is a name to watch out for in the coming years.

As for Phillips and Zimmerman, Phillips is a right handed reliever with local ties as he is from Salisbury, MD. He made his major league debut earlier this year for Atlanta, and though he struggled, his success at Gwinnett this season (1.99 ERA in 40 games) means he could debut for the Orioles sooner rather than later. Zimmerman is an interesting prospect, also with local ties as he pitched two seasons for Towson University. A fifth-round pick, Zimmerman throws a heavy fastball that stays around 90-93, with a curve and change that could prove to be plus pitches. At High-A and Double-A, Zimmerman is 9-4 with a 2.86 ERA this season and could be major league ready at some point next year.

While these players could pay off in the future, the big impact for the time being is in the international slot bonus money. The Orioles are now up to $8.25 million in slot money and are, according to some, the favorites to sign top prospect Victor Victor Mesa when he becomes available. Should Mesa sign, this deal becomes much more valuable.

For Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles received Jonathan Villar, who will immediately become the starting second baseman for the ballclub upon his return from the disabled list (should be Thursday in Texas), SS Jean Carmona, and RHP Luis Ortiz. Villar led the National League in stolen bases in 2016 with 62 and while he strikes out quite a bit, he also is known to take his fair share of walks. More importantly, the 27-year-old is under team control through 2021, which gives the Orioles time to focus on other positions.

Carmona is still just a kid, playing in his second pro season at just 18 years old. He is a switch-hitter that stands 6’1″ with a frame that should allow him to gain some positive weight, which should lead to solid power numbers as he fills out. He has a strong arm at shortstop but will likely move to third base as he matures add outgrows the position. The tools that Carmona possesses have led to his potential to be described as “an impactful player at the highest level.” Given his age, he, much like Encarnacion, is also a player to keep an eye on in the coming years. As for Ortiz, he is a solid right handed starter that gives the Orioles depth in the minor leagues. It would seem his ceiling is a spot starter with back-end rotation potential.

It’s difficult to ascertain how well the Orioles did with these moves, but the financial implications are certainly positive. The team will save $35 million on next year’s payroll, and have added to their already league-high international slot bonus money. The rebuild is certainly in full swing now, and more moves could still be made before August 31st. Come September, the Orioles roster could be unrecognizable. But that’s what happens when the worst team in baseball decides to blow it up. Strap in, O’s fans. We’re in for a long and bumpy ride.

 

More knee-jerk reactions as they roll in…

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Series Preview: Orioles (32-74) @ Yankees (67-37)

Zach Britton pitches in Yankees pinstripes.

After notching three straight wins to end the home stand against the Rays, the Orioles will head to the Bronx for a quick two-game set against the Yankees.

The Orioles (32-74) will be looking to carry the form they showed against Tampa into their upcoming nine-game road swing as they’ve notched three straight games of ten-plus runs and a combined total of 37 runs scored to just 12 runs allowed during their current three-game win streak. It is the longest winning streak the Orioles have recorded since winning four in a row from May 9th-12th.

The Yankees (67-37) will be looking to edge closer to the Red Sox as they’ve fallen six games off the pace of their Boston rivals in the race for the division title. However, the Yankees remain in solid form with a 14-10 record in the month of July and still own a five-game lead over the Seattle Mariners for the AL’s first wild card spot.

Yefry Ramirez (1-3, 3.49 ERA) will take on Masahiro Tanaka (8-2, 4.09 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Ramirez recorded his first major league win after allowing three runs over five innings in his last outing versus the Red Sox, and will be looking to pick up another notch in the win column against the Yankees. The O’s rookie has posted a 3.79 ERA over four starts this month and has allowed just three runs on six hits over ten innings during his last two starts combined.

Tanaka spun a gem against the Rays during his last outing and allowed just three hits over nine shutout innings en route to his eighth win of the season. The Yankees’ longtime standout owns a perfect 4-0 record and a stout 3.29 ERA over his last seven starts and a sparkling 2.29 ERA over 19 2/3 innings through three starts in July.

Alex Cobb (2-14, 6.08 ERA) will match-up against Sonny Gray (8-7, 5.08 ERA) in tomorrow’s series finale.

Cobb took another loss despite a solid performance versus Tampa as he allowed just three runs on eight hits over six innings. Cobb has been pitching well as of late and owns an impressive 3.12 ERA through 17 1/3 innings over his last three starts combined, but has lost all three starts to show for it.

Gray picked up his eighth win of the season after shutting out the Royals over five innings during his last start, and will be looking to stay in-form against the Orioles. Gray has gone 3-1 with a solid 3.44 ERA over four starts this month and has allowed just two runs over his last 16 1/3 innings of work.

That’s it for now, folks!

Here’s to a couple more in the win column.

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