Elias on trades, departed players and status of rebuild

The Orioles made two trades today and remain open for business less than 24 hours before the deadline.

Executive vice president Mike Elias sent left-hander Tommy Milone to the Braves for two players to be named later and Mychal Givens to the Rockies for corner infielder Tyler Nevin, middle infielder Terrin Vavra and a player to be named later.

He isn’t necessarily done.

“Our group is still working and is very active during this trade deadline tonight and tomorrow, and we expect the conversations to continue and we’ll see if anything else takes place,” Elias said in today’s Zoom conference call with the media.

Elias noted how the Orioles are a young team “playing their hearts out every night,” but today’s 6-5 loss was their 11th in 13 games and knocked them five below .500. Once nipping at the Blue Jays’ heels, they’re now in danger of being left in the dust.

No matter the results, Elias was determined to move more veteran players.

“As we’ve said all along, we have some objectives that go beyond 2020,” Elias said, “and looking at the expiring nature of Tommy Milone’s contract with the team and Mychal Givens coming up on what would be his last season before he hits free agency next year, we had to entertain those discussions.

“Those guys were huge parts of the club this year and were helpful. Mychal’s an impact reliever and he’s somebody who has been an Oriole for so long, and as I told him today, he’s going to be an Oriole for life. He’s going to be part of this organization well after he retires. He’s meant a lot to this organization on and off the field for a really long time and we’re going to miss him.”

Elias also praised Milone for his contributions on the mound and inside the clubhouse and said he’s excited for the left-hander to join the race in the National League East.

“I think it’s a nice fit for him,” Elias said. “And I know Mike was excited about getting in that race as well, so it’s good opportunities for these guys.

“The good news for us is we’ve got young players on the way. We’ve seen (Ryan) Mountcastle come up this year, Keegan Akin’s going to get his first start tomorrow and we have young relievers who can step in for Mychal Givens. So it’s just all part of the transition. ... We’re pleased with the returns and we’re still working.”

Givens has piqued the interest of rival executives and scouts for many years and the Orioles finally found a match.

“As soon as I got hired in late 2018 it was like Givens right away, people asking for him,” Elias said. “He’s been extremely popular all across the league for the closing in on two years that I’ve been here. But we just hadn’t found a package that really felt like it reflected his value until today, and we feel like we found it today. He’s an impact reliever and those guys can make a difference.

“They have another season with him and he’s always healthy, he always takes the ball and his stuff is filthy. I think it’s a great addition for them and I like what we got back for our future.”

Elias provided his scouting reports on the two acquisitions from the Rockies.

“Nevin and Vavra have been pretty high-profile guys since they were drafted,” he said. “Both were high picks, both favorites of scouts, both have enjoyed success in pro ball.

“I think Vavra is someone, we’ve been kind of accumulating infielders the last year or so and he fits right in with that group and just gives us another really high-quality guy. He can play shortstop, a really good second baseman. A plus-contact bat from the left side, really good control of the strike zone. We liked him coming out of the draft. Gamer-style makeup and he’s coming to Bowie once he completes his intake, so we’ll get a look at him soon.

“Tyler Nevin’s been a very attractive and very productive hitter since he signed in 2015. Really good up through the fall league last year and had a very solid Double-A at age 22. Digging into his numbers and some of the batted-ball data a little bit more from Double- A last year, we actually think he had some bad luck and could have been an even better season. He controls the strike zone really well, he’s got a real pretty swing. I think it’s fair to say that he’s serviceable elsewhere - third base, corner outfield - but first base is probably his best position right now and he’s somebody that I would say in all likelihood will be a major league spring training next year and probably pencils in as our starting first baseman in Norfolk next year, but we’ll just have to see.”

The players to be named later will be revealed after the season and come from outside the 60-man pools. It’s assumed that Elias already has identified them.

“Those names will be named at the appropriate time,” he said. “Obviously, there are some strange restrictions in place this year. You’re seeing an uptick in player-to-be-named-later trades. I think you can draw your own conclusions about why, but I’m looking forward to naming those mystery players at some point and welcoming them into the organization.”

Elias is confident that the message has been made clear inside the clubhouse. That the idea remains to win as many games as possible, but the rebuild must go on and veteran players are available, which can open doors for others.

