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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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Tides Walk it Off Three Times in 24 Hours

The Norfolk Tides logo.

After a six-game winning streak on the road propelled the Tides into the lead in the IL wildcard race, the club kept rolling with three wild walk-off victories in four games (and two days) in their first series of the homestand. Tides starters John Means, Lucas Long, and Sean Gilmartin combined for 13.1 innings of one-run ball in the three wins, while newly-acquired reliever Cody Carroll hit 99 mph and earned the win in his first outing with the Orioles organization.

Poor weather conditions across the Hampton Roads area forced Norfolk to condense a four-game series against the Syracuse Chiefs (Nationals affiliate) into just two days with a doubleheader on Wednesday and yet another on Thursday. Due to MiLB rules, each game of the two doubleheaders was scheduled to consist of just seven innings. The Tides’ three walk-off RBIs – courtesy of Mike Yastrzemski, Luis Sardinas, and Breyvic Valera – all came within the same 24-hour span.

Nationals Top 30 prospects on Syracuse’s roster: RHP Jefry Rodriguez (11), 1B/OF Jose Marmolejos (26), RHP Austin Voth (28), 3B Drew Ward (30)

Orioles Top 30 prospects on Norfolk’s roster: OF Cedric Mullins (7), RHP Cody Carroll (14), OF D.J. Stewart (22)

 

Tides 2, Syracuse 1

John Means pitched 6.2 sharp innings and the Tides rallied in the bottom of the seventh to push across a pair of runs and walk off with a 2-1 victory. Catcher Andrew Susac reached base in all three of his plate appearances.

Means and Syracuse starter Austin Voth matched each other nearly pitch-for-pitch through the first six innings, though the Chiefs were able to manufacture a run in the third on an RBI groundout. Tides manager Ron Johnson let Means return to the mound in the top of the seventh to try to finish off the complete game, but was forced to bring in Donnie Hart with two outs and two runners on base in order to keep the deficit at one run.

Voth attempted to close out a complete game of his own. However, he was quickly removed after back-to-back singles and a well-executed sacrifice bunt put runners on third and second with one out for Norfolk. Reliever Jimmy Cordero entered the game for Syracuse and immediately surrendered a base hit to Garabez Rosa that tied the game at one. The next hitter, Mike Yastrzemski, lifted a sacrifice fly to right field that allowed Susac to scamper home from third with the winning run.

 

Syracuse 8, Tides 1

Tides starter Matt Wotherspoon and reliever Francisco Jimenez each struggled with their command in game two of Wednesday’s doubleheader, walking a combined seven runners in 3.1 innings in what turned into an 8-1 loss.

The Chiefs got a pair of runs in the first inning after Wotherspoon allowed the first four hitters to reach base. Though the Tides were able to get one run back on an RBI groundout, Wotherspoon yielded another run in the second inning on an RBI triple. Jimenez entered the game to start the third inning and allowed another run to come across. The Chiefs tacked on four more runs in the fourth on two doubles and a two-run homer.

Three Syracuse relievers combined to hold the Tides scoreless after the second inning. Norfolk’s Tim Melville and Ryan Meisenger combined for 2.2 scoreless innings of relief out of the Tides bullpen. Pedro Alvarez went 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored.

 

Tides 2, Syracuse 1

Lucas Long threw 3.2 innings of one-run ball and Cody Carroll struck out two hitters in his first inning as an Orioles farmhand as the Tides claimed another come-from-behind walk-off victory.

Though Long and Chiefs pitcher Jefry Rodriguez exchanged zeroes in each of the first three innings, Syracuse managed to score in the fourth after Alejandro de Aza walked and Irving Falu lined a ball past a diving D.J. Stewart in right field for what turned into an RBI triple. Long and reliever Luis Gonzalez managed end the inning while stranding Falu at third. Gonzalez went on to pitch the fifth and sixth innings while holding the Chiefs scoreless.

A base hit and a walk in the Norfolk sixth put runners at the corners with two outs for Chance Sisco. Newly-inserted Syracuse pitcher Josh Edgin proceeded to balk in the tying run from third on a pickoff attempt, though he later managed to strike out Sisco and leave the go-ahead run on second base.

Carroll threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning, striking out two of the three hitters he faced and touching 99 mph on the stadium radar gun. Luis Sardinas then led off the bottom of the inning with a towering home run to left field, giving the Tides their second-walk off win of the series.

Tides 6, Syracuse 5 (13 innings)

In game two of Thursday’s doubleheader, the Tides notched their third walk-off hit in less than 24 hours – though it took six more innings than usual.

Left-hander Sean Gilmartin received the ball in a spot start and breezed through three innings of work, striking out four while walking one. Eddie Gamboa entered the game in relief to begin the fourth inning and posted four scoreless innings and four strikeouts of his own.

Chiefs pitcher Kyle McGowin held Norfolk’s offense in check through six innings, allowing just three Tides hitters to reach base. Austin Adams relieved McGowin in the seventh and pitched another scoreless inning to send the game into extras.

Andrew Faulkner relieved Gamboa in the eighth with the last out of the previous inning, Chris Dominguez, as the runner at second base and no outs (due to new minor league extra-inning rules). A sacrifice bunt moved Dominguez to third and he would ultimately come around to score on Andrew Stevenson’s sacrifice fly, giving the Chiefs a 1-0 lead.

Norfolk tied the game in the bottom half after Syracuse third baseman Drew Ward couldn’t handle a two-out dribbler by Adrian Marin, allowing Sisco to score. Both teams fared better in the ninth inning, with each preventing the opening runner from scoring.

In the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth innings, Norfolk and Syracuse matched each other blow for blow. With Norfolk coming in to hit in the bottom of the thirteenth, the Chiefs had taken a 5-4 lead – a lead that would be erased for good after Mullins and Valera came all the way around to score on Valera’s two-run inside-the-park home run to right field, capping a wild series with an exclamation point.

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Series Preview: Orioles (29-73) vs. Rays (52-50)

Chris Archer of the Rays prepares to pitch.

After grinding out two full games of rain-laced baseball versus the Red Sox, the Orioles will now turn their attention to their upcoming four-game set against the Rays before heading to the Bronx.

The Orioles (29-73) will look to hit the road on a high note over the latter part of the week, and will be looking to improve upon their 6-14 record this month. However, the Rays are hitting their stride again as they head into Birdland.

The Rays (52-50) put forth an impressive effort en route to taking two of three from the red-hot Yankees in Tampa and now own a solid 11-9 record this month. They’ve also quietly posted an outstanding 18-10 record over their last 28 contests.

Alex Cobb (2-13, 6.17 ERA) will take on Hunter Wood (0-0, 2.93 ERA) during his clash with some former teammates tonight.

Cobb was solid during his last start in Toronto, but took the loss despite allowing just a single run over five innings of work. He’s now allowed just three runs over his last eleven innings pitched during his last two starts combined, but doesn’t have a win to show for it.

Wood will be making his third start of the season in tonight’s series opener. He’s posted an impressive 2.93 ERA over 15 1/3 innings pitched this season while striking out 14 in the process.

Andrew Cashner (2-9, 4.40 ERA) will go up against Chris Archer (3-4, 4.30 ERA) on Friday.

Cashner’s luck is still nonexistent going into his match-up with the Rays. He allowed just one run over 5 2/3 innings during his last outing in Toronto, but still ended up in the no-decision column. Cashner now owns an impressive 3.38 ERA over 40 innings pitched through his last seven starts and has posted six quality starts over his last nine contests. He still doesn’t have a win over either span to show for his excellent run of form.

Archer took the no-decision after allowing three runs over six innings versus Miami, but has been in fine form for the Rays as of late. He owns a stellar 2.41 ERA over 37 1/3 innings pitched during his last seven outings.

The Rays still haven’t named a starter to take on Kevin Gausman (4-8, 4.54 ERA) for Saturday’s contest.
Gausman was his own worst enemy during his last start against the Red Sox and allowed five runs over 4 2/3 innings en route to his eighth loss of the season. He’ll be looking to snap back into form after posting a 5.96 ERA over 22 2/3 innings through four starts this month.

The Orioles may either start Dylan Bundy (6-9, 4.57 ERA) or Yefry Ramirez (1-3, 3.49 ERA) on Sunday, but no official word has been announced as of yet.

The Rays on the other hand, have a few decisions to make before we hit the latter part of the series. After trading Nate Eovaldi to the Red Sox, Matt Andriese to the Diamondbacks and placing Blake Snell on the 10-day DL, there’s no telling who will take the mound for the Rays.

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Prospect Profile: Cody Carroll Could be in Baltimore Soon

Cody Carroll pitches.

Though Dillon Tate is viewed as the main prize of the prospect haul the Orioles received for Zach Britton, right-handed reliever Cody Carroll may be the closest of the group to taking the mound at Camden Yards.

Carroll, the Yankees’ 22nd-round selection in the 2015 draft out of Southern Mississippi, has spent the previous two seasons pitching exclusively out of the bullpen after serving as both a starter and reliever during his first full season in 2016. Standing at 6’5”, the 25-year-old logged a 2.38 ERA along with 55 strikeouts in 41.2 innings at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre so far this year.

After needing Tommy John surgery as a high school senior in 2011, Carroll went undrafted and spent his first year in college as a redshirt freshman while recovering from the injury. Though another injury in 2013 limited him to just three innings pitched all season, he bounced back to toss 49.2 innings the next year. He experienced a breakout season for the Golden Eagles in 2015, throwing 96.1 innings with a 3.08 ERA.

Carroll’s fastball saw a significant uptick in velocity after his pro debut. After working mostly in the low 90’s as a collegiate pitcher, he now sits between 96-98 with the ability to dial it all the way up to 101. He complements the fastball with a slider that MLB.com’s Prospect Pipeline rates as a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale and a splitter that projects to be a below-average major league offering. Though his control is described as below average, he’s cut down his walk rate at AAA this year after walking 4.2% of the hitters he faced in AA last season.

It certainly seems as though the Yankees’ decision to move Carroll to the bullpen paid big dividends. He now works out of the stretch full-time and doesn’t have to worry about finding a true off-speed pitch to complement his high-octane fastball and mid-80’s slider and splitter. Carroll himself said in a pre-season interview with MLB.com that the move helped him with his command and fits better with his mentality as a pitcher.

Beyond honing his command further, there’s not much left for Carroll to prove at the minor-league level. He made the International League All-Star team this season and boasts a FIP of 2.26, suggesting that his eye-popping ERA may not be a fluke. Right-handed hitters are batting just .125 against Carroll and he’s allowed just over one baserunner per inning so far this year. That isn’t to say that he’s a consensus relief ace in the making, however. Matt Provenzano of SBNation’s Beyond The Box Score website dismissed him as “organizational depth” during a write-up of the Britton deal, while MLB.com was careful to note that he frequently yanks his fastball and slider out of the strike zone.

All three pitchers acquired from New York must be added to the O’s 40-man roster before next year, so it makes it even more likely that Carroll will suit up for Baltimore at some point this season. While it may take until rosters expand in September to see the big righty in action at the major league level, it will be interesting to see if his ability to be effectively wild translates to the American League East.

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The State of Birdland as the Trade Deadline Approaches

Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette at O's Fan Fest on stage.

This is a guest blog by Dillon Atkinson, formerly of Orioles Uncensored. Follow Dillon on Twitter @DAtkinsonOU.

