Orioles acquire Brett Phillips as last move at deadline

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Orioles had one more trade to make this afternoon, and it didn’t impact their roster beyond having to create an open spot.

Outfielder Brett Phillips, 28, was acquired from the Rays shortly before the deadline for cash considerations. The 40-man roster is full.

Phillips was designated for assignment Monday after the Rays acquired outfielder José Siri from the Astros as part of the three-team trade involving Orioles first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini.

No other moves were made before 6 p.m. The Orioles kept starter Jordan Lyles, outfielders Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins, second baseman Rougned Odor and the rest of their relievers.

Phillips slashed .147/.225/.250 (27-for-184) this season with four doubles, five home runs, 14 RBIs, 21 runs scored and seven stolen bases in 75 games. The Orioles are most interested in his defense. He ranked in the top two percent in the majors with 10 Outs Above Average, according to Statcast.

In 347 career games between Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Milwaukee, Phillips has batted .190/.276/.350 (147-for-774) with 22 doubles, nine triples, 28 home runs, 92 RBIs, 112 runs scored and 36 steals. The Astros drafted him in the sixth round in 2012.

Phillips brings a left-handed bat and gregarious personality. He should blend nicely with his new teammates.

They’ve seen lots of him.

Phillips is a career .270/.400/.573 hitter with five doubles, two triples, six home runs and 18 RBIs in 40 career games against the Orioles. The most doubles, home runs, RBIs and games versus any opponent.

“It’s somebody we’re pretty familiar with,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Unfortunately, he’s taken us deep a few times in big spots. We know he’s a plus outfielder, we know he’s a plus runner. From everything we’ve heard, he’s an amazing clubhouse guy, and you can see how energetic he is from the other side of the dugout. Left-handed bat, which we don’t have a ton of, so I think it’s a speed guy and another outfield option for us.”

The Orioles could decide to option outfielder Yusniel Diaz, who joined them yesterday from Triple-A Norfolk, as the corresponding move on the active roster. That decision didn’t need to be made today.

Team interpreter Brandon Quinones called Diaz yesterday with news of his promotion. Diaz was clothes shopping at a mall.

“I told him, ‘Hey, what are you doing right now?’ And he was like, ‘Well, I’m at the mall buying some outfits,’" Quinones said. "I’m like, ‘Well, if I were you I would hurry up and try to get to the stadium with all your baseball stuff.’ And he’s like, ‘Why?’ I was like, ‘Well, we just traded Mancini to Houston,’ and he was like, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s no way.’ So I’m pretty sure once I told him that, he realized what was happening.”

“It was a really big moment, a crazy experience,” Diaz said via Quinones. “When I finally received that call, it was kind of like a dream come true. It was something else.”

Diaz hasn’t been told how he’ll be used or whether he’s staying.

“They haven’t really spoken to me about that yet,” he said, “but I’m sure in due time they will.”

Injuries have prevented Diaz from making his long-awaited debut, which was supposed to happen last summer. He gets hot at the plate and is sidelined, often by a strained hamstring.

Diaz missed more than a month this year with the same injury, but said, “Little by little, I felt myself getting back to normal.”

Asked whether he’s doing anything to prevent another strain, Diaz said, “Just a bigger emphasis overall on stretching, warming up better and coming up with a better routine, so when I go out there to perform, I perform a lot better and I’m ready to perform at the highest level.”

Jorge López came within three outs of throwing a perfect game for the Royals on Sept. 8, 2018 at Target Field. He had blown saves in back-to-back games this summer in Minnesota. And in this unpredictable baseball world, he was traded to the Twins this morning and moves into the back end of their bullpen.

A first-place team with much higher aspirations than a back end wild card berth.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias called López this morning to inform him of the trade. López had hoped to stay with the Orioles. Seeing Elias’ name on his phone confirmed the news without hearing a voice.

"It became a family. It's a family,” López said in a phone call with Twins media. “It's a lot of tears because we worked so hard to get to this point. But (not) afraid to get to this chapter.

