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Machado’s departure leaves behind numb feeling, concerning future for Orioles

Posted on 18 July 2018 by Luke Jones

The Orioles have finally traded Manny Machado, who became a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday.

It’s a sad day bidding farewell to one of the most talented players in franchise history, but this outcome had been clear for a long time. Even if the organization had shown the forward thinking and necessary aggressiveness a few seasons ago to sign the four-time All-Star infielder to an extension and buy out his first two or three years of free agency – along the lines of the six-year contract the Los Angeles Angels did with Mike Trout in 2014 – the last-place Orioles might still be in a position where dealing their most valuable player would have been the best move for the future. Only in that scenario, they would have fetched much more in a trade.

As two last-place seasons have now shown, having Machado alone doesn’t make up for other missteps, ranging from the annual refusal to play ball in the international market and the inability to develop impact starting pitching to the disastrous Chris Davis contract that runs through the 2022 season.

It’s ironic to note that the two best seasons of the Dan Duquette-Buck Showalter era occurred in 2012 and 2014 when Machado appeared in a total of just 133 games and accounted for only 3.9 wins above replacement. That speaks to how much else the Orioles had going for them at that point and how little they do now as they try to outrun their 115-loss pace over the final 2 ½ months of 2018.

Machado’s arrival in Baltimore on Aug. 9, 2012 helped fortify an unexpected contender in which many were still reluctant to believe at that advanced stage of the season. His superb defense at third base transformed a weakness into a strength as the Orioles went 33-18 the rest of the way to make the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. It’s a shame that his only playoff appearances with the Orioles came as a 20-year-old that October and in the infamous 2016 AL Wild Card Game in which Zach Britton is still waiting for the bullpen call from Showalter. We’ll never know if Baltimore’s fortunes would have been different in the 2014 postseason had Machado been healthy.

His departure comes at the franchise’s lowest point in 30 years – possibly ever – and only tightens the lock on the competitive window that slammed shut last September. Frankly, it brings more of a numb feeling than sadness with the Orioles an unthinkable 41 games below .500 in a season that was all but over in April. Many entered the year fearing the Orioles might be just mediocre enough to keep Machado past the deadline with unrealistic hopes of contending, but this club left no doubt that trading its best player for a quintet of prospects was the only play remaining with him set to hit the open market in a few months.

Perhaps trade centerpiece Yusniel Diaz eventually blossoms into an All-Star outfielder — maybe even taking part in an exhibition being held at Oriole Park at Camden Yards one day – or Dean Kremer develops into a top-half-of-the-rotation starter for Baltimore’s next contending club in a few years. Even so, Orioles fans will still reminisce about a 20-year-old Machado’s ninth-inning deke in a critical September tilt against Tampa Bay, his impossible throw from foul ground in the Bronx a year later, or any number of other defensive gems or heroics at the plate over these last six years.

Talents like him don’t come along often.

Of course, it wasn’t all perfect.

His knee injuries and subsequent surgeries in 2013 and 2014 likely killed any practical chance of an organization known for its rigorous medical reviews being as aggressive as it needed to be to extend him years ago. The bat-throwing incident against Oakland in 2014 was embarrassing, and his brawl with the late Yordano Ventura a couple years later didn’t help his reputation, which was likely a factor in Boston’s overreaction to his slide into Dustin Pedroia early last season. And he hasn’t always hustled as much as you’d want to see from a player of his magnitude.

To his credit, Machado has shown maturity and impressive patience answering questions about his future in numerous cities over the last several months, something that can’t be said about fellow free-agent-to-be Bryce Harper in Washington. And despite criticism he’s received about his desire to play shortstop this year and beyond, Machado was a professional deferring to veteran shortstop J.J. Hardy for years, even as the latter produced below-replacement-level offense in two of his final three seasons.

Whether Machado stuck around in the Charm City or not, no one should have ever expected him to be the next Brooks Robinson or Cal Ripken, who created Hall of Fame standards on the field and impossible ones off it in different times. Even the best players rarely spend their entire careers with one team now, making one hope Machado isn’t treated the same way Mike Mussina was by some – even if he too signs with the New York Yankees this offseason.

It’s a business.

