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Checking in on recent trade acquisitions and former Orioles

Posted on 08 August 2018 by Luke Jones

It’s been exactly three weeks since the Orioles traded four-time All-Star infielder Manny Machado to jump-start the organization’s biggest sell-off in nearly two decades.

With the major league club continuing to flounder in last place and not exactly providing a compelling product, below is an early look at how the former Orioles have performed for their new clubs as well as how the 15 acquired players are faring at various levels of the organization:

SS/3B Manny Machado
Numbers with Los Angeles Dodgers: 84 PA, .274/.369/.425, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 11 BB, 21 K
Skinny: Machado’s production has been fine to this point and he’s played some third base due to a Justin Turner injury, but he’ll have the chance to come up big for a National League favorite down the stretch.

LHP Zach Britton
Numbers with New York Yankees: 4 2/3 IP, 5.79 ERA, 4 H, 3 BB, 3 K
Skinny: It’s been a rough start for the former All-Star closer in the Bronx as he continues to deal with shaky command and blew a 10th-inning save on Tuesday night.

RHP Brad Brach
Numbers with Atlanta: 3 IP, 0.00 ERA, 2 H, 1 BB, 4 K
Skinny: The 32-year-old has looked more like his old self since joining the Braves and has been trusted to pitch in the late innings of close games.

RHP Kevin Gausman
Numbers with Atlanta: 5 IP, 5.40 ERA, 6 H, 2 BB, 2 K
Skinny: Gausman was mediocre in his Braves debut, but he surprisingly was asked to pinch-hit in Tuesday’s game and even drew a walk.

2B Jonathan Schoop
Numbers with Milwaukee: 25 PA, .120/.120/.120, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 11 K
Skinny: The 26-year-old is clearly much better than he’s shown in his first week with a new club, but the Brewers have to be wondering what happened to one of baseball’s hottest hitters in the month of July.

2B Jonathan Villar
Numbers with Baltimore: 22 PA, .429/.455/.667, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K
Skinny: The only established major leaguer of the 15 players acquired, the 27-year-old had a big series in Texas and is two years removed from posting an .826 OPS and 3.9 WAR season for the Brewers.

OF Yusniel Diaz
Numbers with Double-A Bowie: 60 PA, .192/.300/.288, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 8 BB, 14 K
Skinny: The centerpiece of the Machado deal is off to a slow start and not making a great case for a September call-up, but the 21-year-old is hardly the first standout prospect to struggle after being traded.

RHP Dillon Tate
Numbers with Double-A Bowie: 11 1/3 IP, 7.15 ERA, 17 H, 2 BB, 6 K
Skinny: The fourth overall pick of the 2015 draft and focal point of the Britton trade was efffective in his last start until a five-run sixth inning and is searching for consistency after two starts with the Baysox.

RHP Luis Ortiz
Numbers with Triple-A Norfolk: 5 IP, 5.40 ERA, 8 H, 4 BB, 1 K
Skinny: A top 100 prospect entering 2017, the 22-year-old has the stuff to be an effective major league starter despite concerns about his injury history and conditioning as he’s listed at 230 pounds.

RHP Dean Kremer
Numbers with Double-A Bowie: 16 IP, 2.25 ERA, 14 H, 8 BB, 17 K
Skinny: The 22-year-old has pitched well in three starts since being traded and continues to rack up strikeouts, a good sign after he averaged 13.0 per nine innings at the high Single-A level this year.

2B/3B Rylan Bannon
Numbers with Double-A Bowie: 44 PA, .154/.250/.333, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 5 BB, 10 K
Skinny: Bannon homered in his second game with the Baysox, but he’s struggled at the plate and has mostly played second base after seeing more action at third base in the Dodgers organization.

RHP Zach Pop
Numbers with Double-A Bowie: 7 IP, 3.86 ERA, 4 H, 2 BB, 8 K
Skinny: Since a disastrous debut outing for the Baysox, the 21-year-old has tossed seven scoreless frames with eight strikeouts and no walks and is consistently inducing ground balls with his sinker.

INF/OF Breyvic Valera
Numbers with Triple-A Norfolk: 61 PA, .226/.311/.415, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 7 BB, 5 K
Skinny: The 26-year-old is back with the Tides after a brief stay with the Orioles and has already started games at four different positions as he attempts to carve out a major league role as a utility player.

