Signed to a minor league contract days into spring training, left-hander Tommy Milone offered the Orioles a potential veteran rotation piece that could be flipped come the trade deadline.
He proved to be exactly that, with the Orioles trading Milone to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, a day before the deadline, for two players to be named. He served as the Orioles’ Opening Day starter after an injury to John Means, posting a 3.99 ERA across six starts while striking out 31 in 29⅓ innings.
“Tommy’s a guy that gave us some really good starts and a guy that was a class act on and off the field,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “Loved having him on the team. Was fantastic in our clubhouse. A guy that gave innings for us in the rotation in a tough season. Threw strikes. Hardly walked anybody. Was able to change speeds. Was able to navigate through good lineups. I’m happy for him and happy for Atlanta. I think he’s going into a good situation there, but it was really a pleasure to have him on our club in the short time we had him.”
Milone was scheduled to start Monday’s series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays, but after joining the Braves in Philadelphia started for them Sunday against the Phillies, allowing seven earned runs on eight hits in 2⅓ innings. In his place, left-handed pitching prospect Keegan Akin will make his first major league start. Akin, the Orioles’ No. 11 prospect according to Baseball America, led the Triple-A International League in strikeouts last season and has allowed three runs across 3⅓ innings in two major league relief outings.
Since struggling on Opening Day, Milone had a 3.08 ERA in five starts with a 26-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He was the only Orioles starter with multiple outings of at least six innings.
With the shortened season’s schedule based around geography, all of Milone’s starts came against team in the American League East and National League East divisions, a trend that will continue with Atlanta. The Braves are scheduled to visit Camden Yards on Sept. 14-16.
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“Tommy was just a great fit for us this year, had a rejuventating season,” Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said. “Great guy to have in the clubhouse. He’s throwing the ball so well and has just looked so good, and I’m excited for him to go join race in the NL East.”
The Orioles entered Sunday having lost 10 of their past 12 games after a 12-8 start, increasing the likelihood they turn to prospects as the season goes on while likely pushing them more into sell mode. Elias had already indicated his focus remained on the focus even as the club began the season competitively.
Along with sending Milone to Atlanta, the Orioles traded reliever Mychal Givens to the Colorado Rockies on Sunday for two minor league infielders and another player to be named.
The acquisition of players to be named later follows the framework of Elias’ other trades this season. The Orioles acquired an unnamed player in each of the deals that sent right-hander Hector Velázquez to the Houston Astros and left-handed reliever Richard Bleier to the Miami Marlins. For the 2020 season, teams are able to trade only those players who are in their 60-player pools, meaning the prospects being acquired from Houston, Miami and Atlanta aren’t in their pools and won’t be revealed until after the season.
Of the seven players Elias has acquired in trading veterans Andrew Cashner, Jonathan Villar and Dylan Bundy over the past 13 months, only one had playing experience above High-A, and it’s likely the Milone deal will continue to add to the talent pipeline Elias is trying to build in Baltimore. Along with another player to be named, the return for Givens included former first-round draft pick Tyler Nevin, who played last year at Double-A, and infielder Terrin Vavra, who posted an .899 OPS in Low-A in 2019.
With Milone and Givens dealt, the Orioles’ top remaining candidates to be moved before Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline are right-handed starter Alex Cobb, shortstop José Iglesias and right-handed reliever Miguel Castro.
“Our group is still working and is very active during this trade deadline tonight and tomorrow, and we expect the conversations to continue,” Elias said. “We’ll see if anything else takes place.”