Many nine-figure investments over the years have proven to be ill advised, but 26-year-olds aren’t typically hitting the open market to fetch those kinds of lucrative commitments either. Time will tell whether Machado continues on a Hall of Fame path and validates that kind of lucrative payment elsewhere as Orioles fans will instead see what happens with Davis’ .158 batting average that remains under contract for the next four years.

With Machado off to Hollywood to try to win a World Series with the Dodgers, what’s next for the Orioles?

Zach Britton is expected to go along with the possible trade of Adam Jones, whose exit will bring more pain after being the heart of the club for years and being such a pillar in this community. If the Orioles are going to get this rebuild right, the deals shouldn’t stop there as the likes of Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Jonathan Schoop, and Mychal Givens should all be on the table at the right price — now or in the near future.

Of course, there’s also the matter of determining what happens with Duquette and Showalter, whose contracts are set to expire at the end of the season.

Ownership establishing a clear vision and determining who will run baseball operations – while hopefully establishing a clear chain of command – are musts for a disgruntled fan base that just witnessed a generational talent being dealt away and will likely be watching losing baseball for quite some time. Wednesday’s trade was inevitable — even necessary at this broken stage — but that doesn’t make it less difficult with the future looking so bleak in Baltimore.

The Orioles have a mountain of work to do to create that same hope that accompanied Machado’s arrival in the midst of a surprising pennant race nearly six years ago. The last remnants of that feeling and one of the best players in baseball walked out the door Wednesday, leaving behind a last-place team and a fan base numb to the inevitable finally becoming reality.

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Machado goes hitless in likely final game wearing Orioles uniform

Posted on 17 July 2018 by Luke Jones

Manny Machado’s likely final night with the Orioles was an uneventful one on the diamond.

The starting American League shortstop went hitless in two at-bats in Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Washington, flying out to left in the second inning and popping out to third in the fourth. He handled his only fielding chance flawlessly in the bottom of the fifth before being replaced by Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor an inning later.

However, the four-time All-Star infielder left social media abuzz when he took a selfie with Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp in the second inning, a fun and cryptic moment during the exhibition. Multiple outlets are reporting the 26-year-old Machado is expected to be traded to the Dodgers before the regular season resumes on Friday.

In an interview with FOX Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal in the dugout upon leaving the game, Machado was asked about this likely being his final night playing for the Orioles.

“It was a tremendous honor to wear this uniform,” said Machado, who didn’t comment on his expected destination. “They gave me the opportunity to come up and play in the big leagues. That’s everyone’s dream. They gave me that. They gave me the opportunity to play shortstop again. The organization has done everything.

“If this is the last time, hopefully I treated them well and did everything I [could] for the organization.”

Minor-league outfielder outfielder Yusniel Diaz is expected to be the centerpiece of the deal with other players and details unknown, according to Rosenthal. The 21-year-old Cuba native is batting .314 with 20 extra-base hits, 30 runs batted in, eight stolen bases, and a .905 on-base plus slugging percentage for Double-A Tulsa in the Texas League this season. He was Baseball Prospectus’ No. 73 overall prospect entering the 2018 season and hit two home runs in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game at Nationals Park.

Former Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis went 0-for-1 with a walk in his first career All-Star Game representing the Atlanta Braves. Milwaukee reliever and former Orioles prospect Josh Hader (Old Mill) gave up a three-run home run to Seattle’s Jean Segura in the eighth inning of the AL’s 8-6 victory.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts on approaching trade deadline

Posted on 10 July 2018 by Luke Jones

With the non-waiver trade deadline just three weeks away, I’ve offered a dozen Orioles thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Manny Machado wasn’t pleased being asked by New York media about the Yankees’ reported trade interest after Monday’s doubleheader, but I don’t blame him after he’d answered multiple questions about his future earlier in the day. He’s handled the endless trade questions very well all season.

2. Machado has repeatedly stated his desire to stay at shortstop, but that’s a bigger issue for free agency than a contender needing a third baseman for 2 1/2 months. He was a pro deferring to J.J. Hardy for years, so this shouldn’t be any different, especially having a chance to win.

3. Any serious objection to trading Machado to the Yankees is based only on emotion. If theirs is the best offer, the Orioles would be foolish not to accept. Refusing to trade him to the Yankees won’t prevent him from signing in the Bronx if that’s where he wants to be.

