Givens could go as trade deadline gets closer

As the Orioles prepare for a two-city road trip that begins tonight in St. Petersburg, Fla., reliever Mychal Givens must wonder whether he's pitched in his last game at Camden Yards as a member of the team.

He hears the rumors every year. Trade chip talk follows him like baby chicks. He'd probably feel lonely without it.

Baseball's deadline version of separation anxiety.

The Orioles were willing to move Givens last summer, but they couldn't find the right partner. The days of being untouchable are gone, especially with his salary rising and only one more year of team control.

Givens can become a free agent following the 2021 season. His salary rose to $3.225 million in his second year of arbitration eligibility.

I wrote during the 2017 Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., that there was "no reason to drag Mychal Givens into the (trade) discussion because the Orioles are extremely reluctant to part with him for a variety of reasons."

Then I actually listed them.

"He's regarded as the closer in waiting with Zach Britton and Brad Brach eligible for free agency next winter; he's 18-3 with a 2.75 ERA and 1.107 WHIP in 157 major league games; he averages 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings to lead a staff that too often pitches to contact; and he's under team control until 2022.

"Teams keep inquiring about Givens, the Orioles keep resisting and they're not expected to change their stance on the sidearmer. It might not be accurate to label him as untouchable, but they would have to be overwhelmed by an offer."

OK, I used "untouchable" higher up in this story, but that was the impression given to some teams.

Now we've reached 2020, when the Winter Meetings could be conducted via Zoom and phone calls and the media won't be staking out a hotel lobby. I'd really celebrate it, except for the whole pandemic thing. And Givens could be traded by the Aug. 31 deadline instead of hearing his name floated again in December.

Givens-Delivers-Gray-Sidebar.jpgGivens has been dominant in more of a setup role, failing to be charged with a run until after he left Sunday's game and Tanner Scott let an inherited runner score. Givens was making his 11th appearance, only his second in the ninth inning, and came within one out of registering his first save.

Manager Brandon Hyde removed him in order to have Scott face Jackie Bradley Jr., who hit a two-run homer. Givens had struck out two of the first three batters he faced, issued a one-out walk in the ninth and retired Kevin Plawecki on a fly ball.

Hyde made the switch and removed Givens from the save situation. Scott earned the first of his career after surrendering the home run.

Givens has allowed one run and six hits with 16 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings. Quality relievers are like gold for teams in contention and they don't have to be closers.

The organization's decision to change Givens from a shortstop to reliever in the low minors really made his career.

Former director of player development Brian Graham pushed for Givens to switch roles, knowing the right-hander also had some experience pitching in high school. Perhaps a bold move for a second-round draft pick, but he wasn't hitting and the Orioles liked his arm and the deception in his delivery.

It would be deceptive - my attempt at a smooth segue that I ruined with this interruption - to suggest that Givens is assured of being with the Orioles when they return home on Sept. 1. Or that his failure to become an established closer leaves him with zero suitors.

Or that the Orioles returning to .500 removes the motivation for executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias to make trades that lean more toward seller.

Not if they aid the rebuild.

Alex Cobb also is on the trade clock. He's lined up to start Thursday against the Rays at Tropicana Field, though the Orioles haven't confirmed their rotation beyond Tommy Milone tonight.

John Means is lined up for Wednesday. He won't be traded. The Rays are starting Ryan Yarbrough.

Milone is on the mound tonight to begin the three-game series. Tyler Glasnow starts for Tampa Bay.

Milone faced the Rays on Aug. 2 and held them to one run with no walks and eight strikeouts in five innings. Brandon Lowe led off the sixth with a home run and Miguel Castro entered the game.

A potential trade chip for the Orioles as the deadline nears, Milone owns a career 6.18 ERA and 1.374 WHIP in nine games (six starts) against the Rays.

Mike Zunino is 6-for-13 with three home runs against Milone. Kevin Kiermaier is 5-for-7 with a double and home run.

Glasnow has made five starts for the Rays this season and gone 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA and 1.524 WHIP in 21 innings. He's averaging 5.6 walks and 15 strikeouts per nine innings.

In his Aug. 1 start at Camden Yards, Glasnow allowed two runs and three hits with three walks and five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. Renato Núñez hit a solo homer in the fourth.

Núñez hasn't homered since Aug. 7, a span of 14 games. But he's hit safely in 11 of 12 and 15 of 17, so it's more of a power outage than a full-blown slump.

Dwight Smith Jr. is 4-for-8 against Glasnow, but he's been designated for assignment.

* The Orioles signed infielder Frederick Bencosme to a minor league contract on Aug. 14, according to their transactions page, and assigned him to the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League Orioles 1 team.

Bencosme, 17, is a left-handed hitter from the Dominican Republic.

They also signed right-hander Elchero Francisca, according to Baseball America's minor league transactions.

Francisca is a native of Curaçao who turned 18 earlier this month.

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