Things seem to be getting a bit chaotic and emotional in Birdland over the past couple weeks, after seeing two fan-favorite ball players get traded away from the club, and with one of those two heading to a divisional rival. I

n this depressing and frustrating time for the Baltimore Orioles and its fans, I’d like to step in and express my feelings on some key topics.

First of all, where the hell did this front office come from and who is running the show?

I’ve seen many fans criticize the Orioles’ ownership and front office for how they’ve handled things over the past oh, 20-plus years. Have I been participated in this criticism? Yes, I have. And I stand by those criticisms.

But it’s time to put what’s in the past, in the past.

Should the Orioles have been sellers in 2015? You can make that argument (yes, people still talk about it).

Should the Orioles have pushed harder to extend star Manny Machado? Sure.

Should they have tried trading him last offseason or even prior to that to maximize return? Again, sure.

Should the Orioles have pulled the trigger on the Zach Britton deal to Houston last summer that fell through at the last minute? Possibly.

However, what do all of those situations have in common?

This: those decisions cannot be changed now.

The Orioles made some blunders in the past – whether it be from the front office and/or ownership. With those blunders in the past, though, it doesn’t mean they should continue making mistakes. And now, they’re not. They received the best prospect packages available from the Dodgers and Yankees for Machado and Britton, respectively, and the organization has begun the rebuilding process.

I don’t know who’s running the show right now, whether it be Brady Anderson, one or both of the Angelos sons, or if control has been given back to Dan Duquette.

Whoever it is, though, they’ve done a damn good job so far this summer.

Orioles release right-hander Chris Tillman

Chris Tillman winds up to pitch.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

After he pitched very poorly on a recent rehab assignment in the minors, the Orioles decided to designate veteran starting pitcher Chris Tillman for assignment. The organization gave him the opportunity to accept an outright to continue to pitch for Triple-A Norfolk, but he declined, making him a free agent.

Sadly, it’s quite easy to remember the most-recent version of Tillman. Last season, in 93 innings pitched, Tillman posted an abysmal 7.84 ERA, and through 26 2/3 innings this year, his ERA was 10.46. With fans basically begging the Orioles to not let him touch the mound over the past season and a half, I don’t think the fanbase should forget what Tillman brought to the ball club prior to 2017.

From 2012 through 2016, Tillman threw 844 2/3 innings, sporting a very respectable 3.81 ERA over those five seasons. Here is his year-by-year breakdown:

  • 2012: 2.93 ERA over 86 IP
  • 2013: 3.71 ERA over 206 1/3 IP
  • 2014: 3.34 ERA over 207 1/3 IP
  • 2015: 4.99 ERA over 173 IP
  • 2016: 3.77 ERA over 172 IP.

Although his most recent outings over the past year and a half leave fans feeling sick, I believe we do need to recognize him for what he has done for the five years in Birdland of .500-plus baseball: One All-Star nomination, one ALDS Game One start, one ALCS Game One start, and one AL Wild Card Game start.

He deserves some recognition for being a key piece in the Erik Bedard trade. Let’s remember more than just the last version of Tilly that we saw.

Lastly, where does the team go from here?

Adam Jones sunglasses.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

What’s a great storybook ending here? Here’s mine: the Orioles trade Adam Jones to a contender that goes on to win the World Series. Jones gets his ring and then signs back with the Orioles to finish his career as a corner outfielder in Baltimore.

That actually sounds pretty cool. In reality, though, this may be the last week we see Jones in an Orioles uniform. The organization has three highly-touted outfield prospects – Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, and Yusniel Diaz – who could be major-league ready any minute now. So, this could very well mean that all three could be starting in the Orioles outfield by next season, which is already crowded in by first baseman-playing-outfield Trey Mancini. If the Orioles really want to get a look at what might be a talented three-man outfield for years to come, Jones may not be a piece that’s able to fit into that puzzle.

Jones and reliever Brad Brach, both two-month rentals, are next on the Orioles list to move by Tuesday. The Indians and Phillies are reportedly the top suitors to land Jones, and teams are also always looking for bullpen help. It wouldn’t shock me at all if Jones and Brach wind up in the same deal. However, unlike the Machado and Britton deals, I’m not expecting a whole lot of return to the Orioles for these two rentals, as they both are having arguably their worst seasons in their Orioles’ careers. Despite this, the return could still be worth moving these two, as well as another rental like Danny Valencia, in the next week.

If the organization wants to make more prospect splashes, they need to listen on their true chips who have more than just two months of team control remaining: Jonathan Schoop, Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, and Mychal Givens come to mind. The Cubs have reportedly spoken to the Orioles about Bundy and Gausman, and the Rockies and Braves have all also been linked to the two right-handers.

According to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, Gausman has been “checked on” by the Yankees, and he and Schoop have received additional interest from the Braves and Brewers. Remember when I said that maybe the Orioles made a mistake by waiting until now to trade Machado and Britton? Let’s not make that mistake this time around. Listen on offers for those four. If you like one, pull the trigger. If you don’t like the offers, hold off and try again in the offseason.

It’s time to look toward the future, Birdland. Appreciate what the big assets in black and orange have done over the years, sell high on them, and look at the big picture.

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We Salute You, Zach Britton

For the second time in as many weeks, a long-tenured Oriole, a player who had a huge hand in the team’s run of success from 2012-2016, is getting a proper Eutaw Street Report farewell.

Zach Britton, who took Jim Johnson‘s mantle as Orioles closer (we won’t speak of the Tommy Hunter experiment) in 2014, who made Johnson’s own “bowling ball” sinker look like a duckpin version of the real thing, and who gave me one of my favorite twitter schtick bits of all time:

Zach is now a New York Yankee. Man, it really is a new day at The Warehouse!

As we did with The Pretender by Foo Fighters, it’s now sadly time to retire For Those About to Rock by AC/DC.

It hurts, kids. Not as bad as Manny did (and still does), sure, but it still stings.

Let’s take our customary look back at our departed Bird’s Baltimore career.

 

2011

23-year-old Zach Britton, an honorary member of “The Cavalry,” (which, in my mind, exclusively consisted of only Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, and Chris Tillman) made his MLB debut on April 3 (filling in for the injured Matusz), allowing a run and three hits over six innings against Tampa. Zach, the Birds’ 2006 third-round pick, was named as the team’s #2 prospect by Baseball America before the season began.

Britton made 28 starts that season, going 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA, pitching 154.1 innings. However, what many fans will most remember from that season was Zach’s prowess with…the bat? That’s right. He went 5-for-8 in interleague play, including a home run on July 3.

 

2012

Surprisingly enough, Britton had very little to say during the magical Buckle Up Birds season of 2012. Thanks to a shoulder impingement suffered during Spring Training, he didn’t make his debut until July 17. Zach made just 12 appearances (11 starts) that season, going 5-3 with a 5.07 ERA. He put together a string of four consecutive good-to-sparkling starts from August 18 against the Tigers (7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER) through September 4 against the Blue Jays (7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER), which also included August 24 against Toronto (6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER) and August 30 against the White Sox (8.0 IP, 7 H, 1 ER). However, he allowed 10 ER in just 7.1 IP over his next two starts (which would also be his final two of the campaign).

Zach was left off the postseason roster.

 

2013

It was another bump in the road for Zach in 2013, as he was called up on April 25 and allowed six runs on 10 hits in 6.0 IP in a start at Seattle before being sent back to Norfolk. He was called up again in June, making three starts for a combined 16.0 innings and 2.81 ERA, but was roughed up again in two starts at the beginning of July (12.0 IP, 7 ER) and was sent back down until rosters expanded in September.

He finished 2013 having made just eight appearances (seven starts) for a 2-3 record and 4.95 ERA.

Now 25 years old, the shine was pretty much off the apple as it pertained to Britton as a starting pitcher. He’d thrown just 100 total innings over 2012-13 since totaling 154 as a rookie.

 

2014

orioles pitcher about to throw pitch during game

Britton was slated to make the move to the bullpen heading into the 2014 season, and he did well enough in Sarasota to make the Opening Day roster. In that memorable 2-1 win over Boston, he threw two scoreless innings in relief of Chris Tillman, allowing one hit while recording six groundball outs (and recording the win).

It was a harbinger of things to come.

He allowed just two earned runs in 15.0 IP over 10 appearances out of the ‘pen.

We said we wouldn’t bring up Tommy Hunter, but we kind of have to. If he didn’t fail as a closer early in that 2014 season, we’d have never seen Britton get a chance at the role (or at least would have had to wait a good bit longer). Tommy allowed runs in four straight appearances in early May, including blown saves in the final two.

On May 15, in a post titled “A Closing Argument,” Roch Kubatko of MASN wrote the following:

Manager Buck Showalter didn’t offer a vote of confidence yesterday when asked whether Hunter would be used in a save situation.

“I don’t know yet,” he replied. “We’ll see.”

We never found out, of course. The Orioles trailed by two runs yesterday in the ninth. They didn’t lead.

Fans are offering an assortment of solutions to the closer crisis, mostly starting with Hunter’s exile. Folks, he’s out of minor league options and his stuff is too good to let him go. Teams would pounce on him in a heartbeat if the Orioles designated him for assignment.

Let them pounce? That’s dumb. You don’t just give him away. Try to take the emotion out of it.

Maybe he needs a short break from closing. Maybe he’s better suited as a set-up man. It’s still a relatively small sample size as we sit in the middle of May. But he belongs in this bullpen, so let’s try to eliminate all talk about giving him the Kevin Gregg treatment.

If it’s not Hunter, maybe it’s Zach Britton, whose heavy sink should produce more ground balls. But I’ve got two concerns. He’s never done it, either, and he’s thriving in his current role.

You’re familiar with the whole “robbing Peter to pay Paul” argument, right? Where would the Orioles be without Britton doing his current job?

Later that same day, Zach recorded his first career save against the – ironically (it’s 2014, remember) – Kansas City Royals, thanks to three ground balls.

And just like that, we were off.

Zach notched saves in his first three opportunities, then blew one against the Brewers in his fourth on May 27. He ripped off six more, then blew one against the Yankees on June 20.

He again went on a six-for-six streak before blowing one in Oakland on July 18 (I think we all remember that one…no, I won’t show it here.)

Save opportunities 16 through 33 went off without a hitch (0 runs allowed in any of them) until Zach blew his final save of the year on September 7 in Tampa. He was four-for-four after that, finishing the season with 37 saves in 41 attempts.

Here he is whiffing Derek Jeter on September 23.

Zach’s final regular-season line: 71 G, 76.1 IP, 37/41 Saves, 1.65 ERA, 14 ER, 62 K, 23 BB, 240 ERA+

In the division series against Detroit, Britton locked down games one and two on three grounders and a strikeout (just 0.1 IP in Game 1, 1.0 in Game 2).

In Game 3, things got a little hairy. With the O’s just one inning from a sweep and their first ALCS appearance since 1997, but staring two more games in Detroit in the face, should the Tigers mount a comeback, Zach took the mound with a 2-0 lead.

He gave up back-to-back doubles to Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez, and Detroit had the tying run in scoring position with nobody out. A strikeout and a strategic intentional walk later…

I don’t know about your house/office, but the seat I’m in just got a bit dusty for some reason.

