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Baltimore Orioles

Orioles trade relievers Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser to Marlins for draft pick, three prospects

SARASOTA, Fla. — Before Sunday’s exhibition against the Minnesota Twins, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was asked whether he knew how would deploy relievers if his team carried a lead in the late innings this season.

With much of Baltimore’s roster, let alone its bullpen, in an uncertain state in the final days of spring training, Hyde had no answer.

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“I’m not even close to that,” Hyde said.

By the evening, he was likely even further. The Orioles traded Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser, two of their expected late-inning relievers, to the Miami Marlins for a draft pick and three minor leaguers, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the agreement.

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In return for Scott, 27, and Sulser, 32, the Orioles received a competitive balance pick; left-hander Antonio Velez, 25; outfielder Kevin Guerrero, 17; and a player to be named later. Scott, in his first year of arbitration eligibility, had three years of team control left, while Sulser has four years of team control remaining.

Velez, a starter out of Florida State, made three starts at the Double-A level in 2021 with a 0.50 ERA and 0.778 WHIP. Across 81 innings at Miami’s High-A affiliate, Velez pitched to a 3.00 ERA, striking out 75 batters with just nine walks. The left-hander, who hasn’t progressed past the Double-A level, joined the Marlins as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He spent most of his time with the Seminoles as a reliever, but in the minors, Velez has made 14 starts out of his 23 appearances.

Guerrero is an outfielder whose lone professional experience came in the Dominican Summer League last year. In 40 games, Guerrero hit .260 with a .671 OPS. He stole 13 bases and drew 23 walks. The Marlins signed him out of the Dominican Republic in July.

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The draft pick will come after this summer’s draft second round and will come no later than 67th, giving the Orioles five of the top 75 or so picks.

Scott was the Orioles’ sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft and has since been viewed as a potential back-of-the-bullpen arm, but he never managed to harness his command. After seasons spent between Triple-A Norfolk and the majors in 2017, 2018 and 2019, Scott was a dominant force in Baltimore’s bullpen in the shortened 2020 campaign, posting a 1.31 ERA in 20⅔ innings across 25 appearances.

He was pitching effectively to open the 2021 season, establishing himself as a potential trade candidate. But after sticking with the Orioles through the trade deadline, he dealt with a left knee sprain as his ERA bloated from 3.07 to 5.17 in the span of 16 outings.

Sulser was Baltimore’s most effective reliever in 2021, tied for the team lead with eight saves to go with a 2.70 ERA. Claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays before the 2020 season, he opened the year as the Orioles’ closer but struggled in his first extended stint as a major league pitcher. He later revealed that he dealt with broken toes on his right foot throughout the year.

In 2021, he consistently pitched in high-leverage situations for the Orioles, his splitter allowing him to be effective at getting out left-handers as well as right-handers. In the Marlins’ bullpen, he and Scott join former Orioles left-hander Richard Bleier, traded to Miami during the 2020 season, and former Baltimore prospect Zach Pop, who was left exposed in the Rule 5 draft after being part of the return from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Manny Machado.

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The move opens two spots on the Orioles’ 40-man roster, which could allow them to add a backup catcher and veteran infielder Chris Owings to their season-opening roster; the Orioles could also add another pitcher to supply length to a pitching staff that had its count of relatively experienced relief options cut in half.

Right-hander Dillon Tate and left-hander Paul Fry are likely the only locks in the Orioles’ bullpen and figure to be Hyde’s primary options to close, with Jorge López a possibility to receive more late-inning looks. The trade will allow more members of a group of bullpen candidates to break camp with Baltimore, with Bryan Baker, Félix Bautista, Joey Krehbiel and Cionel Pérez still contending for pure relief jobs. There are also more openings for stretched-out pitchers who don’t land in the Orioles’ rotation, such as Keegan Akin, Mike Baumann, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther and Bruce Zimmermann.


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