If you could take sentiment out of it – almost impossible to do when it comes to Trey Mancini - the Orioles return in Monday's trade doesn’t look too bad.
A strong farm system got stronger, and now some at-bats opened up for other players like Terrin Vavra, Yusniel Diaz or maybe at some point later Kyle Stowers, as Mancini joins the Houston Astros.
Calling him a rental player after all he has been through and all that he means to the team and town almost seems disrespectful, but from a most technical standpoint, he is a pending free agent that Houston will have for the rest of this season. And possibly no more. It is not impossible to say he and the Orioles could have contract conversations over the winter.
And for Mancini, a beloved figure today and probably forever in Birdland, the Orioles did get two pitchers who show promise for the future. Both have touched 98 mph and were ranked highly for two clubs that have solid pitching development in Houston and Tampa Bay. And they are ranked highly in the now well-regarded O’s farm system.
The Orioles acquired right-hander Seth Johnson, 23, from Tampa Bay, and MLBPipeline.com last night, in an updated O’s top 30 list, rated him No. 8, right behind Stowers and just ahead of Heston Kjerstad. They added right-hander Chayce McDermott, 23, from Houston and ranked him No. 12. He is just behind César Prieto and ahead of Mike Baumann. So the two new guys are already keeping good company there.
Yes, Johnson is headed for Tommy John surgery, which likely means he won’t pitch for the Orioles before the 2024 season, potentially. And he is Rule 5 eligible this winter, so he may have to be protected on the 40-man. In 39 career games he is 7-8 with a 2.81 ERA and 172 strikeouts in 137 2/3 innings. He last pitched this season in May, and scouting reports put his fastball in the 94-98 range and say he has a plus slider. Baseball America put a 70 grade on that pitch. He was the No. 40 overall pick in the 2019 draft out Campbell University, the same school where the O’s Cedric Mullins played college ball.
Johnson was ranked as Tampa Bay’s No. 6 prospect by MLBPipeline.com and No. 9 by Baseball America. McDermott was rated No. 6 for Houston (and as their second-highest rated pitcher) by Baseball America and No. 12 by MLBPipeline.com.
In 26 career games, McDermott, taken in round four of the 2021 draft, has gone 6-1 with a 4.92 ERA and 14.85 strikeout rate. He played in college for Ball State. His fastball sits between 92 and 96, touching 98 mph.
As for Mancini, he said yet again Monday afternoon how much he loves Baltimore and the Orioles and always will.
“There are so many emotions and I think it will take a while to really be able to express all of them, but there’s not enough I can say about this organization, the city of Baltimore, what the fans mean to me, what these guys in here mean to me.
“A huge part of me is always going to be an Oriole and a huge part of my heart is always going to be in Baltimore and with the fans there. There’s not enough words for me to describe what the organization means to me,” he said, expressing it perfectly in the words he did say.
O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias told reporters via Zoom Monday that he felt when he got this return for nine weeks of giving up a player, he had to take a strong look at that and did.
He said one point of success for the O's this year has been young players running with the chances they get, and this will provide more of that for someone – or several someones.
“Seth Johnson, in particular, from the Rays, we view him, and the industry has viewed him at times, as a top 100 talent, and unfortunately he’s undergoing an injury right now, and I think that’s what made him available. And Chayce McDermott is performing very well as a fourth-round pick of the Astros. I think we bolstered our pitching depth as an organization,” he said.
“I think the bottom line is this is an organization for which we feel a championship window is opening, and we have an opportunity to seek players at this point in time that may contribute to that window and pursuit of multiple playoff appearances over the next several years here in Baltimore. And part of the reason our division is so difficult is the teams that are in our division have done such a spectacular job over the last decade of balancing present, future, interim, long-term considerations with their moves, and it’s important for us to do the same thing.
“I think when a player is a free agent in nine weeks, you have to consider opportunities to bring in high-upside talent that has the potential to contribute many years down the road, and that’s what we see with these two pitchers."
And on the field last night: The Orioles, in their first game after the trade, beat the Texas Rangers 7-2 to start a three-game series. After scoring just four runs total in back-to-back losses to end the Cincinnati series, the O's led 4-0 after the second inning last night.
Mullins homered on the third pitch of the game to get the O's started, and Adley Rutschman went 3-for-4 with two doubles and is batting .421 (16-for-38) his past 12 games.
Ryan Mountcastle went 2-for-5 and drove in two runs after going 3-for-34 his previous nine games.
Right-hander Spenser Watkins got the win, allowing one run over six innings. That was a quality start, ending a 14-game O's run without one. Over his past six starts, Watkins, who had an ERA of 8.07 last year, is 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA. Amazing turnaround by him.
The 2021 Orioles went 52-110. The 2022 Orioles are now 52-51.