“Brandon (Hyde) and his staff have done such a job with that team all year and these guys know,” Elias said. “We’ve been very consistent about preaching the opportunity that’s here and for a couple players like this who are in their 30s, they know that this is part of the business. It’s something that might be coming and these younger guys here are trying to establish themselves as long-term Orioles. They’ve got a lot of runway left in terms of their time here. So I hope they’ll keep pushing.

“I think we’ve seen some, it looks like exhaustion the last couple of days, and I think that some of our activities leading into the trade deadline put our bullpen in a bad spot. That’s just part of it when you’re selling going into the trade deadline. It’s usually a rough few days from a roster standpoint and a bullpen standpoint and everything. It’s just kind of how it is.”

Elias wants to reach the stage where he doesn’t need to hold seller status and that the plan to infuse more talent into the organization and build a strong pipeline takes hold.

“I think that our system has improved a ton and I think at this point it’s a really consensus top-12, top-10 system and arguably higher, and that’s great,” he said.

“We were starting from a position where there was no talent coming from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic of any note, and it continues to require some catch-up and we’ll continue to work on that, but I think the organization has drafted well the last few years and that goes well beyond when I started. And I think you’ve seen with some improvements in the player-development approach that some of these guys blossomed and improved their stocks internally, and that’s helped our system rise as well. So we’re just going to keep it going. I don’t think you ever feel your farm system is good enough, and then when we start to see that we have enough building blocks on that major league roster or at least close to it, that we will start thinking of shifting our priorities to augmenting that. But I don’t think that we’re at that point and we’re still in a talent-collection mode right now.”

Ryan Mountcastle hit his first two major league home runs today, a highlight in an otherwise disappointing day.

“Had good swings all day,” Hyde said. “Nice base hit the other way. Just swung the bat outstanding today, and you saw the raw power and his potential there and just took really good at-bats today.”

“It’s been awesome,” said Mountcastle, who has both baseballs. “Just to be finally able to live out the dream has really been a cool experience so far, and to have a pretty decent day today was definitely a breath of fresh air.

“I finally got a ball in the air. I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball pretty low, not much air under them. Today my swing felt pretty good and it was definitely enjoyable.”

Cole Sulser blew his second save of the series after walking the bases loaded and allowing Teoscar Hernández’s walk-off single. He’s issued 13 walks in 15 1/3 innings and is losing his hold of the closer’s job.

Sulser-Delivers-Orange-ST-sidebar.jpg“Tough ninth inning for him,” Hyde said. “Got ahead of (Travis) Shaw two strikes and couldn’t put him away. We also had a lot of guys unavailable today. Proud of our guys for coming back, taking the lead there in the top of the ninth, and we just didn’t finish it today.”

Asked if he still envisions Sulser as his No. 1 guy in the ninth inning, Hyde said, “I think anything’s open right now, to be honest with you.”

“I still like Sulser a lot, especially against left-handed hitters,” Hyde said. “He’s done a really nice job of getting lefties out all year. He’s hit a little bit of a bump in the road here in the ninth inning as of late, so I’ll keep my options open with whoever.

“We just didn’t have a lot of guys available today and we’re a little bit hamstrung in the ‘pen. Paul Fry was the star for us on the pitching side. Really threw the ball great. Extended him longer than I think I might have ever have, so that was really nice to see from Paul.”

Hunter Harvey made his 2020 debut by retiring two batters in the eighth and throwing 17 pitches. Tanner Scott let an inherited runner score to tie the game.

“We talked before the game about what kind of situation Hunter was going to pitch in in his first time,” Hyde said. “We don’t have a ton of low-leverage situations that we’ve been playing in except yesterday. That was the only one. He wasn’t active. I thought the ball came out great. I know he was disappointed in the walk to (Vladimir) Guerrero. I didn’t really want him to throw any more pitches than that in his first time. He’s also a guy I don’t want to get up and then sit back down. If I get him up I’m going to get him in the game.”

What did today’s trades do to the clubhouse?

“I think that there were so much swirling about it, so much talk about it, that everybody was prepared in case that did happen,” Hyde said. “It was tough to say goodbye to Mike this afternoon and wish him well in Denver.”

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