RHP Cody Carroll
Numbers with Baltimore: 2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 K
Skinny: The 25-year-old’s fastball has averaged 96.6 miles per hour since being called up to the majors as the Orioles hope he will morph into an effective late-inning reliever at some point.

LHP Josh Rogers
Numbers with Triple-A Norfolk: 13 IP, 2.08 ERA, 10 H, 4 BB, 6 K
Skinny: The final results have been there, but the question is whether Rogers has the stuff to miss enough bats to consistently get major league hitters out, which makes him project as a long reliever.

RHP Evan Phillips
Numbers with Baltimore: 2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 H, 3 BB, 3 K
Skinny: After a sharp debut in Texas, Phillips walked three and threw a wild pitch without recording an out against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, but he wasn’t helped by Chris Davis’ critical throwing error.

C Brett Cumberland
Numbers with Double-A Bowie: 4 PA, .000/.250/.000, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
Skinny: Opinions are mixed on Cumberland’s ceiling, but his bat is considered his strength as he hit 11 home runs and posted a .774 OPS at Single-A Florida this season.

LHP Bruce Zimmermann
Numbers with Double-A Bowie: n/a
Skinny: The Loyola Blakefield graduate and former Towson Tiger has yet to make his first start for the Baysox, but his stuff is described as average with some pitchability, according to FanGraphs.

3B Jean Carlos Encarnacion
Numbers with Single-A Delmarva: 18 PA, .444/.444/.667, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 0 BB, 5 K
Skinny: The 20-year-old Dominican is a contrast to most of the higher-floor prospects acquired, but he’s already collected three extra-base hits and should be fun to track over the next few years.

SS Jean Carmona
Numbers with short-season Single-A Aberdeen: 14 PA, .154/.214/.154, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 4 K
Skinny: The 18-year-old Dominican is listed at 6-foot-1 and 183 pounds, a frame into which he can grow in the next couple years and potentially develop into a major league regular one day.

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Jones, Orioles weighing complicated question of whether to stay together

Posted on 26 July 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Longtime center fielder Adam Jones and the Orioles could be nearing a break over the next few days.

The next few months will determine whether they break up after more than a decade together.

It’s more complicated than the last-place Orioles beginning their rebuilding process and Jones wanting to win a World Series, but the soon-to-be 33-year-old admits he’s intrigued by contending clubs’ interest in his services for the stretch run. Whether a potential deal compels him to waive his no-trade clause remains to be seen.

“It’s like the first day of school when you wear that outfit and you see what kind of interest everybody has in you — who’s flirting with you and what not,” Jones said. “It’s cool. It’s flattering. It’s uncommon territory.”

Assuming that he’s so desperate to escape a historically-poor 2018 club that he’ll blindly accept a trade anywhere shows a lack of understanding of the man. Jones will weigh all variables, starting with the comfort of his family, before making his own decision — not the one others think he should make. He sounds open to the possibility of moving to a corner outfield position for a contending club, but it must be the right fit and Jones isn’t one to delve into hypothetical talk about where that could be, leaving much uncertainty in the meantime.

This is a delicate situation for the Orioles, who have been clobbered on the diamond in 2018 and are desperately in need of some positive vibes with their fan base as the next couple seasons appear bleak. Putting aside the missteps that led to the current state of affairs, the trades of four-time All-Star infielder Manny Machado and two-time All-Star closer Zach Britton were obvious decisions to make, but that doesn’t mean fans are happy with the end result. Jones is the closest thing to a true face of the franchise the Orioles have had since Hall of Famer Cal Ripken nearly 20 years ago, something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. His play on the field and unparalleled work in the community should be celebrated now and for many years to come, making him more valuable to the Orioles than any other club.

If we’re being honest, Jones is unlikely to fetch all that much of a return in a trade with the potential holdup of where he would play and the remainder of his $17.33 million salary owed being the biggest obstacles. It doesn’t appear that trading him would alienate Jones, but that’s assuming he’s treated with the proper respect and courtesy in the process. He hasn’t indicated that a deadline trade to a contender would preclude him from re-signing with the Orioles in the offseason, but there’s the distinct possibility that he finds the grass to be greener elsewhere and a new team falls in love with him in a way like Baltimore has, diminishing the possibility of a reunion.

If that’s indeed what the Orioles want.