Alas – and this one admittedly hit me right in the feels when I realized it just now – that would be Britton’s final appearance in an Orioles playoff win.

We won’t waste any time on what happened next in that particular postseason. Moving right along…

 

2015

side profile of orioles player britton holding glove by face before pitch

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

With the closer’s role locked down heading into the season, Britton hit the ground running. He was 23-for-24 in the first half, earning himself a spot in the All-Star Game for the first time. Here he is sitting ARod down on April 14.

And making a heck of a play in Miami on May 22.

He notched a five-out save in a 1-0 win against Boston on June 9.

Sitting Big Sloppy down on June 22:

At the All-Star Game, he joined the MLB Tonight crew with Darren O’Day

Then struck out Bryce Harper in the game itself:

Between April 26 and August 13, Britton was 24-for-24 in save chances. He blew one on August 14 against Oakland, August 23 (yup, ruined my birthday – thanks Zach!) against Minnesota, and September 20 against Tampa. That hiccup at Tropicana Field would be his final such game until late in the 2017 season.

Putting a bow on 2015, Britton finished with:

64 G, 65.2 IP, 36/40 Saves, 1.92 ERA, 14 BB, 79 K, 215 ERA+

He was now unquestionably one of the game’s best closers.

However, he was just getting started.

 

2016

Zach Britton looks in for a sign.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Zach’s Mona Lisa. It’s hard to choose a starting point when discussing Zach’s incredible, historic 2016 campaign. Let’s just start at the beginning then, to keep things simple. He recorded his first save in his second appearance, on April 6, by striking out the side.

He was six-for-six in April.

On May 18, he entered the game with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth, recorded a five-out save against Seattle, number 11 on the year.

On June 9, he set an Orioles record with his 19th straight successful save opportunity to begin the season.

Zach, of course, had his eye on more…comprehensive record books.

He was 27-for-27 entering the All-Star Break, having converted 29 straight dating back to the end of 2015.

He was an All-Star for the second straight season, and this time, he got the chance to close things out in the Midsummer Classic.

On August 3, Britton converted his 33rd straight to start the season, setting a new record for left-handed closers.

Eight days later, he notched his 39th consecutive relief appearance without allowing a run – a new MLB record. To make things extra dramatic, he loaded the bases with two outs (after an overturned third out call extended things) before doing so.

On August 22, Zach slammed the door on the Nationals, setting a new career high in saves with 38 (out of 38 chances), and set a new MLB record for games by a pitcher without allowing an earned run since earned runs had become a stat in 1913 at 43.

Two days later, he finally allowed a run, but still got the save.

That was Britton’s first earned run allowed since he allowed three back in April, and those four would encompass his TOTAL for the entire 2016 season.

Want to see Big Sloppy ending yet another game as a failure? Of course you do. Here’s save number 42, on September 13:

On September 28, he got his final save opportunity, and converted, capping off his perfect 47-for-47 campaign.

He had just one appearance after that, a non-save situation, pitching 1.2 innings in New York on October 2, giving up two hits and no runs while striking out three.

The final tally for 2016:

69 games, 67.0 IP, 47/47 Saves, 0.54 ERA, 18 BB, 74 K, 803 ERA+.

That’s not a type. 803 ERA+. Mariano Rivera‘s career best? 316. (Basically, 3x better than any other RP. Britton was 8x better than anybody else in 2016.)

The 0.54 ERA was also good for a new single-season record by a pitcher with at least 50 IP. Britton finished 4th in Cy Young voting, and 11th in MVP voting.

Then, of course, all of that good was overshadowed by his manager’s bad, bad decision in the Orioles’ only game of that 2016 postseason. Britton watched from the bullpen as Ubaldo Jimenez was brought in in the 11th inning of a 2-2 Wild Card game in Toronto, and promptly allowed two singles and a walk-off home run to the three batters he faced.

The Birds were eliminated. Britton never got in the game. That decision by Buck Showalter launched a million twitter jokes, 10,000 hot take articles, and – if you believe some reports that have recently leaked out during this current train wreck of a season – lost him the support of many of his players.

It was a crushing way for that record-setting season of Britton’s to end. But it shouldn’t overshadow just how amazing number 53 was for the Birds when given the opportunity to be.

 

2017

Zach Britton pitches.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Zach continued to etch his name in the record books to start the following season. He became the fifth pitcher in MLB history to convert 50 straight chances in game two on April 5 against…sigh, of course…the Blue Jays, when he got old buddy Steve Pearce to hit into a double play with the bases loaded.

Two days later, he tied Jim Johnson for the second-most saves in O’s history with 122, in addition to notching his 51st straight to move him into a tie with Jose Valverde for fourth-most all-time.

Zach moved into a tie with Jeurys Familia for third place all-time the next night. This one was not without some butt-clenching.

On April 14, two saves later, he moved into second place all-time on the consecutive saves list with number 54.

Of his five saves to start 2017, four had come with either Pearce or Chris Carter (two each) as the final batter. Weird!

Unfortunately, this is where things started to fall apart a bit for Zach. Not due to poor performance, but due to injury. On April 16, the Birds placed him on the DL with the always ominous “forearm tightness.” He remained on the shelf until May 2, but after just two appearances, was placed back on the DL on May 6. Britton remained sidelined through May and June, finally coming off the DL to get his first save since April on July 23 (he’d pitched in seven games in July prior to this, allowing four earned runs).

This save was number 55 straight, a new AL record and good for second place overall all-time.

First, something fun!

Ok, now highlights of save 55 in a row:

Britton was 11-for-11 to start the season, but it was already August. If he was going to break Eric Gagne‘s MLB record of 84 straight, it probably wouldn’t be until (at least) 2018.

On August 23 (hey, that date again! Remember 2015? Yup…my birthday! And yes, I was there…again), Gagne, somewhere, popped the champagne.

Britton was four-for-five after that to finish the season, but of course the Orioles didn’t give him very many chances down the stretch, collapsing in September and missing the postseason.

Zach’s injury-shorted 2017 stat line looked like this:

38 games, 37.1 IP, 15/17 Saves, 2.89 ERA, 18 BB, 29 K, 151 ERA+

 

2018

Britton tore his Achilles tendon right before Christmas, putting his 2018 season in doubt from the start, and pretty much nixing any hopes the O’s had of trading him before the season began.

It’s been a bit rocky so far, but that’s to be expected for a guy just half a year or so removed from such a nasty injury. Zach pitched 4.1 scoreless innings over four outings to start his season after coming off the DL in early June. On June 22 in Atlanta, he blew a four-run ninth-inning lead while recording just one out. The next day, he got his first save of the season.

Lately, he’s looked a lot more like himself, with 18 of his 21 outs recorded in July coming via grounder (12) or strikeout (6), and eight straight scoreless appearances going back to June 30.

And thus ends Britton’s O’s career. He finishes with 139 saves as an Oriole, second in franchise history behind Gregg Olson’s 160.

I’m not going to say good luck in New York, Zach, because it’s the Yankees. I will say good luck getting paid (by a non-Yankee/Red Sox team) this offseason.

Thanks for everything, Zach. We salute you.

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KNEE-JERK REACTIONS: O’s Trade Zach Britton to Yankees

In a sign that perhaps things really have changed in The Warehouse, the Orioles have agreed to deal Zach Britton to the hated New York Yankees.

(Unless, of course, Pete wakes up and vetoes this whole thing. He could certainly find something he hates in the medicals. But for now, we’re going to go ahead with the reports that the deal is done.)

Our knee-jerk reactions here:

Derek Arnold

Getting anything of value for a guy who tore his Achilles eight months ago is pretty impressive. We’ll have more analysis on Tate, Rogers, and Carroll below and in the coming days, but my big takeaway from this trade is renewed optimism that the O’s really are changing the way they do things. In the past, Pete would have squashed this deal, not wanting to help NYY in any way. Look at this!

So it’s the first time these teams have struck an in-season pre-waiver deadline deal since before the Angelos family even owned the team. If the Yankees’ package was indeed the most impressive, of course the Orioles should have accepted it.

Now what I’d like to know is, who is pulling these strings? Is it Dan Duquette (most likely)? Is it Brady Anderson (less likely)? Is it Buck Showalter (quite unlikely)? Whoever has been the architect of these last two trades should be officially promoted and/or extended, in my humble opinion.

Everything must go!

Matt Pyne

This is a better return than Kelvin Herrera and Jeurys Familia fetched, that’s for sure. All things considered, this is a pretty solid deal for the Orioles. Tate could either be a starter or high-level reliever, but the change in his mechanics make him a promising prospect.

Cody Carroll has mighty impressive numbers in Triple-A with a 1.08 WHIP as a reliever. Josh Rogers is a nice southpaw starter with good K/BB numbers.

This move is about depth and gives the Orioles yet another Top 10 and potential Top 5 prospect in their system. Zach Britton, we salute you.

Brien Jackson

The big get here, and the only name that really matters, is Tate. A former fourth overall pick by the Rangers who ended up with the Yankees in the 2016 Carlos Beltran deal, Tate was a consensus top 10 prospect for New York and a top 150ish prospect in all of baseball. He’d probably be a lot higher than that but for a history of nagging injuries that have limited his playing time as a pro.

Like most pitching prospects who garner attention from evaluators, Tate ramps up the velocity on his fastball to the mid-to-high 90’s. That’s led a lot of people to project him as a back-end reliever long term, but his slider and change-up both grade as plus pitches depending on what you read.

There’s definitely potential to develop into a solid starter if he proves durable enough, but a dominant reliever wouldn’t be a bad return for Britton either given his contract and recent injury history.

Jonathan French

Like Machado, Britton was another one of the Orioles’ top trade chips, and also only a rental for acquiring teams. Unlike Machado, however Britton was coming off a major injury and although he showed the velocity on his power sinker was back, his walk rate was still high so this wasn’t the Britton of 2016 the Orioles were trading.

That said, if this trade is completed the Orioles likely got back 3 bullpen arms for the price of 1. Tate and Rogers have been starting this season while Carroll has pitched solely as a reliever.

Tate has battled injuries and is now 24 years old in AA Trenton, but the former-first round pick has a solid 1.11 WHIP and 8.2 K/9. Still his ability to start is in question and he could wind up in the bullpen.

Carroll, 25, has dominated in AAA with a 1.08 WHIP and 11.9 K/9 and can throw close to 100 MPH. He could join the Orioles’ bullpen to replace Britton immediately.

Rogers, 24 seems like a left-handed Jim Johnson – both former draft picks in the teens that put together nice numbers in the minors but weren’t highly ranked as prospects. Rogers might stick as a 4th or 5th starter or like Johnson he could take the next step in his career in the Orioles bullpen. He doesn’t throw extremely hard but locates his pitches well and has a pretty good slider.

Overall this package doesn’t have any top 100 prospects but is a solid return for Britton and these prospects will help the Orioles almost immediately for little cost.

It will sting a bit to see Britton in pinstripes, but there’s no guarantee he goes out and dominates like 2016 either which is why this return is merely solid instead of good.

Steve Caimano

The Names Don’t Matter.

The Orioles are, apparently (medicals and Angelos intervention pending) trading Zach Britton to the Yankees. This is a good thing and the return is really beside the point.

Whatever prospects the Orioles get back in the deal are lottery tickets. They all are. Anybody who thinks they know that “these guys” are better or worse than “those guys” they could’ve gotten are full of themselves. The #9 prospect rather than the #5 prospect. At this stage it doesn’t matter.

