Trading pending free agents such as Manny Machado and Zach Britton was a no-brainer task, but the Orioles went all in on their rebuilding effort in the final hour before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
Baltimore sent 2017 All-Star second baseman Jonathan Schoop to Milwaukee and pitchers Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to Atlanta in separate trades for a total of seven players and international signing bonus slot money. Those deals coupled with the trades of Machado, Britton, and Brad Brach earlier this month have netted the Orioles a total of 15 new players and a reported $2.75 million in international signing bonus slot money.
Schoop was originally in Tuesday’s starting lineup before a deal was struck in the final moments before the 4 p.m. deadline.
The Brewers sent major league infielder Jonathan Villar and Double-A pitcher Luis Ortiz and 18-year-old infielder Jean Carmona to the Orioles. The Braves traded international signing bonus slot money and four minor-league players to Baltimore: pitchers Evan Phillips and Bruce Zimmerman, catcher Brett Cumberland, and infielder Jean Carlos Encarnacion.
The moves were met with surprise as many remained skeptical that executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette would trade players under club control beyond the 2018 season before the deadline, especially since his contract expires this fall. Schoop will become a free agent after the 2019 season while Gausman won’t hit free agency until after the 2020 campaign. O’Day, out for the remainder of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery, has one year remaining on his current contract and is scheduled to make $9 million next season.
Of the 15 players acquired by the Orioles over the last two weeks, Villar is the only established major leaguer and has played in parts of six major league seasons with Houston and the Brewers. The 27-year-old has a career .256 average and .718 on-base plus slugging percentage in 2,052 major league plate appearances. In 87 games this season, the switch-hitting Villar is batting .261 with 17 extra-base hits, 22 runs batted in, 14 stolen bases, and a .693 OPS.
Villar is currently on the disabled list with a sprained thumb — he’s expected to be activated later this week — and led the majors with 62 stolen bases in 2016.
Ortiz, 22, was ranked as the Brewers’ seventh-best prospect by MLB.com and had pitched to a 3.71 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 68 innings for Double-A Biloxi. The 18-year-old Carmona was ranked the 14th-best Milwaukee prospect by MLB.com and was batting .239 with eight doubles, three triples, four home runs, 24 RBIs, and a .704 OPS in 39 games for rookie-level Helena.
The Braves trade was met with more scrutiny as the inclusion of O’Day’s bulky salary zapped some of the return value for Gausman, who hasn’t yet reached his ceiling as the fourth overall pick of the 2013 draft but is an average major league starter with two more years of club control. However, Atlanta including $2.5 million in international signing bonus slot money positions the Orioles more favorably in their efforts to sign Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa.
Encarnacion, 20, is regarded by some as the most attractive player returning to the Orioles from Atlanta as he batted .288 with 23 doubles, five triples, 10 homers, 57 RBIs, and a .777 OPS in 97 games for Single-A Rome. He was ranked as the Braves’ 14th-best prospect by MLB.com and will report to Single-A Delmarva.
The 23-year-old Cumberland was batting .228 with 15 doubles, 11 homers, 39 RBIs, and a .746 OPS in 87 games between Single-A Florida and Double-A Mississippi. Atlanta’s 30th-best prospect in MLB.com’s rankings, Cumberland will report to Double-A Bowie.
The right-handed Phillips, 23, posted a 1.99 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett this season and made his major league debut earlier this month.
A 23-year-old lefty, Zimmerman has gone a combined 9-4 with a 2.86 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 113 1/3 innings split between Rome and Mississippi.
According to MLB.com’s updated Orioles top 30 prospect list, Ortiz ranks seventh, Carmona 14th, Encarnacion 15th, and Cumberland 30th in the system.