Tag Archive | "manny machado"

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Twelve Orioles thoughts with Grapefruit League action underway

Posted on 25 February 2019 by Luke Jones

With Grapefruit League action beginning over the weekend, I’ve offered a dozen Orioles thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The early reviews of the culture being created by Brandon Hyde have been very positive. That probably won’t mean much in the standings this season, but it will matter for players continuing to buy into the process and to play hard as losses likely mount.

2. Top outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz is unlikely to break camp with the Orioles, but his two-run home run in the first spring game was a glimpse of the power the organization believes is still ascending. General manager Mike Elias offered a glowing review on Saturday.

3. It’s no secret the Houston Astros emphasized slider usage with much success, a philosophy that figures to be applied in Baltimore. Dylan Bundy, Mychal Givens, Miguel Castro, Tanner Scott, and Jimmy Yacabonis are a few pitchers to watch in this regard.

4. Alcides Escobar has been Baltimore’s most notable signing — even on a minor-league deal — despite registering a .593 on-base plus slugging percentage and minus-0.7 wins above replacement last season. Rule 5 pick Richie Martin is still preferable if he at least proves he can play quality major league defense.

5. I’m excited to watch Cedric Mullins in his first full major league season, but he’s produced no better than a .662 OPS against left-handed pitching at any level of his professional career. That did come at Triple-A Norfolk last year, so you hope the development of his right-handed swing continues.

6. Branden Kline struck out the side to earn Sunday’s save. The Frederick native missed two full seasons due to elbow surgeries, but he posted a 1.80 ERA and 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings for Bowie last year and features a mid-90s fastball and plus slider. Keep an eye on him.

7. Aside from Diaz, it’s been a rough start to the spring for two others acquired in the Manny Machado trade as starting pitching prospect Dean Kremer recovers from an oblique injury and hard-throwing reliever Zach Pop showed substantially diminished velocity on Saturday, which is always concerning.

8. Chris Davis striking out in his first two spring at-bats wouldn’t be noteworthy if he weren’t coming off one of the worst seasons in major league history from an everyday player. As it stands, every trip to the plate will be under a microscope. I’m curious to see his adjustments.

9. I’ll miss the retiring Joe Angel, but more Ben McDonald on Orioles broadcasts would be a great development. He has an engaging personality and was very enlightening discussing spin rate and other pitching-related topics during Saturday’s broadcast.

10. MASN is televising seven Orioles spring games. NESN shows 18 Boston games, YES has 12 Yankees games, and the Rays are televised 11 times. Rogers is televising two Toronto games from Florida and carrying the opponent’s feed for eight others. The Pirates are televised 10 times and the Phillies 16.

11. Machado going to the National League West was probably the best-case scenario for the Orioles, but anyone mocking him for signing with San Diego — I would too for $300 million — is overlooking a loaded farm system. The Padres could be very interesting in the not-too-distant future.

12. One of the more vivid memories of my early childhood was chanting “Edd-ie! Edd-ie!” at Memorial Stadium. Orioles legend and Hall of Famer Eddie Murray turned 63 on Sunday. Where have the years gone?

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Twelve Orioles thoughts entering 2019 spring training

Posted on 11 February 2019 by Luke Jones

With Orioles pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Sarasota for the start of spring training on Tuesday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. What would mark an acceptable — relatively and realistically speaking — major league season? I think Mike Elias would gladly take Cedric Mullins and a couple others looking like legitimate pieces for the future and a few veterans performing well enough to be traded. Avoiding 100 losses wouldn’t hurt.

2. Describing an $800,000 contract as even a “low-risk” signing sounds silly, but I liked the addition of Nate Karns to see if his arm injuries are finally behind him. His 9.3 career strikeouts per nine innings and above-average curveball fit nicely with what Elias and Sig Mejdal valued in Houston.

3. I’ll be curious to see which Baltimore pitchers start throwing their breaking pitches more frequently. The talent level is different, but veterans like Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton, and Gerrit Cole featured their breaking stuff more prominently upon joining the Astros. Spin rate is huge in Houston.

4. We’ve now heard Chris Davis talk about making adjustments to bounce back in three consecutive winters. Perhaps the new brain trust will find some magic fix to salvage some value from the remaining four years of his contract, but it’s all eyewash until April.

5. It could be now or never for Chance Sisco to show whether he’s a starting-caliber catcher or just a fringe backup type. The starting job is sitting there for the former second-round pick who will turn 24 later this month. Austin Wynns, 28, substantially outplaying him last year wasn’t encouraging.

6. After hitting well in limited duty last September, DJ Stewart will have his best chance this spring to prove he’s deserving of a starting corner outfield job, especially as Austin Hays needs to reestablish himself after an injury-plagued 2018 season.

7. If I had to predict the starting shortstop and third baseman, I’d pick Rule 5 pick Richie Martin and Renato Nunez. The latter played well late last year, but that’s easily the most depressing left side of the infield on paper since Cesar Izturis and a washed-up Miguel Tejada.

8. Martin and fellow Rule 5 pick Drew Jackson may not be up to the task at shortstop, but I’d prefer keeping Jonathan Villar at second base where he’s at his best defensively. Villar was worth seven defensive runs saved at second and minus-three in 18 starts at shortstop last season.