The Orioles are in a full tear down. None of the players currently on the roster will be there when they’ll be good again and, wow, that’s going to be a long time. The most valuable assets they have, now that Manny is gone, and the LEAST valuable to the team right now are relief pitchers. They should move every one of them that they can for whatever they can get in return.

The Orioles are trading Britton to the Yankees.

Good.

If The Warehouse had started this tear down with a list of teams they wouldn’t deal with then they would be cheating the fans. Get the best price you can get from whatever team will pay it. That’s the only way to do it right.

Yes, it’s going to suck seeing Zach Britton in pinstripes (or the road grays of NYY…whatever) in Camden Yards. You know what? If it’s the best thing you can do for a team who is hopelessly lost then you do it. It’s not time for emotion. It’s time for cold, hard business.

Paul Valle

This move allows the Yankees to revamp their bullpen in an effort to win #28, while the Orioles continue the beginning phases of their rebuild by stockpiling some young arms. Tate was a top-10 prospect in New York’s system after the Texas Rangers selected him in the first round in 2015, falling anywhere from 6-9 in various publications and is having a much improved season following an adjustment to his delivery. The more relaxed delivery allows Tate to throw an easy mid-to-upper 90s fastball to go along with an improving changeup and solid slider, according to pinstripedprospects.com. He could be a middle-to-back-of-the-rotation starter or a power reliever.

Carroll has had success at every level he has pitched and has a career-low 1.08 WHIP in 32 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season, providing the Orioles with some solid relief depth in the upper levels of the farm. His fastball will sit upper-90s and has been known to touch 99. His slider is a huge out pitch but he has trouble controlling it. If he can harness it, he may be a huge asset out of that Baltimore bullpen in the coming years. Think a right handed Tanner Scott.

Josh Rogers is a nice throw-in on the deal as he has notched a 3.95 ERA in 19 starts, all at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The lefty won’t overpower hitters, but he has impeccable control and can spot his fastball, which could make it look a few ticks faster. His ceiling could be a #4/5 starter in the majors.

All-in-all, the Orioles got a very solid haul for a what amounts to a rental for the Yanks. With their rebuild gaining momentum after the trades of Britton and Manny Machado, the Orioles seem to be pushing all the right buttons, for now. Adam Jones should be next. Stay tuned.

Andrew Stetka

As was the case with the Manny Machado trade, the return for Britton will look underwhelming to some. What could’ve been if the Orioles had traded their closer at the deadline last season, perhaps to the Astros? The world may never know. After Britton suffered his Achilles injury this winter, I never expected him to be back in time to even produce any trade value. The fact that the O’s are able to get three players, including two in the top-15 of the Yankees’ organization, in this deal is impressive enough for me.

You have to factor that the return is larger than the Royals got for Kelvin Herrera or the Mets got for Jeurys Familia. That’s good. You also have to factor that the market is flooded with relievers this season. We’ve already seen Brad Hand traded and would expect to see more relievers go elsewhere in the next week. When you consider all of these factors, getting anything for Britton is a win.

Yes, it could’ve been a better return last season. But unless the Orioles are making a different deal for a time machine, this will have to do.

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Series Preview: Orioles (28-72) vs. Red Sox (70-31)

After getting swept in Toronto to begin the second half of the season, the Orioles will now host the Red Sox over the next three nights at Camden Yards.

The Orioles (28-72) will be going up against the best team in baseball to kick off their upcoming seven-game home stand, so that’s really not an ideal scenario. After their rough stay across the Northern border, the Orioles are now 5-13 in the month of July and another twenty-loss month could be in the cards.

The Red Sox (70-31) are beginning to pull away in the race for the top seed in the majors and in the race for the division title thanks to an impressive 14-3 run this month and a 21-5 record over their last 26 contests. They now own a five-game lead over the second-place Yankees as a result.

Kevin Gausman (4-7, 4.33 ERA) will take on Rick Porcello (11-4, 4.13 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Gausman will be looking to begin the second half on a high note after ending the first half by allowing five runs on twelve hits over five innings against the Phillies. Despite owning a 5.00 ERA through his first three starts in July, he still boasts a solid 3.83 ERA over his last seven outings.

Porcello will be looking to bounce back into form after allowing eight earned runs over just two innings in his last start against Toronto. In the four starts prior to his last, Porcello had gone 3-0 with a stout 3.19 ERA over 25 2/3 innings.

Yefry Ramirez (0-3, 3.09 ERA) will go up against Drew Pomeranz (1-3, 6.81 ERA) on Tuesday.

Ramirez is still searching for his first career win despite throwing five shutout innings during his last start against the Rangers, and will be hoping for a better result this time around. Ramirez has been impressive since being called up to the show and has recorded three appearances in which he’s allowed one run or less through five innings of work.

Pomeranz will be making his return to the Red Sox after being on the shelf since May 31st, and will be hoping to find his vintage form going forward. He had notched just two quality starts in eight attempts before landing on the DL.

Dylan Bundy (6-9, 4.57 ERA) will match-up against David Price (11-6, 4.17 ERA) in Wednesday’s series finale.

Bundy avoided taking the loss in Toronto despite allowing five runs over five innings, and will be hoping to notch a solid outing against the Red Sox. He’s posted a 10.95 ERA over his last three starts and a 7.77 ERA over his last five.

Price notched his eleventh win of the season after throwing 6 1/3 shutout innings against the Tigers, and will be looking for a repeat performance against the Orioles. After going 4-1 with a stellar 2.90 ERA over five starts in June, Price has not been able to find the same form this month and owns a 6.43 ERA through four starts in July.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to ending the losing streak.

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Series Preview: Orioles (28-69) @ Blue Jays (43-52)

After a miserable first half and the coming and going of the Mid-Summer Classic, the Orioles will kick off their second half of the season with a three-game set in Toronto.

The Orioles (28-69) will look to pick up where they left off after winning two straight games against the Rangers before the break. Their back-to-back wins marked just the sixth time that they’ve won two in a row this season, and a win tonight will give them their second winning streak of 2018.

The Blue Jays (43-52) will be trying to get back on the winning track tonight against the Orioles. After winning nine of their last fourteen games in June, they finished the first half of the season with a subpar 4-9 record in July before hitting the All-Star Break.

Dylan Bundy (6-9, 4.35 ERA) will match-up against Sam Gaviglio (2-3, 4.58 ERA) in tonight’s series opener.

Bundy took his second straight loss after allowing five runs over just four innings in the Bronx during his last outing and will be looking to bounce back into form against the Jays. He’s posted a 12.27 ERA over his first two starts in July after allowing ten runs over just 7 1/3 innings combined. He also owns a 7.32 ERA over 19 2/3 innings during his last four starts.

Gaviglio will be looking to kick off the second half on a positive note and pick up his long-awaited third win of the season against the Birds. He’s gone 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA through three starts this month and is 0-2 with a 6.67 ERA over his last seven outings.

Alex Cobb (2-12, 6.41 ERA) will take on Marcus Stroman (2-7, 5.86 ERA) in Saturday’s mid-day match-up.
Cobb pitched well enough to win during his last start against the Rangers after allowing just two runs over 6 1/3 innings, but took his twelfth loss of the season instead. He now owns an 0-3 record and a 5.00 ERA through three starts this month and has gone 0-5 with a 6.69 ERA over his last seven contests.

Stroman took his seventh loss of the season after allowing three runs on five hits over five innings at Fenway to close out the first half, but will be hoping that his nightmare season marred with injuries, inconsistency and controversy turns a new leaf in the second half. He’s posted a 2-4 record and solid 3.98 ERA over his last seven scattered starts.

Andrew Cashner (2-9, 4.56 ERA) will go head-to-head with J.A. Happ (10-6, 4.29 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale.

Cashner will be hoping for better luck in the second half after enduring a cruel first half of the season. He’s registered a stout 3.79 ERA over his last seven outings, but has an 0-3 record during that span to show. His last win came on May 21st, but he should have more than two wins to his name after posting five quality starts in the eight starts since his last notch in the win column.

Happ will be looking to rediscover his form on Sunday after going through a rough first half of July. The 2018 All-Star posted a clean 3-0 record and an impressive 3.16 ERA over five starts in June, but then followed up by going 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA over his first three starts in July before hitting the All-Star Break.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to a few in the win column.

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What Did the Orioles Get for Manny Machado?

Manny Machado is gone. We knew it was coming, but now it’s official. When baseball resumes after the All-Star break, Machado won’t be on the field for the Orioles, and a total rebuild of the franchise may be on the horizon. So while others can do a better job singing hossanas to Manny’s past in Baltimore, allow me to look forward to the future possibilities, with a brief breakdown of the players the Orioles got in return.

 

Yusniel Diaz – OF (21 years old)

 

The headliner coming back from the Dodgers is pretty close to a reasonable best-case scenario for trading a rental like Machado. Ranked around the bottom of the Dodgers’ top 10 list by most rankers in the preseason, Yusniel Diaz is a consensus top-75 prospect now after hitting .314/.428/.477 (147 wRC+) in Double-A this season.

He gets good grades from scouts on his athleticism, and his batting numbers speak for themselves so far. Diaz immediately becomes one of the top two prospects in the Orioles’ system, depending on how bullish you are on Austin Hays right now.

He could be playing right field as early as next season, but assuming that the O’s are bad from the jump in 2019, we probably won’t see him until 2020.

 

Dean Kremer – RHP (22)

Dean Kremer finishes a pitch.

The first Israeli-American drafted by MLB has found himself acquired by Dan Duquette, a pioneer of Israeli baseball. Dean Kremer doesn’t get a lot of love from prospect rankings, but so far the results have been there. In particular, Kremer was a strikeout machine at the High-A level, punching out 96 batters in 80 innings last season before improving that to 114 strikeouts in 79 innings before LA promoted him to Double-A this season.

What Kremer lacks is velocity, with a fastball that sits in the low 90’s. That said, Kremer generates whiffs with his four seamer at a much higher rate than the big league average. In ranking Kremer as one of the five most intriguing fringe prospects in the game, Fangraphs’ Carson Cistulli noted that there’s speculation that Kremer may have an exceptional spin rate on the ball, allowing him to miss more bats.

Perhaps not surprisingly then, Duquette was talking about the front office putting an increased focus on analytics last night after the trade. If true, Kremer might end up being a real coup, because if the strikeout ability holds he’ll be able to slot in as a back of the rotation starter or as a David Robertson-esque reliever.

 

Rylan Bannon – INF (22)

Rylan Bannon pounds a teammate's fist.

Another fringe prospect from the Dodgers’ system who is putting up big numbers all the same. The Dodgers sent Rylan Bannon straight to High-A, bypassing short season ball altogether, and he’s already mashing to a .296/.402/.559 line and a wRC+ of 159. The Orioles are going to challenge him further by sending him straight to Bowie who, by the way, are going to be well worth the price of admission for the rest of the season.

He does lack an obvious position on the infield, however, but there’s nothing wrong with stockpiling big bats now and letting the rest work itself out later.

 

Zach Pop – RHP (21)

Zach Pop pitches.