“Is the door open?” said Jones about possibly re-signing with Baltimore if he’s traded at the deadline. “You can want all you want. A lot of people want things, but if that door is not open, you’re just going to be sitting outside knocking. Who knows?”

The report of Jones meeting with executive vice president John Angelos, son of owner Peter Angelos, indicates the Orioles being interested in continuing their relationship beyond 2018, but re-signing an outfielder entering his mid-30s may not be the best baseball decision for a rebuilding club whose deepest minor-league depth resides in the outfield with the likes of Cedric Mullins, Yusniel Diaz, Austin Hays, DJ Stewart, and Ryan McKenna all at advanced levels of the farm system.

Jones entered Thursday batting .277 with 10 home runs, 38 runs batted in, and a .727 on-base plus slugging percentage. He’s had a solid season, but his homer pace and current OPS would represent his lowest marks since 2008, his first season with the Orioles. His .304 on-base percentage would be the lowest of his career.

According to Baseball Reference, his 0.3 wins above replacement also puts him on pace for a career low, but that underwhelming WAR is primarily a reflection of his minus-15 defensive runs saved in center field, a position he knows he’s unlikely to be playing next season. It’s reasonable to think a move to a corner spot would ease the burden on his body and allow him to maintain his production at the plate for a few more years, but baseball players have varying expiration dates, no matter how much teams try to anticipate them.

Re-signing Jones to a reasonable deal for the next few seasons to be a right fielder, a leader and mentor for younger players, and the continued face of the franchise looks great on paper and would bring value off the field, but what if his numbers decline further, creating an awkward logjam with other younger options? The storybook ending would be the Orioles once again rising to prominence with Jones still contributing in the twilight in his career, but what if the losing continues longer than the organization hopes and he grows disenchanted after a year or two?

Perhaps both sides will ultimately decide to part amicably with no hard feelings and an understanding that Jones will always be an Oriole and have a home in Baltimore and that the organization will forever be indebted to him and the long-term commitment he made six years ago.

His legacy is important to him and extends far beyond the home runs and diving catches. Jones’ commitment to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore and other charitable endeavors is another factor that could keep him an Oriole beyond 2018. And it speaks to how fortunate this community has been to have him pass this way.

“My thing is what would happen to all the things I’ve done here?” Jones said. “It would be hard. Who would pick up the slack? All the community involvement. A lot of that stuff needs to continue. Those kids are counting on the funding to continue the programs they are striving and grinding their way through. There are a lot of dynamics to me here in Baltimore. It’s not just me between the lines.”

His decision is bigger than baseball, but the thought of a player with such a desire to win being saddled with a losing club in the final years of his career is difficult to take for even the biggest Orioles fans.

Jones is on a ride with an unclear destination. But unlike Machado and Britton, he has a say in the matter, and he’s earned that much for everything he’s done over the last decade.

“It’s interesting. We shall see what happens,” Jones said. “I don’t know what the plan is here for the future or if I’m even part of it, so let’s see what interest can be generated and see how my representation and my family feel about something that could happen.”

Whether it’s just a break, a breakup, or merely the latest chapter in a terrific relationship remains to be seen.

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Orioles designate veteran pitcher Chris Tillman for assignment

Posted on 20 July 2018 by Luke Jones

The Orioles officially entered a rebuilding phase earlier this week by trading four-time All-Star infielder Manny Machado and have made another move reflecting their new direction.

Longtime starting pitcher Chris Tillman was designated for assignment on Friday, leaving the status of his major league career in doubt. Once an anchor of the starting rotation for three playoff-qualifying clubs in Baltimore, the 30-year-old right-hander has posted an 8.42 ERA since the start of the 2017 season and had been on the disabled list since May with a lower back strain. The organization hoped an extended minor-league rehab assignment might get Tillman back on track, but he pitched to an ugly 6.75 ERA in six starts among four different affiliates.

The writing appeared to be on the wall last Sunday when scheduled starter Jimmy Yacabonis was scratched due to illness and the Orioles elected to pitch a bullpen game even though Tillman was on turn to pitch that same day. It’s unclear whether the veteran will accept an outright assignment with Triple-A Norfolk or will elect to become a free agent.