4. The idea that the Orioles will deliberately keep Machado until after the All-Star Game in Washington was only a theory presented by another baseball executive to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, but that even being a possibility speaks to the negative perception of the organization. That must change.

5. Zach Britton has averaged a season-best 95.8 miles per hour on his sinker in each of his last two outings. That’s an encouraging sign and should ease some concerns about his poor performance and underwhelming velocity over his first eight outings of the season.

6. Meanwhile, Brad Brach’s trade value has been torpedoed by a 4.63 season ERA and a 7.50 mark since June 7. At this point, I’m not sure he’ll fetch much more than what the Orioles got for Tommy Hunter in 2015, a deal that brought only “Quad-A” outfielder Junior Lake.

7. In this era in which minor-league prospects are valued more than ever, packaging Machado and Britton together seems like a sound approach to land the two or three talents you really covet from another organization. Contenders can never have enough bullpen help, making that a formidable rental duo.

8. It’s hardly shocking there hasn’t been more out there about Adam Jones as marquee talents like Machado dominate headlines, but he remains a solid trade piece. His defense in center is a big topic of discussion, but don’t forget the remainder of his $17.33 million salary owed for 2018.

9. With that in mind, you’d like to see the Orioles be willing to eat some money in an effort to sweeten the pot of prospects coming their way. Including some cash could really improve a deal with a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are trying to stay under the luxury tax threshold.

10. Time will tell what talent the Orioles secure in trades, but it’s encouraging seeing them target a number of prospects at the Single- and Double-A levels. The worst thing they could do is insist on major-league ready talent — with a lower ceiling — in an effort to be competitive in 2019.

11. His defensive struggles and a $13.5 million salary for 2019 are major obstacles, but Mark Trumbo is doing what he can to present himself as a long-shot trade piece. He entered Tuesday second on the Orioles with 12 homers and owns an .803 on-base plus slugging percentage. It’s still doubtful.

12. When you’re 40-plus games under .500 in July, all trade possibilities should be on the table, including players with years of club control remaining. Are the Orioles really going to be back in contention by the time Kevin Gausman (post-2020), Dylan Bundy (post-2021), and Mychal Givens (post-2021) hit free agency?

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Schoop turning heads as Orioles’ lone All-Star representative

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Luke Jones

MIAMI — While getting on the American League team bus on Monday, Jonathan Schoop sounded like the young rookie that Nelson Cruz had mentored and remembered so fondly in their brief time together.

“We were joking around and he said, ‘I’m going to follow you around everywhere because I don’t know what to do,” said Cruz, a five-time All-Star selection who has spent the last three seasons in Seattle after playing for the Orioles in 2014. “He’s like a son for me. Age makes a difference. Now he has experience. He learned; he wants to learn. He’s always asking questions to get better.

“He’s finally got everything together.”

The quip signified how far the second baseman has come from playing in the shadow of several high-profile teammates over his first few seasons to being the lone Orioles representative at this year’s All-Star game. And while the exclusion of his teammates is viewed by many as a reflection of how difficult the last two months have been for the struggling Orioles, Schoop isn’t just a token inclusion from a club closer to the cellar than first place.

Tied for the team lead in home runs (18) and leading the Orioles in runs batted in (54), Schoop is on pace to shatter his career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. His 1.9 wins above replacement lead all Orioles players while his .370 weighted on-base average — a stat holding significant prominence in the sabermetric community — is second behind only Houston’s Jose Altuve among qualified AL second basemen in 2017.

Schoop hitting for power isn’t surprising as we’ve watched him get stronger every season, but his improved plate discipline has turned heads and led to more consistency at the plate. His 19 walks in 352 plate appearances remain well below the league average, but he’s just two shy of the 21 he piled up in 647 trips to the dish in 2016.

It’s the product of a more confident and selective approach as he’s swinging at fewer pitches both inside and outside the strike zone.

“I trust myself more and know that I can do it,” Schoop said. “I work every day and trust what the scouting report [says]. You know what [pitchers] are trying to do. You just have to achieve it and make sure you get the right pitch to hit. That’s part of my game that’s grown up a little bit more. I’m more patient and more selective.