Drafted a round ahead of Bannon last year, Zach Pop is a relief project, and it’s easy to see why, as he consistently throws his fastball in the mid to high 90’s. Interestingly, however, his strikeout rate fell off quite a bit to less than eight per nine innings after being promoted to High-A this year. The O’s must like what they see, however, because they’re sending him straight to Double-A to face even more advanced hitters.

If the brain trust is quite fond of Pop, it might make them more open to trading Mychal Givens now as well.

 

Breyvic Valera – INF (26)

Breyvic Valera of the Dodgers prepares to hit.

The final piece of the package, Breyvic Valera, hasn’t done much in a couple dozen big league games, but he does boast a .314/.377/.437 slash line in 950 AAA plate appearances and can hold his own at second and third. He should be a regular on the Norfolk shuttle, or even a regular utility player off the bench in Baltimore. For a fifth piece, that’s not too shabby.

 

On the whole, this is a very strong return for a rental player. The Orioles are getting five players in total, all of whom have real potential to contribute at the big league level, and an elite prospect fronts the bunch.

You don’t want to get too carried away, because for any prospect the odds are stacked against them becoming a good regular, let alone an All-Star, but fans should be happy with the way the team handled this process. They leveraged the market and walked away with a package that, while not franchise-altering, will add a ton of depth to a system that desperately needs it.

The work isn’t over yet, but this is a good start, and should provide at least some confidence in fans that the organization knows what they need to do to move forward…and have the ability to do it.

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Thursday Thoughts: O’s Cornered Themselves with Machado

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. Perhaps the most talented player in Baltimore Orioles history is departing. Manny Machado is off to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the result of a lack of foresight from the O’s.

It didn’t have to be this way. The Orioles did not approach Machado over the last few years in an attempt to sign him to a long-term contract. In fact, the O’s should be kicking themselves for also failing to trade Machado last summer when the return would’ve been much greater.

I’m not big on dwelling on the past (more on that later), so let’s try to quickly move past all of this. Obviously this was a move that the Orioles had to make at this point. Their record, paired with Machado’s pending free agency, made this a certainty. Five players came back to the Orioles in this trade. One looks like a potential All-Star in 21-year-old Cuban outfielder Yusniel Diaz. Three others are potential big leaguers. One is just simply filler.

Could the O’s have done better? Probably not in this market and at this moment. I think this is a good trade for the Orioles. They got decent return and can move on from here. It doesn’t make it sting any less, but at least there is now something to look ahead to. Evaluating a trade like this is much like picking apart a team’s draft in the days following. It’s nearly impossible to do. We don’t know what Diaz, Dean Kremer, Rylan Bannon, Zach Pop or Breyvic Valera will amount to in the long run. It could be that this trade works out great for both teams.

Aside from the fact that the Orioles are losing Machado in this deal, there’s really only one thing that irked me throughout the proces: fans that have the hot take opinion that they are glad Machado is gone because he “wasn’t that great of a teammate anyway” (yes, that’s an actual opinion you can find out there), are the absolute bottom of the intelligence meter in my mind.

Anyone that actually thinks the O’s are better off without Machado is simply ignorant and frankly unfit to even be reading this. I’m not entirely sure they’d understand the words. I’m also unsure as to why I’ve even devoted this much attention to it, but it needed to be said.

Machado was a generational player for the Orioles, and he will be greatly missed.

2. The Orioles are now prepared to barrel toward the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31 without Machado, and he won’t be the only one heading out of town. I’d expect closer Zach Britton to be traded in the very near future. There will be plenty of interest in Britton, just like there was for Machado. Another expiring contract, Britton will be able to join a contender this season and help them as either a closer or set-up man.

It could be that interested teams want to see Britton pitch a bit more before making a commitment. The Astros, Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs and Phillies are among the teams who have been linked to Britton. Houston of course had a deal in place with the O’s for Britton last summer, but the trade fell through. The difference between this year and last year is that the Orioles are now in a position where they must deal Britton or risk losing him for nothing as a free agent. The other big difference is that this year’s market is flooded with relievers. San Diego’s Brad Hand is one of the big relief arms on the market, as well as Joakim Soria of the White Sox and Jeurys Familia of the Mets.

Britton will find a new home, and could even set the market for the others. After his offseason Achilles injury, getting anything in return for him at this point would seem like a bonus.

3. I was very confused early yesterday morning when I woke up to buzz about former Orioles farmhand and Old Mill High School graduate Josh Hader. The Brewers hard-throwing reliever was caught up in a firestorm after old tweets from his teenage years surfaced. The tweets are absolutely despicable and cannot be defended in any way. There’s no way around them. Saying he was “too young” to know better doesn’t fly. Being a 17-year-old isn’t “too young” anyhow.

The overarching message here is that you shouldn’t say anything on the internet that you wouldn’t say to a group of people face to face. I’m not claiming to be a saint when it comes to this either. No one is. But I also don’t have the public profile of a major league pitcher.

All of that said, it’s important for everyone to take a step back and not completely condemn Hader for eternity. This can be used as a learning moment for him, and if he takes it as that, more power to him. MLB is forcing him into sensitivity training, which can be helpful. Just because something like this from his past is now out in the open, doesn’t mean you can’t root for him to improve as a human being. It doesn’t mean you can’t hope he succeeds going forward.

Instead of continually tearing people down when they make a mistake, lifting them up and teaching them should become part of our ways.

4. This week on the sports calendar is always a reminder that baseball has fallen pretty far down on the list of things everyday Americans pay attention to on a regular basis. It’s the only thing happening at this time of year, yet outside of the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game, there isn’t much excitement.

Part of that is because Major League Baseball has done a terrible job promoting itself. For me personally, I’m not incredibly concerned about it. I’m fine with baseball being more of a niche sport almost like soccer in this country.

Commissioner Rob Manfred can’t think that way, however. Speaking this week at the All-Star Game in D.C., Manfred decided to fire shots at the game’s best player (and perhaps the best player of all-time). According to “USA Today,” Manfred claimed Mike Trout must “make a decision to engage” when it comes to promoting himself and the game.

When I read this, I made one of those faces that tends to freeze if you hold it too long. I had to snap myself out of it because of the pure stupidity I had just encountered. It’s true that Trout is probably about as well-known nationally as the sixth man on the Oklahoma City Thunder, but that’s not really the Angels star’s fault. The fact that he doesn’t want to do every single commercial thrown his way isn’t what makes him who he is.

To their credit, the Angels stood behind their man yesterday with a statement that didn’t mention Manfred’s name.

The reason I bring this kind of thing up on an Orioles blog is because much of what was said about Trout could be said about Adam Jones. MLB doesn’t do a good enough job promoting its stars, and despite the fact that Manny Machado is no longer an Oriole, Jones still is for now. Jones is just the type of player, similar to Trout, that MLB should be promoting. In Jones’ case, it’s especially true if MLB has interest in attracting young black people to enjoy the game. He’s the perfect ambassador for this, and while it’s something folks in Baltimore are well aware of, nationally it’s not the case.

I applaud the Angels for firing back at Manfred. Hopefully it sends a message that baseball fans love players like Trout and Jones for who they are, not who some suit in the MLB offices thinks they should be.

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O’s Trade Manny Machado to Dodgers

Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Orioles pulled the trigger on a deal for Manny Machado, dealing the superstar to the Los Angeles Dodgers for five prospects.

ESR Staff react to the news here:

Derek Arnold

I thought I was ready for this. Then I spent a good chunk of yesterday pulling together highlights for our So Long Manny piece, and man…I was suddenly NOT ready for this. Not at all. I’m going to miss that damn human highlight reel more than I realized.

Emotions aside for a moment…the good news is that it seems like the Birds, while certainly not fleecing LA, got a bit more for Manny than many analysts expected just a few short weeks ago. OF Yusniel Diaz is the centerpiece. He homered twice in the Futures Game on Sunday. The 21-year-old Cuban was ranked as the Dodgers’ #4 prospect by FanGraphs just the other day.

When Yasiel Puig finally departs LA, another Cuban may replace him. Just 21, Diaz is having a strong showing in double-A. Like Verdugo, he has an advanced approach for his age and controls the strike zone extremely well (BB-K of 41-39). Unlike his peer, he produces more in-game pop and could eventually hit 20+ homers in a full big league season. He has the ability to play all three outfield positions.

He was number 73 on the Baseball Prospectus Top 101 this Spring.

The others look to be very hit-or-miss. Unfortunately, all day long reporters were tossing around some bigger-name Dodger prospects, and now that those guys aren’t included, much of Birdland is even more upset than they had planned on being 24 hours ago or so.

By all means, be upset that Manny Machado is gone. I certainly am. Beyond that though? Let’s just wait and see.

Andrew Stetka

The inevitable has finally come for the Orioles and Manny Machado. The man who is quite possibly the most talented player to ever come out of the O’s organization is off to L.A. to join the Dodgers. The “adjusted” feeling on this is that the Orioles should be pleased in getting a top 50 prospect (Yusniel Diaz) back in return. In fact, for a rental player, it’s a very good thing.

But I can’t help but wonder what the return would’ve been for Machado if the Birds had some kind of self-awareness and traded him at last year’s break. The team wasn’t in it, and decided to hold on to players like Machado and Zach Britton. It set the organization back a full season at least.

As for the Dodgers, I can’t help but wonder if they would’ve made this move had they been the team that went out and acquired Justin Verlander last year instead of Yu Darvish. Verlander went on to burn them in the World Series, and they weren’t about to be outbid this year in acquiring the top target at the deadline. This should vault them to the NL West title, though they still need more pitching as well.

Machado won’t stay in Los Angeles beyond this year. My guess is that he’s the shortstop for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019, and if not, he likely ends up with the New York Yankees. Gulp.

Phil Backert

The question for the Orioles when it came to the package for Machado was whether they wanted to get 2-3 solid prospects or one high ceiling prospect and potentially 1-2 players who could be productive. They chose to get the high ceiling prospect in outfielder Yusniel Diaz and hope one or two of the other four players will turn out to be solid Major Leaguers.

I don’t blame them as I would want a potential superstar when I’m trading a superstar. Diaz will be how we grade this trade. If he becomes an All-Star this is a win, if not, then there will be a lot more losing on the horizon.

Paul Valle

The Orioles did a job today, trading arguably the best homegrown position player in franchise history for 5 minor league prospects. The centerpiece of the Manny Machado deal coming back to Baltimore is top outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz, who should turn into a solid player, if not a superstar. They got a big hitting 3B prospect in Rylan Bannon who hits for average and power and gets on base, a big armed reliever in Zach Pop, and a RHP starter in Dean Kremer who has pitched very well this year at two different stops in the minor leagues.

Breyvic Valera is fringe utility infielder who has had a cup of coffee in the majors. At 26, he would appear to be a thrown in. All-in-all, the Orioles seem to have gotten a solid haul for their All-Star shortstop, though most of these players could still be two to three years away.

The Orioles needed to come out looking like winners with this one, because the fan base seems to be pretty fed up with the front office. While that remains to be seen, on the surface it looks like Baltimore got some fine young players.

Joe DiBasilio

It’s a Greek Tragedy. Not because the Orioles moved Machado – they had to, and by all reports they did well on their return.

The tragedy lies in the end of an era of hope, one that was defined by missed opportunity. The O’s return to prominence in 2012 saw an awakening of talent, and a roster with Manny, Markakis, Jones, Wieters, Crush Davis (not his evil twin brother Whiff), Hardy, a dominant bullpen and the best defensive team in MLB…produced one playoff series win.