Tillman was having arguably his best season in 2016 and coming off a strong seven-inning victory in Oakland on Aug. 11 to lower his ERA to 3.46 when he began experiencing right shoulder discomfort and was placed on the DL soon thereafter. He returned to pitch a month later and put up respectable numbers the rest of the way and even started the American League Wild Card Game despite underwhelming velocity. The shoulder problem resurfaced that offseason, prompting a platelet-rich plasma injection and forcing him to miss the first month of the 2017 season.

He hasn’t been the same since the shoulder injury as the Orioles wrongly bet that his alarming 7.84 ERA in 93 innings in 2017 was an aberration and re-signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract in February. Tillman has repeatedly insisted his shoulder has felt good over the last two seasons, but his velocity and lower arm slot reflect a pitcher either lacking the same range of motion or compensating to avoid the previous pain. In seven starts this season, he was 1-5 with a 10.46 ERA while walking 5.7 batters and striking out only 4.4 per nine innings.

His final two ugly seasons shouldn’t diminish what Tillman accomplished for the Orioles, who acquired him and five-time All-Star center fielder Adam Jones from Seattle as part of the blockbuster Erik Bedard trade in 2008. After struggling in parts of his first three major league seasons, Tillman posted a 2.93 ERA in 15 starts in 2012 to help Baltimore qualify for the postseason for the first time since 1997. He followed that with back-to-back 200-inning campaigns, making the All-Star team in 2013 and anchoring a second-half rotation surge in 2014 that helped the Orioles win the AL East championship.

In 10 major league seasons, Tillman is 74-60 with a 4.57 ERA over 1,145 innings.

In other Friday roster news, the Orioles promoted infielder Renato Nunez from Norfolk. The 24-year-old has hit .167 in 72 major league plate appearances split between Texas and Oakland, but he owns a career .788 on-base plus slugging percentage in the minors. He was claimed off waivers from the Rangers in mid-May and was batting .289 with five home runs, 25 runs batted in, and an .804 OPS for the Tides.

Nunez was starting at third base against Toronto on Friday night with Tim Beckham now back at shortstop to replace the departed Machado.

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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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Orioles deal Machado to Dodgers for five prospects

Posted on 18 July 2018 by Luke Jones

The inevitable became official on Wednesday.

Manny Machado is no longer an Oriole as Baltimore traded the four-time All-Star infielder to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for five minor-league prospects, a group headlined by Cuban outfielder Yusniel Diaz. The move boosts the Dodgers’ chances of winning their second straight National League pennant and officially begins a rebuild for the last-place Orioles, who own the most losses in the majors at the All-Star break.

“Manny Machado provided Orioles fans with many great memories over his eight years in Birdland,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. “We will always appreciate his talent, and we wish him the best in the National League.”

Diaz, a 21-year-old Cuban outfielder, ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 prospect in the Dodgers system and is the No. 47 prospect in Baseball America’s top 100 list. He hit two home runs in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game and has seen his stock rise in 2018 with a .314 batting average, 20 extra-base hits, 30 runs batted in, eight stolen bases, and a .905 on-base plus slugging percentage in 264 plate appearance at Double-A Tulsa. Diaz has played all three outfield spots in the minor leagues, but he projects as a major league corner outfielder and could serve as a future leadoff hitter with a .428 on-base percentage this season.

Baltimore also received third baseman Rylan Bannon, right-handed starting pitcher Dean Kremer, right-handed reliever Zach Pop, and infielder Breyvic Valera.

The 22-year-old Bannon has batted .296 with 20 homers, 61 RBIs, and a .961 OPS in 403 plate appearances for Rancho Cucamonga. He was an eighth-round pick out of Xavier in last year’s draft and ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 27 prospect in the Dodgers system.

Kremer, 22, could be the most intriguing talent of that secondary group despite ranking as MLB Pipeline’s No. 28 Dodgers prospect. The 14th-round pick of the 2016 draft was recently promoted to the Double-A level and posted a 3.30 ERA and struck out 13.0 per nine innings in 79 innings at high Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

Pop, 21, was a seventh-round pick out of Kentucky in last year’s draft and has posted a combined 1.04 ERA with a 9.8 per nine strikeout rate in 43 1/3 innings split between two Single-A levels.

The 26-year-old Valera is the only one of the group with major league experience, but he projects as no better than a utility infielder. He’s a career .154 hitter in 45 career plate appearances split between the Dodgers and St. Louis. He owns a career .748 OPS in nine minor-league seasons.