“I’m so thankful for the staff, the players. They always do everything for us and my family, and they get me locked in every time. It’s a really special team. I can’t describe it any better than my feelings toward them are always going to be forever. Never going to forget that.”

Left-hander Cade Povich is 26th in the farm system per MLBPipeline.com’s updated organizational rankings. New draft signings will create further adjustments.  

The Orioles also received right-handers Yennier Canó and Juan Nuñez and left-hander Juan Rojas. Canó is the only one with major league experience, or any games beyond high Single-A. He can slot onto Norfolk’s roster after being optioned today.

Povich will report to high Single-A Aberdeen. Nuñez and Rojas are in the Florida Complex League.

Seth Johnson and Chayce McDermott, acquired yesterday in a three-team trade that sent Trey Mancini to the Astros, also are reporting to the IronBirds.

Pitching depth up and down the farm system.

“Difficult to see Jorge go,” Hyde said. “Somebody who we’ve been with for a few years and loved the way he turned the corner this year with his new role. He made the All-Star team. He’s the reason why we won a lot of games, for what he could do in the back end there late in the game. Just like Trey yesterday, wish nothing but great success for Lopey. Hope he gets a save tonight in Minnesota. We love the guy, and like we said yesterday, this is part of the game, part of the business, and it’s hard. But we move forward and wish the best for Lopey.”

Hyde won’t settle on one closer, but Félix Bautista, Cionel Pérez and Dillon Tate are options.

“We’ll see kind of how we get there a little bit,” he said. “The rare days that Lopey has been down kind of prepared us a little bit for it. … We’ll see how it goes, where they are in the lineup, etc.

“People can say what they want, but the ninth inning is a different animal, and it just takes a special person to be able to get those toughest three outs in the game,” Hyde said. “The way the offenses can match up with you, the way the game’s on the line, the crowd, etc. You know you’re the last guy standing and there’s definitely a different atmosphere in the ninth inning in a save situation. And I think Lopey just embraced it.

“Lopey, for whatever reason, loved that part of it, and that’s what it takes in a closer. I think we have some guys that have that mentality. I think Bautista, when he’s out there in the eighth inning or ninth inning at times, he has shown that. I think he’s going to get a shot. If it’s a bunch of lefties lined up, maybe Cionel. Cionel’s got a great attitude and the competitiveness to be able to do that. So, we’ll see. But I hope one of these guys takes it and runs with it.”

Bautista wants the ball in the ninth, which he made clear today. He has three saves this season, two in St. Louis while López was on the bereavement list, and he hopes to get more chances over the last two months.

“If the opportunity comes along for me to be the closer, then it would be a dream come true,” he said via Quinones. “Something I’ve always dreamt of, closing for a major league team. If that happens, I’ll be super happy and I’m going to work hard to do the best I can for this team.”

Teammates hated to see López go, experiencing the same feelings that surfaced yesterday with Mancini’s departure. A productive reliever who also was extremely popular.

“There’s a lot going on in all of our heads trying to fully understand everything that’s going on, but at the end of the day we’re just fully supporting Lopey and wishing him the best in Minnesota,” Bautista said. “And whoever comes into this clubhouse, we’re going to bring them in and try to continue to have a great chemistry and continue to work hard to get wins for this team.”

The Orioles begin tonight only 2 ½ games out of the last wild card spot. They can move two above .500.

“It was challenging before. It’s going to be challenging going forward with the teams that we face, the teams that are ahead of us in our division, and the good teams we play,” Hyde said. “But I don’t think our guys are going to back down. Yesterday was a really, really tough day. Today’s a tough day, but yesterday was tough, as well, and our guys came out and played their butts off for nine innings, and I don’t expect anything less the rest of the way.”

The Orioles put pitchers Mike Baumann and Logan Gillaspie and catcher Jacob Nottingham on the taxi squad today.

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