Machado’s trade (although a step in the right direction now) is the culminating centerpiece of a series of terrible organizational decisions over this span, from not replacing Markakis, to not re-signing Cruz, paying Davis, signing O’Day over Andrew Miller, etc etc.

Machado was such a rarity for this franchise: a home grown superstar with enough talent around him to make several runs at the elusive World Series title. The Orioles squandered this window, and now must begin the dreaded rebuild. Machado cannot be the only move made; Britton, Jones, Givens, Trumbo, Brach, the picture hanging in Buck’s office… all of it needs to be made available to hopefully right this ship and usher in a new era of hope.

Brien Jackson

In addition to Diaz, a consensus top 100 prospect who is already producing at the Double-A level, the Orioles are getting an impressive amount of depth from the Dodgers’ loaded system. They’re also getting guys who are excelling at their highest levels to date. Kremer and Pop have racked up the strikeouts and could be impact relievers down the road. Bannon jumped straight to High-A this season and is hitting a robust .296/.402/.559. And while Valera hasn’t done much in a couple of dozen big league games, he hit .314/.377/.437 on 950 plate appearances.

That’s not as overwhelming as when rumors we’re floating that Dustin May was going to be in the deal along with Diaz, and it might even be less than what they were offered for Manny over the winter, but it’s still a heck of a haul for a rental and the brain trust at the Warehouse deserves credit for how they handled this process. This is a good start to rebuilding the farm system and, depending on how bullish you are on Austin Hays and DJ. .Stewart at the moment, the Orioles might have 4 top 100 prospects with the addition of Diaz.

Now the focus turns to Zach Britton and, eventually, Adam Jones and Brad Brach. So far though, the Orioles are handling the difficult process of selling off major pieces as well as could be expected.

Jonathan French

Fans knew the Orioles had to trade Manny Machado before the deadline, so the facts that he performed well offensively and also didn’t get hurt already were a win. The Orioles had Manny at his maximum value for the last few months of control. That helped them in creating a market for Manny and would secure them at least one top 100 prospect. The hope always was that some team would overpay and at least put that one prospect in the top 50. With Yusniel Diaz, they got that top 50 prospect. Diaz profiles to be a bat with great plate discipline, good range and a strong arm in the OF and could play any outfield position so that will give the Orioles options. Ultimately I see him settling in at right field and hitting somewhere in the top of the order. The Dodgers had to pay $15.5 million to sign him from Cuba and then because they exceeded their bonus money they had to pay a 100% penalty on his salary so a total cost of $31 million. That tells you how much potential the Dodgers thought he had to pay that price and he’s living up to it this season in AA.

As for the rest of the deal, no there aren’t any other top 100 prospects, but Rylan Bannon is having a tremendous year offensively in High A Rancho Cucamonga, just one year removed from being drafted in the 8th round. He’s going to have to find a position – similar to Ryan Mountcastle – but his bat definitely is something to watch. Dean Kremer is the first Israeli-American to be drafted by an MLB team. Dan Duquette, as some might remember, was a founding member of the Israel Baseball League. Kremer seems like he could profile as a middle of the rotation starter and currently has 114 strikeouts in 85 IP with a 3.30 ERA between High A and AA. Zach Pop is currently Rancho Cucamonga’s closer and has been groomed for a back end of the bullpen role since he was drafted one round ahead of Bannon last year. Valera is an organizational utility player that the Dodgers acquired from the Cardinals earlier this season that will likely ride the Baltimore to Norfolk shuttle as depth.

Overall there are lottery tickets after Diaz, but all of the players save for Valera have nice upside. Somebody in the organization did well to park themselves in Rancho Cucamonga.

As for Manny, while his bat seems to have reached its potential, his once renowned defense has slipped to be among the league’s worst at shortstop and even at third base last season he no longer had as much range as he did when he first came up with the team and earned a Platinum Glove. To become the hitter he is now, he sacrificed his defense, and although he thinks he can still play shortstop effectively, the fielding metrics don’t back him up. The Manny Machado fans will see from now on will do plenty of things with his bat, but it seems his Platinum Glove will be a memory. Orioles fans were able to see the best combination of offense and defense that Manny Machado had to offer and I think we’ll look back on this trade as a big success and be glad the Dodgers still bought into the hype.

Matt Pyne

Our expectations were too high coming into the trade. It’s a move that kicks off a rebuild (the dreaded R word). We immediately add an impact prospect and probably the best prospect in our system in Yusniel Diaz and some complementary pieces that add depth. Ownership seems finally willing to move veterans for prospects and that should give Orioles fans, in part, hope for the future of the franchise.

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So Long, Manny Machado

It’s time for the post I hoped to never have to write, but that, in the back of my mind, I was always preparing myself for. We’ve posted these types of “farewell” articles before – for Wei-Yin Chen, for Matt Wieters – and we will again – likely for Zach Britton in the coming days. I’ve also still got one saved in drafts that I put together for Chris Davis, but never got to post. Funny how things work out (or don’t work out, if you want to look at it that way).

But this one…man, this one. To say goodbye prematurely to perhaps the most talented player in the history of the Baltimore Orioles organization is quite a punch in the gut. Once Manny Machado wasn’t locked up to a long-term contract after about the 2015 season or so, most of Birdland made our peace with the fact that this day lay inevitably on the horizon. “Enjoy him while he’s here,” we told ourselves, “because after 2018, that’s all she wrote.” That day is here, Birdland, and we didn’t even get to watch him in an O’s uniform for those final 60+ games.

It’s not official yet, but by all accounts Manny has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he’ll finish out his final days of pre-free agency service time before hitting the market this winter.

Where exactly we O’s fans should direct our ire for this unacceptable, yet sadly predictable, course of events is a topic for another day. We’ll have plenty of time to be angry with the Angelos family, Dan Duquette, Brady Anderson, and whoever else as the stories about the real reasons for the lack of contact between the Birds and Machado’s camp over the past handful of seasons leak out.

Today is a day to look back and celebrate the Orioles career of Manuel Arturo Machado. A guy who was must-see TV, a human highlight reel, a reason to tune in every night even when the Birds were scuffling, or – as they are in 2018 – when they were the worst team in baseball. Every night (especially when he was playing third base), Machado had the potential to do something to make fans gasp.

The corny saying goes like this: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened at all.”

Let’s smile because all of this happened…

 

2012

51 games, .262/.294/.445, 8 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 26 RBI

The playoff drought had reached 14 seasons. The Buckle-Up Birds were in contention in July and showed no signs of letting up. They needed help at third base. Talk radio lines were jammed with callers hoping that the team would trade for San Diego third baseman Chase Headley. The deadline came and went, with no help acquired at the hot corner.

The O’s had a young phenom down in Bowie, but he was a shortstop, and J.J. Hardy had that position on lockdown. Surely they wouldn’t ask Manny Machado to move to third base?

Of course, that’s exactly what the Orioles did. The rest, as they say, is history. He spent a few days learning third base down at AA, and was called up and inserted into the lineup on August 9 against Kansas City.

Just like Wieters before him, Manny’s first career hit was a three-bagger.

The next night, he hit his first – and second – major league home runs.

On September 12, he made what was, to that point, his signature defensive play, one that made O’s fans – and MLB observers in general – look up and say “hey, this guy might be something special.” The famous “Don’t throw it away, DON’T THROW IT AT ALL!” play.

In that doomed 2012 postseason series against the hated Yankees, Machado made his presence known, hitting a home run in that ill-fated Game 3.

2012 gave us just a taste of all the great things to come from number 13.

 

2013

156 games, .283/.314/.432, 51 2B, 3 3B, 14 HR, 71 RBI, All-Star, Gold Glove, Platinum Glove

manny machado up to bat waiting for pitch

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

In his first full season, Manny introduced the term “MACHADOUBLE” into the O’s fan lexicon, smacking 51 of them.

While he had *mostly* doubles power though, he didn’t JUST have doubles power. He hit 14 home runs, including this memorable one in Boston on April 10, that helped kick off his rocky relationship with Red Sox fans.

With the glove, Manny continued to show us that his month-plus at third in 2012 was no fluke, putting together play after play just like this:

(MLB put together a list of his “Best Barehanded Plays from 2013″…in APRIL.)

On July 7, Manny made the play which remains atop his incredibly impressive career highlight reel, ranging into foul territory to recover and throw out New York’s Luis Cruz from well beyond the third base line.

Gary Thorne: “Whoa, mercy! Gonna see that one for a few years!” (He was right.)

Of course, when you win a Platinum Glove as the game’s best defender, there are plenty of highlights to choose from. Here are just a few more…

Unfortunately, 2013 ended on a sour note for both the Orioles and Manny. On September 23 in Tampa, Manny dislocated his kneecap while stepping awkwardly on first base. It ended his season, and was horrific to watch for O’s fans and baseball fans in general.

Manny had surgery in the offseason, and it was a tough one for Birdland, wondering if we’d see the same player when he took the field again in 2014…whenever that may have been.

 

2014

82 games, .278/.324/.431, 14 2B, 12 HR, 32 RBI

orioles manny machado running bases

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

As it turned out, Manny would miss the first month of 2014, making his debut on May 1, in the second game of a doubleheader against Pittsburgh. Would he be himself?

Yup.

2014 was a magical season for the Orioles, as they captured their first AL East title since 1997, winning 96 games in the process. Manny’s season, though, was a bit uneven. It started a month late, as we’ve discussed, but he also earned himself a bit of a reputation as a hothead for the first time. He sparked two separate bench-clearings in the same series, as he first took exception to a Josh Donaldson tag, and later, appeared to throw his bat intentionally.

It was a very, very strange sequence of events, and was at odds with what we’d seen from Manny up to that point. It’s ancient news now, and there’s no sense re-litigating it, but I’d be remiss to not bring it up at all. It was weird, certainly, and an odd stain on that amazing season.

Just over a month later, the Birds played in Oakland, and Machado was, of course, welcomed with a cascade of boos and rude signs. He responded thusly:

Aside from that weirdness though, Manny just kept on being Manny.

In late July, he robbed Albert Pujols in similar fashion in back-to-back games, reminding many of his play on Luis Cruz from just over a year prior.

On July 29, he hit his first career walk-off home run.

He kept on being Manny right up until August 11 when…sigh. The other kneecap popped out.

It was revealed that Machado had a congenital condition in both knees, which required corrective surgery. Manny’s 2014 season was over. He wouldn’t be able to celebrate the division title with his teammates. More importantly, he (along with Matt Wieters and Chris Davis) would not be available for the postseason, a cruel practical joke from a universe that has just seemed to have it out for us Orioles fans since 1983.

Who knows if things could have been different against Kansas City? Ryan Flaherty certainly held his own that postseason, both in the field and at the plate as Machado’s replacement, but it’s still impossible to not look back and wonder.

 

2015

162 games, .286/.359/.502, 30 2B, 1 3B, 35 HR, 86 RBI, 20 SB, All-Star, Gold Glove

Manny Machado in front of sign at spring training 2015.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Coming off his second consecutive offseason knee surgery and rehab, Manny looked to prove that he could stay healthy for a full season. He did just that, playing all 162 games. While he was smashing 50 doubles in 2013, many fans said to ourselves “man, once he grows up a little, these doubles are going to turn into home runs…then, watch out.” And ye verily, it came to pass. Manny had 66 extra-base-hits, two fewer than he managed in 2013, but 21 fewer doubles, and 21 more home runs. MACHADOUBLES had become MACHADONGS.