“As we begin the task of rebuilding our roster to compete in the AL East, we look forward to the contributions of the five players we added to the organization [Thursday],” Duquette stated. “Diaz is a young and gifted hitter. Valera and Bannon are versatile fielders with excellent on-base skills, and Kremer and Pop’s excellent seasons are indicative of their bright futures.”

Upon announcing the deal Wednesday night, the Orioles optioned Valera to Triple-A Norfolk while Diaz, Bannon, Kremer, and Pop were all assigned to Double-A Bowie.

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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 entering All-Star break

Posted on 16 July 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles hitting the All-Star break an unthinkable 39 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Even with a victory in the final game before the All-Star break that featured contributions from Manny Machado and Adam Jones, the Orioles remain on pace to become the fifth major league team since 1901 to lose 115 games in a season. Infamy continues to chase them.

2. Baltimore hadn’t won on consecutive days at home since its season-best four-game winning streak from May 9-12, and it had also been three weeks since the club won consecutive games. Overshadowed by the frustration and anger of the season is how truly astonishing it’s all been.

3. Chris Tillman being bypassed in favor of a bullpen game Sunday should speak volumes about where he stands with his rehab assignment coming to an end. Not even a Jimmy Yacabonis illness could bring him back to the majors.

4. The question isn’t about whom to fire as much as determining who deserves to stick around for the pending rebuild. How do Buck Showalter and his coaching staff come back from such a historically poor season? What’s the justification for maintaining the status quo? It’s a tough sell.

5. Beyond trades involving pending free agents, a top second-half priority needs to be getting Jonathan Schoop and Trey Mancini on track. Both are too young and talented to have played like this. The Orioles need these two to be pillars around which to build or at least potential trade chips.

6. After being optioned to the minors for the second time in a month, Chance Sisco needs to be left alone for a while. I have doubts about what we’ve seen from him so far, but making him a regular on the Norfolk shuttle isn’t going to help matters.

7. I certainly wouldn’t give away Mychal Givens and his current 4.28 ERA, but the organization’s reluctance to trade him is too shortsighted. No one should be off the table when you’re facing a multiyear rebuild, especially factoring in the volatility of relievers.

8. In his first 23 games since returning from his benching, Chris Davis has batted .176 with five home runs, a .245 on-base percentage, and a .388 slugging percentage. That actually represents improvement, too. He sits at minus-2.5 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

9. The Orioles entered the break last in the majors at minus-87 defensive runs saved, and the cause isn’t players being out of position as Showalter suggested this past week. Players with more speed and better defensive skills are needed rather than a surplus of designated hitters with gloves.

10. An addition to begin changing that narrative would be Cedric Mullins, who entered Monday sporting an .820 on-base plus slugging percentage for Triple-A Norfolk. It’s time to start seeing what the 23-year-old center fielder can do in the majors.

11. Brooks Robinson being hired as a special assistant is a great move, but I can’t stop thinking about how long overdue it is. This is something that should have happened from the moment “Mr. Oriole” left the broadcast booth 25 years ago. Better late than never though.

12. Now, is there any chance John and Lou Angelos can do something about THIS?

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False alarm hopefully signals Machado saga nearing conclusion

Posted on 15 July 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — For a few moments on Sunday, it looked like the end might finally be upon us.

Orioles utility man Jace Peterson standing in the on-deck circle to hit for Manny Machado in the bottom of the fourth inning naturally made one wonder if the All-Star shortstop had finally been traded after months of speculation and the ever-changing rumors of recent weeks. Upon seeing Tim Beckham slide over to shortstop and Peterson enter the game in the top of the fifth, reporters began scanning the Baltimore dugout to see if Machado was in the process of hugging his teammates and coaches goodbye.

It proved to be a false alarm as manager Buck Showalter removed the 26-year-old from the game due to the messy infield conditions that followed a 26-minute rain delay. Machado enjoyed the rest of the game from the dugout, wearing a hooded Orioles sweatshirt.

“We know what’s going on, the potential,” Showalter said. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that was all it. My thought on that is what are you telling the other eight people? Obviously, there’s a different situation going on with Manny. That’s just frankly. You all know that. That had a lot to do with it.”

The Orioles were smart to play it safe, but you hope his exit from the 6-5 victory over the Texas Rangers signals an imminent resolution to his immediate future. If Machado competing on an infield exposed to roughly 10 minutes of rain was too risky, the thought of him playing in as many as 10 more second-half games before the July 31 trade deadline sounds just as reckless.

