BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 7: Brian Matusz #17 of the Baltimore Orioles looks on after giving up two run home to Marcus Semien #10 of the Oakland Athletics in the eighth inning during game one of a double header baseball game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 7, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Athletics won 8-4.
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 7: Brian Matusz #17 of the Baltimore Orioles looks on after giving up two run home to Marcus Semien #10 of the Oakland Athletics in the eighth inning during game one of a double header baseball game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 7, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Athletics won 8-4. (Mitchell Layton / Getty Images)

Amid a slew of moves on a busy day off, the Orioles did something only they seem to specialize in: They moved the scant amateur baseball capital that can be traded for established professionals.

Along with left-hander Brian Matusz and the roughly $3 million owed to him for the rest of this season, the Orioles sent the 76th overall draft pick to the Atlanta Braves for a pair of minor league pitchers Monday. In a separate deal, the Orioles acquired right-hander Franderlin Romero from the Cincinnati Reds for two international signing bonus slots.


Manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday that everyone has "personal opinions" on the wisdom of such moves, but boiled down what Monday's deals meant for the organization.

"It depends on if the players you're getting back are as good as our draft pick," Showalter said. "I like the two guys we got. We really added four pitchers yesterday — one with some pretty good track record and some major league experience, [left-hander Brian Duensing]. The kid from Cincinnati is interesting. All three of these guys [are]. And, you know, it allows you to reinvest some of that in other areas, maybe at the trade deadline. Who knows?

"The two pitchers we got back, they could be as good as who the 76th pick is. I don't know. But I know the thinking behind it. It's good for Brian and good for us. We think we're a better organization this morning than we were yesterday."

The ability to trade both competitive-balance picks and international signing slots is relatively new, but the Orioles are no stranger to it.

Only picks in the two competitive-balance rounds on the first day of Major League Baseball's annual amateur draft can be traded, thanks to a stipulation attached to them when the picks were introduced for the 2013 draft for the bottom 10 teams in both revenue and market size. Two of the competitive-balance picks were traded in 2013, and that same calendar year, the Orioles traded a 2014 competitive-balance pick in the deal that got them right-hander Bud Norris from the Houston Astros.

At the beginning of last season, the Orioles packaged their competitive-balance pick with reliever Ryan Webb in a salary dump to the Los Angeles Dodgers that got him off their payroll. After this trade, the only competitive-balance pick the Orioles will have taken in the four drafts since it was established is outfielder Josh Hart (2013), who this year is repeating High-A Frederick.

From a team perspective, the competitive-balance picks are assets however you slice them. Either it's an investment in a young player or something that can be attached to a sunk cost like Matusz or Webb. No matter how it ended up, Norris was a crucial part of the 2014 division champions.

Still, the Orioles are responsible for most of the draft pick trades since they were instituted. The idea that teams who are so clearly building for the future, or otherwise committed to increasing their odds of hitting on a low-cost player early in the draft, is bound to be held up in contrast to the team that trades them that opportunity.

The picks are intended to be assets for teams to add amateur talent. By using them to improve the major league team, the Orioles are finding a use for them that suits their timeline better.

Considering their win-now mentality after putting their core back together this offseason, the draft pick may be worth more to teams looking long into the future than ones looking for every edge in 2016.

Last year, the Orioles used some of the salary they cleared to trade for outfielder Gerardo Parra, a move that was lauded at the time even if the return wasn't there. Perhaps this year's cleared salary — $3 million off the books means a lot when trying to add a starting pitcher into that space — will put them over the proverbial hump. Showalter alluded to as much.

But the trade costs the Orioles $838,900 in their signing bonus pool allotted for picks in the first 10 rounds of the June draft. Their draft capital was supposed to be massive this year, especially early in the offseason.

With their first- and second-round picks, a second-round pick for not signing 2015 draftee Jonathan Hughes, compensatory picks if first baseman Chris Davis, reliever Darren O'Day, catcher Matt Wieters, and pitcher Wei-Yin Chen left in free agency and the competitive-balance pick, the Orioles would have opportunities to add "Friday night starters," as Showalter called them. These bell-cow college pitchers were the best and most reliable on their college teams, and could quickly supplement the major league roster.

Davis, Wieters, and O'Day all returned, and they forfeited the first-round pick to sign right-hander Yovani Gallardo. That means the Orioles' picks on the first day of the draft, June 9, are Nos. 27, 54 and 69. Their bonus pool is now $6,648,000 for the first 10 rounds.


Monday's trade with the Braves netted minor league pitchers Brandon Barker, a starter, and Trevor Belicek, a reliever. So with this move, as with the trade with Cincinnati, there is some present-day value.

"We made the trades to add to the pitching depth of our organization," executive vice president Dan Duquette said. "We got three pitchers that we like, that our scouts like."

Barker will start for Double-A Bowie, a level he had a 2.00 ERA this year. Romero is a strike-thrower whose sinker reaches up to 94 mph, Duquette said, and Belicek is a 2015 draftee already in High-A with 32 strikeouts and one walk in relief this year.

The international bonus slots were instituted along with the competitive-balance picks in the last collective bargaining agreement to curb some of the exorbitant signing bonuses doled out to international amateurs. They're easily skirted by combining bonuses, and teams that want to spend badly enough simply pay the overage penalty and lose slot money in future years to do so.

The Reds have been aggressive in the international market this year and have committed all of their allotted money, so the Orioles' slots could save them from incurring a penalty by going over their pool. For that privilege, the Orioles got Romero, who is coming off Tommy John elbow reconstruction in 2014 but had a 2.87 ERA this year as a starter with Low-A Dayton.

Last year, the Orioles dealt a pair of international slots to the Astros for left-hander Chris Lee, who has proven to be a good addition. The Orioles utilized his athleticism in a cleaned-up delivery, unlocking a mid-90s fastball He was added to the 40-man roster during the offseason and has turned into a ground-ball machine for Double-A Bowie this year.

So perhaps Romero could follow that same mold. Until then, he'll represent a day of trades when the Orioles leveraged a set of valuable opportunities to add impact talent to the farm system for more known commodities. Considering how often they do it, he won't be the last in the system with that tag.


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