ARLINGTON, Texas - Under any other circumstances, the Orioles’ decision yesterday to recall outfielder Yusniel Diaz from Triple-A Norfolk would have qualified as major news. A former top prospect, his career stalled by a variety of injuries, becoming the last piece of the 2018 Manny Machado trade with the Dodgers to reach the majors.
The timing of it, on the same day that the Orioles traded Trey Mancini to the Astros, drained every drop of interest in the story.
Diaz, 25, was batting .234/.338/.339 with four doubles, three home runs and 15 RBIs in 35 games with the Tides. He missed more than a month with another hamstring injury to ruin a red-hot start to the season.
Manager Brandon Hyde didn’t have much to say about Diaz’s arrival yesterday. He was in the midst of processing the Mancini trade and the Cuban outfielder’s arrival in Texas.
Diaz could just be passing through while the Orioles reset their roster. We saw it happen with Rylan Bannon during his second stint with the club. Or Diaz might be getting a shot with Mancini gone. A right-handed bat for the occasion.
“That just happened,” Hyde said, “so I’m not going to wrap my head around that right now.”
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias spoke yesterday of young players working their way up to the majors, and how others are “on the horizon.”
“We’ll see what happens here in the next 24 hours,” he said.
Perhaps another trade or two creates opportunities for more prospects. Starter DL Hall, outfielder Kyle Stowers, just to name two. Gunnar Henderson is tearing up Triple-A.
Elias is excited about the two pitching prospects acquired for Mancini - Seth Johnson from the Rays and Chayce McDermott from the Astros. MLBPipeline.com already has Johnson slotted at No. 8 in the Orioles’ system and McDermott at No. 12.
That’s a nice return for Mancini. There were people in the industry wondering if the Orioles would get an offer worth trading him.
It required two other teams to get it done.
“This trade came about primarily through discussions with the Astros,” Elias said. “They, I think, felt that Trey Mancini was a really good fit for their needs. … We had been concentrating on having talks with the Astros, the last few days most intensely, and ultimately they mentioned they might be able to facilitate something with the Rays that could strengthen the package coming back to us. Obviously, the Rays were interested in getting José Siri, and it worked out.”
Mancini’s camp wasn’t given incremental updates on the discussions.
“We certainly hadn’t talked specific trade possibilities with them,” Elias said. “That’s not something that he’d be interested in. He’s a pro and he’s been around the league a long time and he’s known for the last year and a half really that he’s been the subject of trade speculation, that this was a possibility. I think he’s very, very proud of what he’s accomplished, what he means to the city and what he’ll always mean to the city, and what he helped this team do to, we hope, turn the corner. But this isn’t a journey that ends for the Baltimore Orioles, nor for him, in the next six or seven weeks.
“This is a multi-year, persistent plan to compete that we’re trying to enact, and he’s going to go get a chance with a team that’s running away with the division, to perhaps go all the way. And we’re going to continue to build and join that club here soon. Free agency can lead to all kinds of possibilities, and certainly we’ll continue to stay in touch.”
That was Elias’ third reference to Mancini and free agency within a 14-minute video call. It will be interesting to see if the Orioles are willing to make a legitimate offer to him, and how the market unfolds for his services.
Ryan Mountcastle seems entrenched at first base. There’s more freedom to rotate players at designated hitter with Mancini off the roster. Hyde can more easily use Adley Rutschman in the role, no longer required to make a tough call on who sits.
Mountcastle has been scuffling at the plate, but he had a run-scoring single and double last night and made a nice running catch in foul territory in right field. Almost as if saluting Mancini, who’s served as a mentor.
“He’s helped me through a lot of stuff. Defensively, mentally, physically, all that,” Mountcastle said.
“He’s been a great teammate, a great friend to me and I’m going to miss him.”
Mancini signed one of his jerseys for Anthony Santander, who’s now the longest tenured player on the club. Other veterans must step up as leaders.
And they must wonder who’s next.
“You heard a lot of things,” said closer Jorge López, “but you don’t get distracted by those things.”
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to put faith in the brass and what decisions they make,” said center fielder Cedric Mullins, who hit a leadoff home run last night and had an RBI single in a 7-2 win. “We’re on the cusp of potentially getting a wild card spot, and Trey being gone, I think it was really important for us to go out and get the win.”