Early returns forcing Orioles to take long view with July trade acquisitions making major league debuts

The Orioles brought 15 new players into their organization in the July trades that began a drastic change in the franchise’s path forward, with a cadre of prospects — many of whom were close to the majors — replacing an All-Star core that included Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Kevin Gausman.

With the return of right-hander Evan Phillips on Friday, the day the Orioles gave right-hander Luis Ortiz his first major league start, the team had six of those 15 players already in the majors in the middle of September — with infielders Jonathan Villar and Breyvic Valera, right-hander Cody Carroll and left-hander Josh Rogers rounding out the group.


While Villar, who was an established major leaguer when he arrived, has thrived, success for the other five has been fleeting, if it’s come at all. Manager Buck Showalter said ahead of Friday’s game that the team was mostly just glad to get the first major league experiences behind the newcomers so when their true talent starts to show, they’ll be able to tell.

Now that top Cuban prospect Victor Victor Mesa and his younger brother, Victor Mesa Jr., have been declared free agents by Major League Baseball, the Orioles plan to pursue both players aggressively, according to an industry source.

“You get excited to see them, why they’re well thought of,” Showalter said. “You’ve just got to be careful about getting too positive, too negative. We were very positive about them when we got them. Some of them are going to have be protected anyway, which is a great reason to have them here and let them get acclimated. We think they’ve got a chance to have them impact our club, and you’ve got to be careful about getting too positive or negative about it. I’ve learned through the years that there’s a process with them all, and that first time in the big leagues part will be behind them as we go forward.”

Ortiz, 22, left his first start Friday with an apparent injury in the second inning, having allowed three runs (one earned) on four hits before exiting. He struggled in his debut in relief a week earlier, walking two and allowing three runs on three hits, though that came after he posted a 3.69 ERA over six starts in his first taste of Triple-A after coming in a four-player trade with the Milwaukee Brewers for Schoop.

That Triple-A success is common for the pitchers involved in this equation especially, even if the results didn’t quite translate to the major league level. Rogers, 24, was one of three players who came from the New York Yankees for Britton.

He had a 2.08 ERA in five starts for Norfolk before joining the Orioles and making three starts. He allowed three earned runs in five innings in the first try, two runs in 5 1/3 innings on the second, then was hit around to the tune of six runs in 1 1/3 innings Sunday at the Tampa Bay Rays. The club has said he’s close to his innings cap this season, though he might pitch again in relief.

Carroll, 25, also came in the Britton trade and had a 2.38 ERA for the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and was in the majors almost immediately with the Orioles. He’s struggled since, allowing nine earned runs in 10 innings over 10 appearances in the majors and allowing three runs in five appearances at Norfolk. Phillips, 24, one of four pieces that came from the Braves in a trade for Gausman and Darren O’Day, had a 2.28 ERA in 39 Triple-A games between the two organizations but allowed 14 runs in 9 2/3 innings in the majors before he returned Friday.

Valera, 26, a longtime waiver target of the Orioles who was the senior-most player in the five-player haul for Machado, had two hits Thursday to bring his Orioles average up to .316 (6-for-19) after he hit .229 at Norfolk.

Villar’s success stands out against the backdrop of the rest of this Orioles second half — he entered Friday hitting .284/.352/.439 with seven home runs and 12 steals since the trade.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun