New York — The Orioles’ rebuild is real.
It was real when second baseman Jonathan Schoop ducked into the visiting clubhouse bathroom to take a phone call upon arriving at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday afternoon. Schoop emerged, silently sat at his locker and turned to left fielder Trey Mancini.
“I’m gone, man,” Schoop told him.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Mancini said. “I almost started tearing up there.”
It was real in the tears that were shed, after teammates gravitated to Schoop’s locker to give him farewell hugs. As he spoke about the trade minutes later, his eyes were red.
It was real in the emotion right-hander Kevin Gausman couldn’t hold back, his voice cracking when talking about his round of goodbyes, falling silent as he used his shirt to wipe his eyes.
“It’s weird,” Gausman said. “I think the toughest thing is saying bye to your teammates. Yeah, that’s probably the toughest thing.”
The Orioles’ major league roster purge hit another level just before Tuesday’s nonwaiver trade deadline. Previously focused on trading the team’s pending free agents — Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Brad Brach — the Orioles moved players who were under team control beyond this season, dealing Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers as well as Gausman and injured reliever Darren O’Day to the Atlanta Braves.
“It’s a lot like building a house,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. “I think it’s easier to demolish the house and build a good foundation from the ground up rather than renovating it one room at a time. I think it helps in terms of the overall progress you can make. That’s really what we’re doing with the ballclub.
A team that was built with the purpose of competing this year continued to have a wrecking ball taken to it. Since the day after the All-Star Game, the Orioles have dealt six veteran players — five of them former All-Stars and four of them homegrown through the Orioles’ farm system — while receiving a total of 15 players: 13 prospects and two players with major league experience. All six departing players were members of the Orioles’ playoff teams in 2014 and 2016.
“It’s got to be done,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We knew it. And I don’t think anybody’s going to apologize for going for it this year. And we saw it wasn’t going to be there and we had to move in a different direction. You’ve got to know who you are and who you’re not, and know how you’ve got to do it and have a plan and an attack because you want to move forward. And we are. We’re a better, deeper organization today and we’ll see.”
The Orioles also shed roughly $30 million in remaining 2018 payroll while acquiring additional international bonus slots to give the club about $8 million in pool allowance to spend on international free agents.
“I think that’s an important part of it,” Duquette said. “Like I said, when you start the teardown, you have to reinvest your resources to build it back up. Today, we freed up some major league payroll and also acquired some international bonus slots, so that allows us to reinvest that in the infrastructure, the people, the technology, the recruiting players and making the team competitive doing the things we need to do to compete with these tough teams in the [American League] East.”
In exchange for Gausman and O’Day, the Orioles received four prospects — right-hander Evan Phillips, infielder Jean Carlos Encarnación, catcher Brett Cumberland and left-hander Bruce Zimmermann — and international signing bonus slot money. Zimmermann is a Loyola Blakefield High product and began his college career at Towson University.
In exchange for Schoop, the Orioles acquired two prospects — right-hander Luis Ortiz and shortstop Jean Carmona — as well as veteran infielder Jonathan Villar.
Gausman, 27, still has two years of team control beyond this year and netted a significant return, even with the salary dump of O’Day. Schoop, 26, was set to become a free agent after next season. O’Day, 35, is signed through next season, making $9 million per year. He will miss the rest of this season with a hamstring injury. O’Day waived his 10-and-5 no-trade rights (10 years of major league service time, five straight with the same team) to go to the Braves.
“We’re in a rebuild, obviously,” Gausman said. “I kind of felt like if we were gonna get rid of Schoop, it was gonna be a rebuild. Obviously, getting rid of me and Darren is part of it, too. Kind of a sad day, to kinda see the band broken up.”
The Orioles previously dealt three pending free agents, moving Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers, trading Britton to the New York Yankees and Brach to the Braves, receiving eight prospects back — all of them at the Double-A level or higher — and $250,000 in international bonus slots.
The team’s other pending free agent, center fielder Adam Jones, told the team he would not approve a potential trade to the Philadelphia Phillies.
And while the Orioles’ focus at the trade deadline had been on moving their pending free agents, they were consistent in not turning away any discussion regarding their controllable players.
The return from the Braves included their No. 14 prospect (Encarnación) and No. 30 prospect (Cumberland), according to MLB Pipeline, as well as a 23-year-old reliever who reached the majors this season (Phillips) and a Baltimore native drafted in the fifth round last year (Zimmermann).
The Brewers’ package included their fourth-best prospect according to Baseball America (Ortiz) and No. 14 prospect according to MLB Pipeline (Carmona). Villar, 27, is in his sixth major league season and third with the Brewers. He is under team control through 2020, first becoming arbitration eligible this coming offseason.
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Schoop, who struggled through a rocky first half, was just named the American League Player of the Week this week. He’s homered in six of his past seven games and is hitting .360 with 16 extra-base hits (seven homers and nine doubles) over his past 23 games. Gausman has been the club’s top starter this season, going 5-8 with a 4.43 ERA with 11 quality starts in his 21 appearances.
Duquette conceded he had a “difficult time personally” trading Gausman, who was his first draft pick in 2012, and Schoop, who grew into an All-Star and one of the best offensive second basemen in the game.
“Obviously there was a lot of discussion. I think there's a natural tension to want to keep good players on your team,” Duquette said. “These are tough decisions for the Orioles organization. But when you take a step in a big direction, you might as well take off running because it's going to be a long time to get to the finish line on the other side. That's kind of what we decided we were going to do today."
The vibe inside the Orioles clubhouse was unquestionably different Tuesday, with players watching the TV monitors for trade updates.
“It’s really difficult,” Schoop said of saying goodbye to his teammates. “Some guys you’ve been with them with since the minor leagues. It’s real difficult. It didn’t sink in yet. When you say goodbye, you feel sad a little bit. You’re going to leave your teammates, the guys you grew up with. ... Adam, the guys I’ve watched since I was coming up. ... It’s sad, but it’s business. I’ve got to move forward. I was sad, but I got a message from Manny. He’s going to see me and play against me. That was good news.”
To take the open spots on the roster, the Orioles called up two players acquired in previous trades — infielder Breyvic Valera and reliever Cody Carroll, who both were at Triple-A Norfolk. Valera came over from the Dodgers in the deal for Machado and Carroll was acquired from the Yankees for Britton.
“It’s something you know is coming more than likely,” Showalter said. “I think in a lot of ways you’re kind of glad it’s come and gone. Everybody can kind of settle in, the mode that we need to be in the rest of the year. I think it’s kind of reflected in our play here recently. I think the guys kind of know that some changes are coming. We control it. It’s kind of self-inflicted. If we played better, we wouldn’t have to do this. I look at it as there’s a certain accountability for that. If we played better, we wouldn’t be having to make those deals that the club had to make today.”