“It’s not necessarily the walks, but just patience. Get the pitch to hit. Don’t chase too many pitches. Don’t swing at a pitcher’s pitch. It’s tough. They’re good. They get paid to strike you out and get you out.”

The 25-year-old has plenty of support this week from both family and teammates — former and current. Manny Machado has opened up his home to his close friend and will attend All-Star festivities as Schoop hopes to have a strong showing in honor of the Miami native who didn’t receive an All-Star invitation in a down season.

Schoop is representing more than just the Orioles and his family this week. He is the fourth Curacao native to appear in an All-Star Game, something in which he takes great pride after playing for the Netherlands in each of the last two editions of the World Baseball Classic. This year’s Midsummer Classic is the first with multiple selections hailing from the Dutch Caribbean island as Schoop is joined by Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen on the National League side.

“He’s come a long way,” said Jansen, a two-time All-Star selection who played with Schoop’s older brother. “He was always very talented, one of the most talented guys I ever saw play in Curacao growing up. Now he’s put it all together. He’s going to be a superstar. We could have seen this coming.”

Having stepped out from the shadow of Machado and other former Orioles All-Star selections in previous years, Schoop is finally making the baseball world take notice.

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Orioles acquire left-hander Nuño from Dodgers

Posted on 19 February 2017 by Luke Jones

The Orioles acquired left-handed pitcher Vidal Nuño from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday to add another long-relief option to their bullpen for the 2017 season.

Baltimore sent 22-year-old pitcher Ryan Moseley to the Dodgers and designated left-hander T.J. McFarland for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.

Nuño spent last season with Seattle, pitching to a 3.53 ERA in 58 2/3 innings. In November, the Mariners sent the 29-year-old to the Dodgers in exchange for veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz. Though he’s made 42 career starts in his four major league seasons, Nuño is expected to serve as a long reliever in a bullpen that also features left-handed closer Zach Britton and southpaw specialist Donnie Hart.

After struggling to a 6.93 ERA in Baltimore last season, McFarland was out of minor-league options — Nuño has one remaining — and must now pass through waivers before potentially being outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. Moseley was selected in the eighth round of the 2016 draft and pitched to a 3.20 ERA in 19 2/3 innings for short-season Single-A Aberdeen.

In 329 1/3 career innings in the majors, Nuño owns a 4.02 ERA and has averaged 7.4 strikeouts and 2.3 walks per nine innings. The southpaw has given up 1.4 home runs per nine innings of work in his career and allowed 11 in his 2016 season. He also spent time with the New York Yankees and Arizona earlier in his major league career and was part of the 2015 trade between the Diamondbacks and Mariners that also included current Orioles Mark Trumbo and Welington Castillo.

Nuño is scheduled to play for Mexico in next month’s World Baseball Classic.

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Bristol, CT - May 23, 2013 - Studio A: Doug Glanville on the Baseball Tonight set.(Photo by Joe Faraoni/ ESPN Images)

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Doug Glanville breaks down thrilling first week of MLB playoffs

Posted on 13 October 2015 by WNST Staff

Bristol, CT - May 23, 2013 - Studio A: Doug Glanville on the Baseball Tonight set.(Photo by Joe Faraoni/ ESPN Images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There is no finer venue in the world to watch baseball than Dodger Stadium...

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 1 Los Angeles Dodgers

Posted on 15 September 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Los Angeles – Let me start by saying that I’ve always loved Dodger Stadium. I walked into Chavez Ravine for the first time in 1985 with my Pop on a trip to Southern California. I sat in the bleachers with legendary Spanish language version of Los Dodgers besibol blasting from a boombox with the dulcet tones of Jaime Jarren. Thirty years later, when you walk into that same space, you still get the tingles of a fantastic place to watch a baseball game under a painted sky. Timeless. Classic. Elegant. And now, ageless, again all dressed up and pimped out in Chavez Ravine. All that’s missing is the voice of Vin Scully kissing your eardrums. Pick a seat in this shrine. Any seat. Just make sure you get some decent weather and a nice SoCal sunset. Sure, Magic Johnson and his minions have spent a bunch of money trying to buy a World Series title sometime soon. The commitment to the team matches the commitment to keep a perfect baseball day in tact. So spend a day at Dodger Stadium and then measure the rest of the MLB experiences.

