The Orioles wouldn’t consider trading reliever Mychal Givens at the Winter Meetings, valuing his potential as a future closer and contract status that kept him under team control through 2021. They steered rival executives toward pending free agents Zach Britton and Brad Brach and came as close to hanging an untouchable tag on Givens as they could have without actually tying the string behind his neck.
Givens followed the two previous seasons that netted a combined 16-3 record by going 0-7 in 69 games, but as usual, records don’t begin to tell the whole story.
The former shortstop’s ERA jumped from 2.75 in 2017 to 3.99 this summer in two fewer innings. His WHIP rose from 1.042 to 1.187. His WAR fell from 2.3 to 1.0.
Again, we’re missing the rest of the story.
It may have gone largely unnoticed with so much focus on the team record and the statuses of manager Buck Showalter, executive vice president Dan Duquette and outfielder Adam Jones, but Givens strung together six consecutive scoreless appearances to end the season and allowed only one hit in his last 14 1/3 innings over 12 games, with opponents going 1-for-44 for a .023 average.
Givens didn’t surrender a run in 15 of his last 17 appearances and registered a 1.45 ERA in 18 2/3 innings. He led Orioles relievers this season in appearances (69), strikeouts (79), saves (nine), holds (15) and opponent batting average (.218).
Opponents batted .208 with runners in scoring position and .069 with RISP and two outs. His four home runs allowed were the second-fewest in the American League and tied for fifth in the majors (minimum 75 innings.)
Opponents hit .303 (30-for-99) with nobody out, .206 (20-for-97) with one out and .131 (11-for-84) with two outs.
Givens concluded the season as the closer by default with Britton and Brach traded, Darren O’Day injured and traded and Richard Bleier on the disabled list. He’s a trade chip again this winter, but lined up to be the ninth-inning specialist on opening day.
* I’ll move forward with the assumption that Cedric Mullins is the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter on opening day, but there’s a reason why Showalter kept trying to hold down the hype.
Mullins has the potential to become an impactful player with his speed and defense. The flashes lit up the ballpark. But he batted .235/.312/.359 in 191 plate appearances. He was 20-for-63 (.317) in August and 20-for-107 (.187) in September.
The rebuild should include Mullins as part of the everyday lineup unless he falls flat on his face coming out of the gate, but he’s still adapting to major league pitching and has lots of room for improvement. The excitement over his promotion and the desperate need for a distraction from the losing made it easier to overlook.
One of the more random stats from 2018: Mullins became the first Orioles batter with at least five doubles through nine career games since current assistant hitting coach Howie Clark in 2002.
On the flip side, the starters’ 5.48 ERA in 833 2/3 innings ranked last in the majors and was only a slight improvement from the 5.70 ERA posted in 2017.
The starters received 352 runs of support, the second-fewest in the majors. Orioles pitchers received 622 runs of support, the fewest in the AL and fourth-lowest in the majors.
* Five Orioles finished the season on the disabled list and only one is a virtual lock to be on the opening day roster.
Pedro Araujo retained his Rule 5 status because he didn’t stick on the active roster for the required 90 days. The Orioles can carry him in the bullpen until he’s eligible to be optioned, the same way outfielder Anthony Santander was handled this year.
The Orioles kept Araujo on the disabled list with a right elbow strain, his last appearance coming on June 10. He was shut down from his throwing program when the discomfort returned and Araujo received an injection that solidified his inactive status.
Araujo was overmatched, which came as no surprise given his jump from the Carolina League to the majors. He registered a 7.71 ERA and 1.679 WHIP in 20 games and averaged 5.8 walks per nine innings.
Bleier (lat) and Mark Trumbo (knee) are recovering from their respective surgeries and are questionable to be ready on opening day. Austin Hays underwent ankle surgery, but he already figured to start next season in the minors.
Gabriel Ynoa is listed as having right shoulder inflammation, and I wonder how many fans could have guessed the ailment and moved on to the bonus round. He began the season on the disabled list with a shin injury, didn’t pitch for the Orioles this season and made only two starts at Double-A Bowie.
His spot on the 40-man roster, which he reclaims after coming off the 60-day disabled list, is tenuous, to say the least.
* How was the weather?
The Orioles had eight postponements this season, including six at home. They had two postponements in 2017, including one at Camden Yards.
* If you get the urge again to link a team’s regular season potential to its spring training record, work harder to resist it. The wins are nice but as meaningful as a five-day forecast for 2027.
The Orioles finished third in the Grapefruit League with a 17-12-2 record. They posted a franchise-worst 47-115 record in the majors and were 61 games out of first place after the final out.
Maybe they should have summoned more players from Twin Lakes Park.
Today’s question: If you could reverse any trade in Orioles history that didn’t involve Glenn Davis or Jake Arrieta, which one would it be?