Manny Machado returns to Camden Yards this week, with no signs of the trade that sent him there to greet him.
Machado was one of several longtime Orioles the organization traded last summer, sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Breyvic Valera and four minor leaguers months before becoming a free agent. He signed a 10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres, who visit Baltimore for a two-game series starting Tuesday.
With Machado returning, it seems to be a good time to see how the fruits of last season’s deals are ripening. Along with Machado, the Orioles dealt Zack Britton to the New York Yankees, Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to the Atlanta Braves, and Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers. They also sent reliever Brad Brach to the Braves in a separate deal, though the return was international bonus slots instead of players.
Of the five players the Orioles acquired for Machado, all but Valera remain with the organization, with outfielder Yusniel Díaz, infielder Rylan Bannon and right-hander Dean Kremer all with Double-A Bowie. Right-hander reliever Zach Pop posted a 0.84 ERA with the Baysox before undergoing Tommy John surgery in May.
Díaz, who became the Orioles’ top prospect in the wake of the trade but has since lost that status, struggled with Bowie last season and to start this year. But he won Eastern League Player of the Week honors last week after raising his average from .208 to .243 and homering in three straight games. He was placed on the temporarily inactive list this week for the birth of his child. But after returning Friday, he drove in three runs Saturday in a game Kremer started, striking out eight across five scoreless innings. Díaz then homered again Sunday.
Kremer, the 2018 minor league strikeout king, began his 2019 season with 11 2/3 scoreless innings. Although a couple of rough outings have his ERA at 4.28 with Bowie, he remains more than capable of recording strikeouts, with 52 in 43 1/3 innings across two levels.
After hitting .204 with Bowie last season following the trade, Bannon started strong this season, hitting .319 through May 7. But entering play a month later, he was down to .255. He’s batting .314 over his past 10 games, though, and is back up to .276.
For Britton, the Orioles acquired three pitchers: left-hander Josh Rogers and right-handers Cody Carroll and Dillon Tate, all of whom are on the 40-man roster. Rogers is one of three pitchers acquired in the trades to take the mound for the Orioles this season; he, Evan Phillips and Luis Ortiz have combined for an 8.27 ERA with Baltimore.
Ortiz has been far from the most productive player out of the Schoop trade. Infielder Jonathan Villar has been a regular contributor in manager Brandon Hyde’s lineup, as he’s played in all 78 games and with 15 steals is the only Oriole with more than five. The Orioles also got Jean Carmona out of their deal with the Brewers, a 19-year-old infielder back with Short-A Aberdeen after hitting .226 with the IronBirds last season.
Carroll, who had an ERA of 9.00 with the Orioles in 2018, has yet to pitch in a regular-season game at any level this season because of injury. Tate, the No. 4 overall draft pick in 2015, has been converted to a reliever and earned his first career save for Bowie on Saturday. He has a 1.88 ERA in eight relief outings this season.
Phillips came from the Braves along with three minor leaguers: Brett Cumberland, JC Encarnacion and Bruce Zimmermann. Zimmermann and Cumberland, like the prospects acquired for Machado, are with Bowie. A catcher, Cumberland was placed on the injured list this week and was hitting .239/.369/.370. Zimmermann, a left-handed pitcher, has made 13 starts with a 2.72 ERA. Encarnacion is hitting .233/.289/.343 with Low-A Delmarva, where he spent last season after the trade.
After former executive vice president Dan Duquette traded away several major league assets last season, Orioles first-year executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias won’t have the same option this season. Many of the top tradeable pieces he was believed to have at his disposal early in the season are either hurt (Alex Cobb) or struggling (Dan Straily and Mychal Givens), though Andrew Cashner, Dylan Bundy and Trey Mancini remain possibilities.
Machado’s first visit to Camden Yards serves as a reminder that the products of whatever moves Elias makes will take time to develop and produce, and some of them might not ever do that.
What’s to come?
As mentioned, Machado and the upstart Padres visit Camden Yards for a two-game series. Although much has been made of the Orioles’ desire to mimic the Houston Astros’ rise to success, the Padres represent perhaps another path to contention (though San Diego has certainly not reached levels of Houston’s success). Through international signings, savvy trades and the draft, the Padres developed the best farm system in baseball, and with pieces of that beginning to trickle onto the major league roster, they stacked veteran free agents Machado and Eric Hosmer on top of it.
Then, the Cleveland Indians come to town for a three-game series. The Orioles lost three of four at Cleveland in May, with each loss coming in particularly damning fashion. They blew a 5-1 lead in a 14-7 loss, then after evening the series, they managed only one hit in a 4-1 loss. The next night, Cleveland’s Shane Bieber struck out 15 and walked none in a 10-0 shutout.
What was good?
It’s hard to find positives in a week the Orioles went 1-6, were outscored 59-29 and lost a 10th straight game for the first time since June 5, 2010 (Machado was drafted two days later). But Cashner returned from a blister and illness to post two quality starts on the team’s West Coast road trip. He was a hard-luck loser in Oakland, allowing only one earned run in six innings. Another six-inning performance in Seattle guided the Orioles to their only win of the road trip. With a 2.00 ERA in June, he could be drawing contenders’ eyes for a possible trade next month.
“The bullpen was bad” is becoming the new “Trey Mancini was good.” The Orioles cycle through relief pitchers like no other team in baseball, and after their relievers collectively allowed 28 earned runs in 27 2/3 innings this week, they have surpassed the Washington Nationals for the highest bullpen ERA in baseball at 6.34. This week alone saw Phillips and Sean Gilmartin called up then sent down, Paul Fry optioned, Straily designated for assignment, and Branden Kline, Tanner Scott and Matt Wotherspoon promoted. Based on the rate of pitching roster moves, it’ll be interesting to see how long they stick around.
On the farm
The Frederick Keys had nine All-Stars, and for many of them, it represented their last showing in High-A. Infielder Willy Yahn drove in two and singled amid a game-winning rally, then got bumped up to Bowie. Outfielder Cole Billingsley, who hit a game-tying single in the All-Star game, got promoted but shortly after was moved to the IL.
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Right-hander Michael Baumann, the Orioles’ 2017 third-round pick, led the Carolina League in strikeouts before getting moved to Double-A; he made his Bowie debut Saturday with two innings of scoreless relief, while Steven Klimek’s first outing with the Baysox did not go as well. The right-hander allowed three earned runs in two innings.