9. Coming off a 5.55 ERA last season, Mike Wright is now 29 and unlikely to stick on the roster simply because he’s out of options again, especially with the new regime. The same likely goes for the 28-year-old Donnie Hart, who posted a 5.59 ERA while struggling with control.

10. Dean Kremer is the non-roster invitee I’m most looking forward to monitoring. The 23-year-old led the minors in strikeouts last year and possesses a good curve that will appeal to the new front office. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pitching for the Orioles at some point this season.

11. This can be said about a number of unsigned veterans, but it’s difficult to believe Adam Jones hasn’t found a job as camps open this week. He may not be the player he was a few years ago, but he can still fill a meaningful role for a contender.

12. As much as I loved the Elias hire and have liked what I’ve seen from Brandon Hyde so far, where are the marketing efforts and ticket promotions for a team that has very little to sell from a competitive standpoint? There needs to be much greater urgency in this area.

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Waiting the hardest part in earliest stages of Orioles’ rebuild

Posted on 17 January 2019 by Luke Jones

FanFest is a week away and pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota in less than a month with the Orioles’ biggest offseason player acquisitions to date being Rule 5 infielders Richie Martin and Drew Jackson.

That’s not all that unusual if you recall the snail’s pace at which former head baseball man Dan Duquette proceeded over the last several offseasons, frequently waiting until February — even March — to sign a veteran free agent or two at a market-friendly rate.

But we know this winter is different. Very different. It needs to be when you’re coming off a franchise-record 115-loss season and your major league roster — and in many ways, the entire organization — was reduced to rubble last year. The possibility remains for a veteran signing or two before Opening Day, but mostly with the thought of flipping that player this summer for more prospects to continue building for the future.

Realistically, the Orioles couldn’t have done any better than hiring Mike Elias as general manager and Sig Mejdal to lead their analytics department after the two were integral parts in building the Houston Astros into World Series champions. New field manager Brandon Hyde — the former bench coach of Joe Maddon in Chicago — made a good first impression at his introductory press conference last month and possesses the kind of versatile baseball background most front offices prefer these days.

Their arrival creates reason for hope and a legitimate belief that better days are ahead — just not in 2019. As the 36-year-old Elias has already said more than once, this process has no shortcuts or a fast-forward button to when the Orioles will be competitive again. Probability and history may tell us the Orioles are unlikely to match their .290 winning percentage from a year ago, but avoiding 100 losses would likely qualify as a minor miracle when you examine the current 40-man roster.

No, the coming season in the American League East isn’t going to be fun. The new regime is essentially still surveying the wreckage, and waiting will be the hardest part as the Orioles work from the ground up.

The present is about building infrastructure for amateur and international scouting, analytics, and player development with gains unlikely to be noticeable for some time. Elias is still more than four months away from making his first amateur pick for the Orioles. As it relates to players already in the organization, the new regime is seeking those individuals possessing the proper talent as well as a growth mindset, a trait discussed at length in Ben Reiter’s “Astroball.”

In the same way future All-Stars Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, and George Springer — all part of the Houston organization before the arrival of current general manager Jeff Luhnow — accepted recommendations from Mejdal’s “Nerd Cave” to make improvements early in their careers, the likes of Dylan Bundy, Mychal Givens, and Trey Mancini as well as countless minor leaguers already in the system will be exposed to new data and methods that weren’t previously available. What players do with that information can help distinguish viable assets from the many placeholders we’ll be watching over these next few seasons.

But short-term gains with major league players not far from free agency such as Bundy, Givens, and Jonathan Villar are likely to result in more trades for more prospects, an exhausting proposition for fans already enduring the 2018 fire sale. It remains to be seen whether even Mancini or projected starting center fielder Cedric Mullins — players much further away from free agency — will still be in Baltimore by the time the Orioles are contending again.

For the most part, we’ll be watching too many players who don’t belong in the majors in 2019 and the year or two after that. Even the arrival of talented prospects will be calculated as the organization cannot rush the development of Yusniel Diaz, Ryan Mountcastle, D.L. Hall, and others — and won’t want to start their service clocks anyway — just because there’s no one better at the major league level.

If that leads to more losses, well, that’s not the worst thing for the future. It will be Hyde’s job to make sure the major league club plays hard on a nightly basis, of course, but we know the organization’s end game here. The Orioles aren’t wasting resources trying to assemble a team that still wouldn’t be close to being competitive this coming season. Manny Machado spending 3 1/2 months on last year’s club should remind us that Baltimore is years away from being “one player away.”

Picking first in three consecutive drafts brought the Astros All-Star infielders Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman, though the latter came by way of the Brady Aiken pick. A similar scenario playing out for the Orioles wouldn’t be easy, but it’s all about keeping faith in the process — and waiting. If you need a deeper perspective on the new regime, reading a copy of “Astroball” wouldn’t hurt.

To say next week’s FanFest will be a tough sell is an understatement. There are only so many Billy Joel concerts and bobblehead giveaways and ticket promotions to try to mask what will be a ton of losing in the foreseeable future, but those kinds of things will be needed more than ever. Marketing a club with an over-under win total of 59 to a fan base that wasn’t exactly showing up in droves when the Orioles were still competitive a couple years ago will be the most difficult job in the entire organization.

The Orioles will try to sell a promising future, but the wait to get there won’t be easy.

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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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