He was a bona fide superstar, routinely named with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper among the best young players in the game.

On June 16, the Orioles belted EIGHT home runs against Philadelphia. Manny contributed two of those.

Do you ever get tired of watching these? I certainly do not.

Manny participated in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star festivities in Cincinnati.

During his timeout, Adam Jones got him some of his signature salsa.

Of course, he was still doing this:

On August 14, he blasted a walk-off homer against Oakland.

On September 22 in D.C., he picked up career hit number 500.

Manny won his second Gold Glove award, but the O’s finished a disappointing 81-81.

 

2016

157 games, .294/.343/.533, 40 2B, 1 3B, 37 HR, 96 RBI, All-Star

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Eager to prove his breakout 2015 was no fluke production or health-wise, Manny was as advertised, playing in 157 games, posting a new career high in home runs, and bashing a career-best 78 extra-base hits and 341 total bases.

After his first dong of the year, Manny danced:

The glove was on full display in an April game against Texas:

On April 28, he hit his first grand slam of the season.

Then on May 8, Mother’s Day, he did it again. With a pink bat.

On May 24, Manny hit one to the train tracks in Houston.

On June 7, Kansas City’s Yordano Ventura (sigh…RIP) came inside to Manny one too many times, and received a nice right haymaker and headlock for his transgressions.

As usual, Manny did what he does at the hot corner…(often against Evan Longoria, apparently.)

Thorne: “Manny, an impossible play…” Now, Gary, you know that’s not true.

During that same series in Los Angeles (grr…enjoy him, Dodgers fans), Manny hit one to the friggin’ moon.

The Orioles (and their past giveaways) celebrated Manny’s birthday with a new garden gnome.

Thanks to Manny’s incredible range and quickness at third, and their matching otherworldly strong arms, Machado and Schoop were perhaps MLB’s best 3B-2B double play duo for several years. In 2016, they seemed to be especially dialed in.

On August 7 in Chicago, Manny hit a home run in each of his first three at-bats, in the first three innings, his first career three-dong game.

On August 14, Schoop hit a clutch three-run, go-ahead, two-out home run in the ninth inning in San Francisco, and Manny was so excited that he knocked his buddy over in celebration.

On August 30, Manny belted career HR number 100.

On September 6…yet another Manny Slam.

The Birds snuck into the playoffs as the second Wild Card, only to lose in Toronto. On the bright side, at least we got this:

Manny Machado smokes a cigar and celebrates the O's 2016 playoff berth.

 

2017

156 games, .259/.310/.471, 33 2B, 1 3B, 33 HR, 95 RBI

Manny Machado trots around the bases.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Manny played for the Dominican Republic, in honor of his grandfather, in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. As a result, we got a play that no O’s fan will ever forget. Manny, for once, found himself on the wrong end of a “web gem,” this time courtesy of Birds teammate Adam Jones, who was repping Team USA.

Back in MLB play, Manny had a rough first half, spawning a hundred “What’s wrong with Machado?” blogs, and a thousand “Manny is just going through some bad luck” response pieces. He did, however, manage this 470-foot blast in New York.

On May 1, just a couple weeks after going through some more pointless drama with Boston thanks to a perceived dirty slide (absolute nonsense, for the record), Manny stole another little piece of Red Sox fans’ souls on a game-ending line drive.

Oh, did I say AFTER the drama? That was a lie. It was DURING the drama, because those Boston fools made sure it carried over into the next time the teams met.

Manny responded with a 466-foot homer over the monstahhhhh.

Manny and Schoop? Yeah, they were still doing the damn thing around the horn.

(Oh hey…Longoria again!)

What, only 465 feet? Manny must have been tired on June 2, when he took Rick Porcello to the damn club level at OPACY.

Throwing from foul territory? Yup, he can still do that too.

How about starting a 5-4-3 triple play? On August 3, Manny did just that.

You want more Manny Slams? I got more Manny Slams.

Ho hum, you say? Alright, how about a walk-off Manny Slam to cap off a three-homer game? That float your boat?

That was Manny’s third grand slam between August 7 and 18, by the way.

There’s an extended highlight of it for some reason, so why not?

On August 23, I took my then five-month old son to the Yard for my birthday. Zach Britton – as he loves to do on my birthday – blew a save in the ninth inning. Nine innings was all a five-month old could handle, so I missed this:

Six days later, he had yet another multi-homer game.

Remember we talked about Manny’s slow start? Yeah, he was named AL Player of the Month for August. He hit .341 with 12 HR and 35 RBI in the month.

He wasn’t done just because the calendar flipped though. On September 5, the Birds were down to their last out against the Yankees. Dellin Betances was on the bump. There was a man on. Manny’s second home run of the game won it.

2017, of course, ended on quite a sour note for the O’s. That sour note has, unfortunately, carried on over into…

 

2018

96 games, .315/.387/.575, 21 2B, 1 3B, 24 HR, 65 RBI, All-Star (with Baltimore)

Manny Machado jogs the bases.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Heading into the season, Manny made it known that he wanted to move to shortstop. While this rubbed a lot of O’s fans the wrong way, the fact remains that Manny came up as a shortstop. He deferred to J.J. Hardy while the veteran was here, but once Hardy was gone, Machado saw the shortstop spot as his. Why would the game’s best (arguably) third baseman, a Gold Glover winner in two of his four full seasons, want to move?

It caused a lot of hand-wringing among fans. The results have been…uneven, to put it mildly. The defensive metrics are not kind. He’s going to play short in LA though, so they obviously don’t hate what they’ve seen.

Also on the minds of fans? All the rumors that Machado was perhaps going to be traded last winter. It all proved to be Mach-ado about nothing, as the Orioles ultimately decided to make one last go at it with their core group of players who had seen so much success since 2012.

We saw our new regular 6-4-3 combo during the first series of the year.

He showed some nice range in Houston on April 2.

On April 6, Manny continued to own CC Sabathia, homering twice for the first time in 2018.

I tell you what…when I watch plays like these, I have a hard time believing those defensive metrics that say Manny has been AWFUL at short.

On April 19, Manny homered twice…again.

April 22…yep, you guessed it. Two more dongs, these both coming off oh no big deal…Corey Kluber.

May 11, two more homers, including a Manny Slam.

Remember when I said I took my son to his first game in August of 2017, and Britton blew the save, and I missed Manny’s walk-off? Well, last month, I took Jr. to his first ROAD O’s game, in Atlanta. The Birds had a four-run lead headed into the bottom of the ninth. Britton blew it AGAIN. Nine innings was, again, all a one-year old could handle. So, thanks to Zach, Brooks and I both missed an O’s win in person, which came in the 15th inning courtesy of…

On July 10, Manny went yard twice yet again.

During all this Manny-Being-Awesome, the guys around him were, sadly, awful. The Birds are neck-and-neck with Kansas City in the battle for the 2019 first-overall draft pick, and they are on pace to challenge the 1988 O’s for worst record in team history.

And so then, on Sunday…Manny hit his final home run as an Oriole (barring a return some future day that none of us are banking on).

Perhaps Machado will move back to third base with whatever team he signs with as a free agent this winter. Maybe he’ll stay at short, and as the sample size grows, those defensive metrics will be more generous to him.

The sad part is it’s really no longer our concern as O’s fans.

All we can do is…keep looking back at these highlights, wistfully. And wish him luck. And curse endlessly the inept ownership/front office (take your pick; arguing who should get the lion’s share of the blame is a game for another day…or many more days) that allowed such an extremely talented home-grown player to ever put on another jersey.

So long, Manny. Thank you for everything. Go win a ring with Los Angeles. And then sign with some National League team this winter…just not the Yankees. Or Red Sox. Please?

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Mullins Stays Hot, but Tides Drop Three of Four

Cedric Mullins gets ready in the OF.

The Norfolk Tides (47-44, 2nd place in the IL South through Sunday) stumbled to three losses in four games against the Gwinnett Stripers during the team’s first series since the AAA All-Star break. Center fielder Cedric Mullins, the No. 5 prospect in Baltimore’s minor league system, collected six hits in the series while extending his hitting streak to 15 games. Starting pitcher Asher Wojciechowski was another bright spot, tossing eight innings of one-run ball during Friday’s game.

 

Gwinnett 4, Norfolk 1

Gwinnett shortstop Luis Marte went 3-for-4 at the plate, helping the Stripers hold on to an early lead and take the first game of the second half by a score of 4-1. Tides starter Matt Wotherspoon took the loss after allowing three runs in four and two-thirds innings pitched.

D.J. Snelton, Joely Rodriguez, and Tim Melville yielded just one run over five and a third combined innings out of the Tides bullpen. Left fielder Mike Yastrzemski had two hits, including a double, to pace the Norfolk offense.

 

Tides 5, Gwinnett 4

The Tides fought off a ninth-inning Gwinnett rally with a rally of their own, ultimately needing ten innings to take game two of the series by a 5-4 score. Starter Wojciechowski yielded one run through eight strong innings while Yastrzemski went 3-for-3 at the plate.

Wojciechowski struck out eight hitters while walking none. With the game scoreless in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Tides’ offense used an RBI groundout from Ruben Tejada and a sacrifice fly from Mullins to stake their pitcher out to a 2-0 lead. Stripers catcher Jonathan Morales cut the lead in half in the top of the seventh after an RBI groundout of his own.

Things got dicey for Norfolk in the top of the ninth after manager Ron Johnson opted to bring in Tim Melville to try to close out the game with a 2-1 lead. After Austin Riley singled to lead off the inning, Dustin Peterson launched a two-run homer to give the Stripers a sudden 3-2 lead. Xavier Avery followed Peterson with a double, later coming around to score on an error by Garabez Rosa and pushing the lead to 4-2.

The Tides refused to go quietly in the bottom of the ninth. Drew Dosch led off the inning with a bunt single to beat the shift and advanced to third on a two-out double by Yastrzemski. With the Tides down to their final out, Tejada sliced a line drive into center field to tie the game at four.

Per the new minor league pace-of-play rules, each team starts extra innings with a runner on second base. Knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa was able to prevent Gwinnett from scoring in the top half of the tenth, while D.J. Stewart led off the bottom of the inning by grounding a ball into center field to score Luis Sardinas from second base and give the Tides the victory.

 

Gwinnett 4, Norfolk 3

Tides starter John Means threw six innings while giving up three runs, but it wasn’t enough as Norfolk dropped game three. Mullins and Tejada each had a pair of hits in the losing effort.

The Stripers opened the scoring in the third inning after Michael Reed lifted a sacrifice fly to plate Sean Kazmar. They pushed across two more runs in the following inning on an RBI groundout and another sacrifice fly to widen the lead to 3-0.

The Tides battled back in the bottom of the fifth, pushing across a run on Renato Nunez’s sacrifice fly. The bottom of the sixth produced two more Tides runs on an error by Kazmar and a Tejada double, knotting the score at three apiece.

Rio Ruiz’s RBI single in the top of the seventh gave the Stripers a 4-3 lead that they would hold on to for the win. Reliever Francisco Jimenez took the loss for Norfolk, though the run he allowed was unearned.