And ask virtually any player in baseball where their favorite stadium is and this place is on everyone’s Top 3.

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Machado falls in first round of Home Run Derby

Posted on 13 July 2015 by Luke Jones

Manny Machado performed admirably, but it was another 23-year-old who got the best of him at the 2015 Home Run Derby in Cincinnati on Monday night.

The Orioles third baseman hit an impressive 12 home runs in the first round before Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson — who is more than two months older than Machado — clubbed 13 with a minute remaining in the new timed format to advance to the second round. Pederson went on to finish second in the competition, falling to hometown favorite Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds in the championship round at the Great American Ballpark.

Making his second trip to the All-Star Game and first appearance in the derby, Machado’s long distance was a 469-foot blast and his average home run distance was 431 feet. His first-round total was the fourth highest of any competitior, but he did not advance in the new head-to-head tournament.

Upon using his timeout in the first round, Machado was greeted by teammate Adam Jones in the home plate area with a sports drink and a plate of tortilla chips with a container of the young infielder’s special salsa. Always a character, Jones later presented the winner Frazier with a WWE championship belt at the end of the evening.

Already with a career-high 19 homers at the All-Star break, Machado has a good chance to surpass his total of 33 bombs from his first three major league seasons combined.

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Orioles trade Webb, minor-league catcher Ward to Dodgers

Posted on 09 April 2015 by Luke Jones

After designating right-handed pitcher Ryan Webb for assignment hours before the start of the 2015 season, the Orioles have sent the reliever to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade also involving three minor-league players.

Baltimore is sending Webb, catcher Brian Ward, and its competitive-balance draft pick (74th overall) to the Dodgers in exchange for catcher Chris O’Brien and right-handed pitcher Ben Rowen. Both newcomers will report to the minor leagues with O’Brien going to Double-A Bowie and Rowen reporting to Triple-A Norfolk.

The good news for the Orioles is that Los Angeles will assume all responsibility for Webb’s $2.75 million salary for 2015. The 29-year-old cleared waivers last week as the Orioles were trying to make space in a crowded bullpen that already has eight pitchers to begin the season.

Rowen posted a 3.45 ERA in 47 innings with Triple-A Round Rock last season. The 26-year-old right-hander pitched in eight games for Texas last season, finishing with a 4.15 ERA in 8 2/3 innings.

The 25-year-old O’Brien, son of former major league catcher Charlie O’Brien, batted .266 with seven home runs and a career-high 53 RBIs in his first full year with Double-A Chattanooga in 2014. He has thrown out 30 percent of runners trying to steal during his minor-league career.

Signed to a two-year, $4.5 million deal two winters ago, Webb pitched well in 2014 before the late-July acquisition of standout lefty Andrew Miller left him as the odd man out in a deep bullpen. The right-hander posted a 3-3 record with a 3.83 ERA in 49 1/3 innings for the Orioles.

Ward was held in high regard from a defensive standpoint, but his .642 on-base plus slugging percentage between Bowie and Norfolk last season made it clear his offense wasn’t as far along as his catching ability.

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Orioles reportedly talking to left-handed starters Saunders, Capuano

Posted on 10 February 2014 by WNST Staff

With the start of spring training fast approaching, the Orioles continue their stated quest of adding a veteran starting pitcher and are reportedly looking at two veteran southpaws to potentially add to the mix.

Baltimore is talking to former Orioles starter Joe Saunders and journeyman Chris Capuano, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Saunders pitched with Seattle in 2013 — going 11-16 with a 5.26 earned run average — while the 35-year-old Capuano pitched to a 4-7 mark with a 4.26 ERA with the National League West champion Los Angeles Dodgers

“Chris is in excellent physical condition and his mound sessions are going extremely well,” Capuano’s agent Michael Moye told FOX Sports.

Of course, the 32-year-old Saunders earned local fame pitching for the Orioles in the latter stages of the 2012 season after he was acquired from the Arizona Diamondback on Aug. 26, 2012. The lefty was 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven regular-season starts before earning the win in the inaugural 2012 AL Wild Card Game against the Texas Rangers, pitching 5 2/3 innings and allowing just one earned run.

Despite another solid outing in Game 4 of the Division Series, Saunders departed via free agency last winter by signing a one-year, $6.5 million contract with the Mariners.

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