With interview questions having already shifted from hypothetical to reflective without anything officially happening to this point, pulling the trigger on a deal as soon as possible — perhaps before the Orioles resume action in Toronto on Friday — would be what’s best for all parties. Showalter noted how proud he was of his club maintaining its focus with the saga now reaching the diamond, but it’s a band-aid that needs to be ripped away after slowly being peeled over the first 3 1/2 months of a nightmare season.

Showalter said he expects Machado to represent the Orioles in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, but Sunday brought into sharper focus the risk the organization is taking every time his name is written into the lineup. It’s enough to make you wonder how much further executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and the organization should go to try to maximize their trade return.

“A month ago, he wouldn’t have come out of the game,” Showalter said. “We know that. You know [that]. You’re smart. I think you know what’s going on.”

Yes, we all know what’s coming as Sunday provided a few moments of what that reality will be like.

Hopefully, it’s much sooner than later for everyone’s sake.

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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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Machado nostalgia tour in full effect as Orioles trade talks heat up

Posted on 09 July 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — It felt different this time as Manny Machado and the Orioles returned home 41 games below .500 on the heels of an 0-6 road trip.

Monday was one of numerous instances going back a couple of years that the four-time All-Star infielder was asked to discuss his future — or lack thereof — in Baltimore, but the finality is rapidly setting in as he began what could be his final homestand at Oriole Park at Camden Yards with the trade deadline just three weeks away. The 2018 season was all but mathematically over for the Orioles in late April, but the Machado nostalgia tour is now in full effect as trade discussions have turned from exploratory to intense in recent days.

The “when” may have replaced the “if” months ago, but the time is here to start saying the goodbyes.

Perhaps it was the presence of the New York Yankees — the club many believe to be the favorite to land Machado in free agency — to begin a four-game series, but the sight of Machado still wearing an Orioles uniform is now bordering on surreal with the end so close. He delivered one of his patented doubles in the first game of the twin bill and partook in his usual clowning with Jonathan Schoop between innings, but all focus is now on what the organization might fetch from the likes of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee, Arizona, or even the Yankees in a trade while the games themselves — losses more than 70 percent of the time — are inconsequential and the 2018 Orioles are on pace to be one of the worst clubs in major league history.

Machado is sounding more and more like part of the Orioles’ past with the only chapter left to be written being what prospects the front office gets in return to try to improve a bleak future. As each day passes, the Orioles and their fans simply hold their breath that he doesn’t get hurt before a deal is finalized.

His final notable act as an Oriole will be serving as the starting American League shortstop in next week’s All-Star Game if he isn’t traded before then. He described the news as “bittersweet” in the context of the club’s historic struggles and his anticipated departure.

“We’ve gone through some good times and some bad times, and it’s just made us better and brought us closer together,” said Machado as he reflected on his seven seasons with the Orioles. “This organization means a lot, and I’ll never be ungrateful for the opportunity and everything they’ve given to me.”

Hearing such nostalgia from a talent who just celebrated his 26th birthday stings, even if the prospects coming back in a deal prove to be fruitful. The current feeling of resignation shouldn’t forgive how poorly the Orioles handled this situation, beginning with not being more aggressive to try to extend Machado years ago and continuing with the decline of his once-massive trade value when it became apparent two winters ago that a long-term contract wasn’t going to happen.

One of the most talented players in club history getting so close to free agency is bad enough when you’re a contender, but allowing Machado to play his final two seasons in Baltimore on last-place clubs speaks to the organization’s lack of vision. That’s a bigger problem moving forward than the departure of any given player, and there’s no way to spin that truth until the Angelos family reveals some semblance of a long-term plan as executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter continue to work on expiring contracts.

The Orioles know what they need to do as the losses pile up in embarrassing fashion. Perhaps they’ll find a better-than-anticipated return for Machado, but being in this position with such a generational talent makes for a sobering trade deadline.

“I’d very much like to be adding, and we feel like, potentially, we will add really well [for the future],” Showalter said. “Either way, you’re just adding for a different purpose and subtracting for a different purpose. I think there’s a great opportunity here in a lot of ways.”

Great is hardly the word to describe it, but the Orioles now have no other choice.

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