 

Gwinnett 9, Tides 2

Chris Tillman battled through five and a third innings of work in another rehab start and Tejada and Stuart Levy hit a pair of home runs, but Norfolk dropped the series finale after the bullpen struggled in the late innings.

Tillman struck out three hitters while giving up a pair of runs on eight hits and a walk. His fastball sat in the upper 80’s for the majority of his outing, though it briefly touched 92 in the sixth inning.

Gwinnett jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the third inning after Michael Reed hit a long home run into the visitor’s bullpen in left center field. The Stripers tacked on another run in the fourth on an RBI double.

Norfolk came roaring back to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth on a pair of solo homers by Ruben Tejada and Stuart Levy. Tillman returned to the mound in the top of the sixth but was relieved after allowing a double and reaching 100 pitches for the afternoon. Lefty D.J. Snelten recorded the final two outs to end the top of the sixth inning still tied at 2.

Four straight Gwinnett singles to open the seventh gave the Stripers the lead again. Gamboa entered the game with one run already in and two runners on base with no outs but managed to wiggle out of the jam with the score remaining 3-2. The Stripers added four runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth to push the score to 9-2.

Gwinnett relievers Andres Santiago, Chad Bell, and Jason Hursh each threw a scoreless inning to close out the game.

Mullins extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a bunt single in the third inning. The switch-hitting outfielder is batting .379 (25-for-66) with ten extra-base hits over that stretch.

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What are These Guys Still Doing Here?

O, how I love thee, let me count the ways. By love, I mean hate, and by thee I mean the 2018 Baltimore Orioles. This year has been so lacking in enjoyable baseball that I have been unable to muster the courage to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) these last couple of months.

Alas I have returned to offer you some thoughts as we near the halfway point of 2018.

 

Manny and Co.

Someone explain to me why NO ONE has been traded yet? I want to hear no more about “it’s too early” or “the orioles are fielding several offers yet but haven’t had their asking price met.”

My favorite is, “you must not understand how trades work.”

I am not talking about Manny Machado, Zach Britton or even Adam Jones. The importance of successfully navigating those deals is obvious, and I understand (agree) with taking the time to make sure the deals are done right. However, there are numerous minor trade pieces that the Orioles should have long moved, such as Brad Brach, Mark Trumbo and Danny Valencia.

It’s particularly unfortunate that the O’s waited to move Valencia, as his slash line has dipped to .252/.314/.431, but he is still hitting LHP exceptionally well (.284/.363/.534), and would be valuable as a platoon option for any playoff team.

The Orioles should move him, and it’s inexplicable they haven’t’ done so already.

 

Whiff Davis

How is Chris Davis still in the big leagues? Seriously, I’m asking.

Davis’ BA is up to a gentleman’s .159, well-complemented by a .233 OBP and nine HR. Through 74 games he has 107 strikeouts, and if he continues to play regularly will most likely obliterate the single season K record set by Mark Reynolds in 2009.

Oh, and his defensive decline puts him into a potentially below-average first baseman category. Cut this man and eat the salary OR find an “injury” that leads to an extended rehab assignment. If the O’s refuse to break ties with him due to the financial investment that makes Enron look like Apple, then they must get him down in the minors and invest in fixing him.

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GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

 

Quittin’ Colby

I wrote a piece the day the Orioles signed Colby Rasmus, that examined the head-scratching decision to bring him in, so this is not a “hindsight is 20/20 situation.” Instead of Rasmus, the Orioles should/could have signed Jon Jay, who fit more of the team need (remember when the O’s were trying to win this year?) and has a line .287/.356/.361. His .356 OBP would put him second on the Orioles behind Manny, and possibly move Trey Mancini or (insert random out of position player name here) out of RF.

Would replacing Rasmus with Jay have changed the Orioles 2018 fate? Absolutely not, however it would have provided a cheap (savvy) move to acquire some additional prospects just as the Royals did when they flipped him to the Diamondbacks.

Organizational Structure

More and more information continues to leak out about the goings on inside the Warehouse, and none of it seems to answer the question of “who is in charge?”

Is it Dan Duquette, Buck Showalter, Angelos and Sons, or Hand of the King Brady Anderson? I surely don’t know, and despite the hard-hitting investigative efforts by the beat crew that covers this team, it doesn’t seem like we will be getting an in-depth look anytime soon.

One thing is clear, however: with the continued blurred lines of power that seemingly exist for the front office (that I can only assume includes The Oriole Bird and Richie Bancells in some bizarre capacity), this “rebuild” is going to be quite the process, and I fear I may see my two-year-old driving before the Orioles return to the playoffs.

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The Rundown: O’s Fans Should Welcome NYY to Manny Talks

While we continue to wait for the Orioles to tear down their roster and embrace a full rebuild, we still have to watch players like Joey Rickard play on a nightly basis. There are a lot of aspects of this season that are extremely frustrating, but the lack of change on any level may rank at the top. I really hope that the All-Star break and/or the trade deadline is when there is a mass exodus and we start seeing players who we all hope will have a future on the next wave of good teams in Baltimore.

 

Yankees Enter Manny Sweepstakes

This should come as no surprise, but the Yankees want Manny Machado for the stretch run, according to Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic.

Also no surprise, O’s fans aren’t happy about this. Taking off our orange-colored glasses, the Yankees may be the only team that can provide what the O’s organization needs: infield depth and major league-ready starting pitching. I also think they are the only team that would pull the trigger on a “fair” deal, as they only care about winning a World Series.

Do the Milwaukee Brewers? Arizona Diamondbacks? I’m not sure. Maybe the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they proved last year with Justin Verlander that they won’t do everything necessary to win a title. If the Yankees are willing to give up Miguel Andujar and/or Justus Sheffield, we have a starting point in discussions and one of those players alone is better than any prospect the other teams would be willing to part with.

If the rumors are true that the Orioles could package Zach Britton in a deal then that will only increase the talent level that comes back.

I know it would be extremely painful seeing Machado and/or Britton in pinstripes in October, but this is the exact team we need to be in trade discussions if we want this rebuild to be accelerated.

 

Other Trade Candidates

Since we really don’t know who is making decisions, we also don’t know how capable the organization is when it comes to multi-tasking. Machado is priority one so who knows if the front office is talking to other teams about Britton, Mark Trumbo, Adam Jones and Danny Valencia? I’m not even mentioning Brad Brach as I don’t see how a contender would want to acquire him.

Packaging Britton with Machado would at least knock off two of the big names, but it needs to happen sooner than later so they can focus on the other trade chips. Even though he has been in a slump, I still believe Valencia has value to a playoff contender as a guy off the bench or a starter against lefties. We know what Jones can mean to a playoff team and he is still an offensive contributor.

As for Trumbo, he ranks seventh in baseball in average exit velocity and is looking more like the player from 2016 than 2017. He is another player that can help a contender down the stretch.

Unless they have a postgame ritual that he gets mad about and puts the organization in a tailspin that they have to recover from…but I digress.

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Series Preview: Orioles (24-65) vs Yankees (58-29)

After getting swept out of Minnesota, the Orioles close out the first half of the season with an eight-game homestand beginning today with a doubleheader against the Yankees.

The Orioles (24-65) are hoping to snap yet another lengthy losing streak before the Al-Star break. Their current six-game skid marks the eighth time that they’ve lost five or more games in a row. To make matters worse, they’ve only won once in their last 14 contests.

The Yankees (58-29) are still rolling steady after taking two of three on the road from the Blue Jays and will look to stay right on Boston’s heels in the two-horse race for the division title. They’ve won five of their seven games in July and eight of their last 12 coming into Camden Yards.

The Orioles and Yankees will start the series by playing a classic day/night double-header. Jimmy Yacabonis (0-0, 8.53 ERA) will take on CC Sabathia (6-3, 3.02 ERA) in game one.

Yacabonis is making just his second start of the season. The converted closer received no decision after giving up two runs on six hits over four innings in his first start of the season against the Mariners, but he has the trust of Buck Showalter after a valiant display.

Sabathia picked up his sixth win of the season after holding the Braves to just two runs over six innings.
The Yankees long-time standout has been in sparkling form over his last six starts with a 4-2 record and
a superb 2.10 ERA over his last 38 2/3 innings.

Yefry Ramirez (0-2, 2.51 ERA) will get the nod against Luis Cessa (0-1, 5.00 ERA) in game two. Ramirez took the loss despite giving up just one run on one hit over five innings against the Phillies. The Orioles’ promising rookie has allowed just one run on four hits over 10 innings during his last two appearances.

Cessa is making just his second start of 2018 against the Orioles. He took the loss in his first start
against the Braves after allowing three runs on five hits over just three innings. Still just 25 years old, Cessa is trying to make his mark at the big-league level after a disappointing 2017 season.

Andrew Cashner (2-9, 4.39 ERA) will match-up against Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 4.58 ERA) on Tuesday.
Cashner took the loss in his last start against the Twins despite allowing just two runs over six innings. He will try to stay in-form against the Yankees. Luck has not been on Cashner’s side. He’s posted a stout 3.18 ERA over his last six starts, but has gone 0-3 during that span because of little run support.

Tanaka will be making his return from the DL in this match-up. The Yankees hurler was in fine form before going down. He held the Mets to one run over five innings during his last start back in June. Tanaka remains undefeated over his last nine starts and hasn’t ended up in the loss column since April 17.

Dylan Bundy (6-8, 4.08 ERA) will go head-to-head with Sonny Gray (5-7, 5.85 ERA) in Wednesday’s
series finale. Bundy struggled in his first start off the DL and allowed five runs on nine hits over just 3 1/3 innings in Minneapolis en route to his eighth loss of the season. He still owns a 3-1 record and a 3.23 ERA over his last five outings.

Gray’s nightmare campaign continued in Toronto after he allowed five runs on six hits over just two innings in his last start. He must be wondering when the rough patch will end at this point. Over his last three starts, Gray has gone 0-3 with a woeful 12.27 ERA and has pitched just 11 innings combined during that span. A former All-Star in Oakland, Gray has yet to carry that form into the Bronx Bombers pinstripes.

That’s all for now, folks!

Here’s to ending the losing skid.

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Chris Davis Set to Break Orioles Strikeout Record

He just tied a franchise record previously held by Orioles’ great, the Iron Man, Cal Ripken.

He tied the record with 8,027 FEWER at bats than Cal.

He tied the record with 2,029 FEWER games than Cal.

That’s the equivalent of 12 ½ FULL seasons.

Impressed?

He adds to his amazing feat at the rate of once every 2.7 plate appearances.

If he continues his torrid pace for the balance of his contract, he will rank 5th in Major League Baseball history, one notch ahead of Alex Rodriquez, who took 22 seasons to reach that level. This Oriole could reach such lofty numbers in just 15 seasons.

Last season he earned $885,000 per home run. This season he’s on pace to earn a whopping $1.64M per home run

Tonight… if he plays, he will set the Orioles club record.

Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve known him as The Crusher (thanks to Mike Bordick). Now you know him as the Orioles strikeout king. Let’s give a warm round of applause to Christopher Lyn Davis.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/d/davisch02.shtml

https://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/SO_career.shtml

[Related Article: Chris Davis Deal Will Set The Orioles Back For Years]

Bonus Content: Chris Davis is a Strong Man!

2013

2016

2018

At least he can crush something?

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