Following an 11-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday to cap their best three-game stretch of the season, the Orioles continued to focus on the future, trading one of their two remaining pending free agents while indicating the other will likely remain with the club through the rest of the season.
Minutes after Sunday’s game ended, the Orioles traded right-handed reliever Brad Brach to the Atlanta Braves for $250,000 in international bonus slot money, and executive vice president Dan Duquette said that he expects center fielder Adam Jones to remain with the club through Tuesday’s 4 p.m. nonwaiver trade deadline.
With 10 years of major league service time, including five years with one club, Jones has the power to veto any trade, so he can navigate his landing spot or choose to play out the season in Baltimore, where he is the Orioles’ longest-tenured player.
“As far as Adam’s decision, Adam is a 10-and-5 man, so he would have to consent to any assignment,” Duquette said. “So, you should talk to Adam about that. As far as the club’s concerned, we would expect that Adam would be with us after the trade deadline.”
Asked after Sunday’s game whether he has expressed his desire to remain with the Orioles throughout the season, Jones simply said, “We shall see.”
Still, the Orioles moved forward with their facelift by dealing Brach, whose market didn’t have nearly the same demand as that of franchise cornerstones Manny Machado and Zach Britton.
Duquette said he received interest from three clubs on Brach, and while the club didn’t receive a prospect for him, it marks the first time the Orioles have acquired international bonus slots instead of trading them away. Duquette has emphasized that investing more resources in the Latin American market will be a key component of the club’s rebuild.
“There’s a lot of interest in the international market because of the quality of the players and the finite number of bonus slots that clubs can utilize, so it’s a pretty interesting time right now, but it’s a good opportunity for the Orioles to get back in that market,” Duquette said. “We hope to sign a couple of international players this week. We hope to announce that we have signed some young international prospects from the Dominican and Venezuela.”
The Orioles spent less than $1 million combined on international bonus slots in the past two signing periods combined, and the largest bonus they paid last period was just $150,000, but the Orioles have expressed interest in highly regarded Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa, which alone is a major shift in direction.
Orioles Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations Dan Duquette discusses Sunday’s trade of Brad Brach to the Atlanta Braves. (Eduardo A. Encina, Baltimore Sun video)
For Brach, his 4.85 ERA is the highest of his five-year tenure with the Orioles that began with him arriving from the San Diego Padres for a mid-level minor leaguer, going from a long-man to an All-Star setup man and eventually fill-in closer over the past two seasons while Britton was injured.
“I think it was kind of a rebirth of a career for me,” Brach said of his time with the Orioles. “When I was in San Diego, I was not good in my last year there. Looking back and being a long man, then middle guy, then get a chance to go play in the All-Star Game [in 2016] and represent the Orioles was an incredible experience. It was something that I’ll never forget and just looking at the path that’s happened the last four years, it’s kind of crazy because it almost felt like it was dead and now I have all the opportunity in the world to get a world championship ring and continue my career after that.
“I’m glad that this waiting period is done and I know I’m going somewhere, or if I was going to stay here, that’s fine. It’s nice that the [July] 31st [nonwaiver trade deadline] is close and I knew where I’m going, where I’m going to spend the rest of the year, which is definitely a huge burden off my mind.”
In Atlanta, not only will Brach will be reunited with former Orioles Nick Markakis and Ryan Flaherty, but also Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti, the former Orioles pitching and bullpen coaches, respectively, who Brach flourished under and are currently in the Braves’ front office.
“He gets to go to a team that is pursuing a pennant race with young players, so he is a good veteran presence and he will be reunited with people he played with here down in Atlanta to help stabilize their club and accomplish their goals,” Duquette said.
Brach, a part of two playoff teams with the Orioles in 2014 and 2016, said he spent the past few weeks looking at the bullpens of contending teams to see what clubs might want him and thought Atlanta might be a fit, especially because of the organization’s Orioles ties. When he didn’t pitch in Sunday’s win — he hasn’t pitched since Tuesday — he suspected a move might be coming.
“Anytime you’re somewhere for a while, it’s always tough,” Brach said. “You develop relationships with people. Obviously, it’s bittersweet, but I know I’m going to a good spot. A couple coaches I know are over there. It’s something I’ve never experienced before, but I couldn’t be more thankful to get to play here in Baltimore and for all the fans and all the experiences. I finally got to play for a winner. It was just an unbelievable experience. A lot of things going through my head.”
While nothing can be certain until Tuesday’s deadline passes, it appears Jones will remain with the club through the season. The Orioles have received the most interest from the Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies, but both teams seemed to prioritize other potential acquisitions over dealing for Jones. None of that matters if Jones isn’t willing to be traded.
Whether there is a future for Jones on the Orioles beyond this season remains to be seen, but Duquette emphasized Sunday that the focus is on evaluating younger players.
“His contract is up [after the season],” Duquette said of Jones. “I don’t whether Adam will be here or not, but the club is going in the direction of younger ballplayers, I can tell you that.”
The Orioles can still make trades after Tuesday’s deadline, but players must first clear trade waivers before a deal can be completed.
“There’ll be some other opportunities for us [to make other trades],” Duquette said. “The club has established a clear direction, right. We have traded veteran players for younger players, and we’re going to, with the support of ownership, rebuild the roster, and we’re going to sign some international players, OK? We’re going to sign some this week, and that will be the start of it.”