The Orioles tried to trade at least one of their relievers prior to today’s deadline. Talks began more than a week ago and kept moving at varying paces until 4 p.m.
The effort wasn’t lacking, only an agreement.
Triple-A reliever Shawn Armstrong was dealt to the Rays this morning for cash considerations. Injured shortstop Freddy Galvis was sent back to the Phillies for Single-A pitcher Tyler Burch just before the negotiating window slammed shut.
No one in the current bullpen had to pack up and leave Detroit, though there were periods when it seemed more likely to happen.
“I’d say pretty close,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said on a media Zoom call. “There were a couple of close opportunities that either didn’t get to the finish line or we decided not to pull the trigger on them. And that wasn’t just today. It was over the last week or so.”
The Orioles didn’t have a sense of urgency to accept any offer, as if circumstances forced their hand. The exact opposite was true.
“It’s very tough sometimes to take these all the way to the finish line. There’s hiccups, there’s other teams involved. Some of these trades get complicated with multiple teams,” Elias said.
“We’ve got some really good relief pitchers, they’re all in their first three years in the major leagues, some of them are going into arbitration next year, some of them aren’t. But we like what they can do for us know, we like what they can do for us in the future and we’ll take a look at things next winter and summer and continue to assess things. We hope they keep getting better and they keep helping us. It was not a low bar for us to trade any of these guys.
“We certainly haven’t been afraid to make these kinds of trades the last couple years when we feel that it’s worthwhile. We had a standard and we just didn’t see the correct opportunities there.”
Paul Fry and Tanner Scott are approaching their first year of arbitration. Cole Sulser and Dillon Tate are further back. There was never a temptation to move ace pitcher John Means or starting center fielder Cedric Mullins, and Elias needed to be overwhelmed to consider parting with first baseman Trey Mancini.
“We were very busy, considered a lot of opportunities throughout the week,” Elias said. “As I said leading into this deadline, we were very mindful of the fact that a lot of our best players in demand were players that are not pending free agents with the Orioles and are players that are young and talented and we like and have future years with this club and project to be a part of this club when we hope to be a playoff contender, so we were very judicious and mindful of that as we approach this deadline.”
Elias said Galvis is nearing a return to play from a strained quadriceps muscle. The Orioles picked up his $250,000 trade bonus.
“I think (the trade) is great for him, to go back to a team that means a lot to him and be part of a playoff race,” Elias said. “And we’ve seen some really encouraging play here from Ramón Urías and we’ve got some other players in the minor leagues who might come up and help out in the middle infield here the second half. So, we thought it made sense in that regard.
“In return for Freddy we got a very nice-looking pitcher in Tyler Burch. He had a big stuff jump after the shutdown and is working with two plus pitches. He has a really good, hard breaking ball, and you see the strikeout numbers he’s been putting up, and having been recently promoted to high A, it’s still the same success. We feel like it’s a nice arm for the system, especially considering we only had a couple more months with Freddy Galvis.”
Mancini has one more year of arbitration before free agency and the Orioles could attempt to negotiate a contract extension with their top run-producer, clubhouse leader and most inspirational player.
“I think the future is very bright for Trey Mancini,” Elias said. “He has been through something that I don’t think any of us can imagine and he’s come out of it like the special person that he is, and he’s back to baseball now and he’s going to keep getting better and building off this, and I can’t wait to see him to that. I can’t wait to see him do that with us and I hope he’s here as long as possible, and ultimately and we’re going to kind of take things as we come like baseball teams do in the major leagues and we’ll look at stuff and keep talking. But he’s a very special part of this team and he’s going to continue to be so, and we’re happy about that.”
Elias was confident that talks regarding Means and Mullins wouldn’t reach a serious stage.
“You saw José Berrios traded today by the Twins,” Elias said. “Trades like this happen, but we’re very, very impressed by what those guys are doing and they’re here for a long time and they play positions that are not easy to find guys who do what they do. It is not a priority for us to look at those opportunities.”
Having extended team control of certain players, and the importance placed upon it by Elias, could offer hints to a contention timeline for the organization.
“I think everything’s a factor,” he said. “A lot of the relievers that we have that are young, they’re having success, are very interesting now, they’re very interesting in the second half, they’re very interesting next year, but they’re also interesting for the next three or four years and we’ll see where the team goes. We’re going to get better every year and I think they can continue to help us in that regard.
“I think it’s getting closer. We’ve seen some very good individual developments this year, particularly with Cedric, Trey coming back healthy, getting some positive steps forward from an Austin Hays and, obviously, John Means, and some of our core impact talent in the minor leagues is inching closer. ... The organization is in much better shape, but I continue to be daunted by what I see in our division and what I see around the league. You see there are super teams on both sides of the league right now, the American League and National League, with some very loaded rosters, so we have a very long way to go, we have a lot of work to do.
“It’s hard for me to forecast. I just know the direction that we want to continue to push in, I know there’s talent on the way, and I think the deficit between the Orioles and the AL East that we’ve seen the last few years is closing, and that’s important, and we’re going to get more competitive very soon in this division. I know that.”
Elias also provided updates on some injured minor league players:
* Single-A shortstop Anthony Servideo, a third-round pick in 2020, underwent sports hernia surgery that ended his season. He could play in the fall.
* Double-A Bowie starter DL Hall, a first-round pick in 2017, has a stress reaction in a bone in his left elbow that requires further rest. Elias said he’s “very pessimistic” that Hall will return this season.
* Left-hander Bruce Zimmermann, who’s been on the 10-day injured list with biceps tendinitis, will pitch for Single-A Aberdeen on Saturday, make another rehab start next week and likely return to the Orioles..
* Shortstop Richie Martin, on the 60-day injured list with a fractured right wrist, is nearing a return to Norfolk and the 40-man roster. His rehab assignment has moved him to Bowie.
* Norfolk outfielder Yusniel Diaz remains day-to-day with turf toe. He’s been cleared to run.
* Aberdeen infielder Adam Hall is out with a quadriceps strain and could return by mid-August.
* Norfolk starter Zac Lowther, on the minor league injured list with a strained left shoulder, is headed to Sarasota, Fla. to rehab. He’s expected to pitch in the Florida Complex League and return to the Tides by late August.
* Bowie infielder Joey Ortiz, who underwent season-ending surgery on his left shoulder, is progressing well.
* Bowie infielder Terrin Vavra, out with a strained back, will begin playing in rehab games within the next eight to 10 days and could return to the Baysox by the middle of August. He could be sent to a fall league.
* Outfielder Heston Kjerstad, the second-overall pick in 2020, hasn’t been cleared for workouts after a recurrence of the inflammation in his heart.
“I think we’re continuing to hope for some good news soon, and we’ve got our fingers crossed for that, and we may get some soon” Elias said. “It’s been, to say the least, a very trying experience for him and the organization, but we’re helping him and supporting him. We’ve still got a lot of time left and this still is something we think will pass.”
Baysox catcher Adley Rutschman is healthy and impressing and seems to be nearing a promotion to Norfolk.
“I think it’s become increasingly a conversation of when and what to do with him next,” Elias said. “He’s certainly had a very successful season thus far in Double-A on both sides of the ball. It’s been great to see. He is not a fully finished product or polished player. All these kids missed a whole year last year. His control of the strike zone has been outstanding, but he’s doing a lot of work with Ryan Fuller, our hitting coach, and Jeff Kunkel, or catching coach there, and just every day getting better and perfecting things about his swing and his consistency with his mechanics and his approach. He’s working with the pitching staff there and they’ve got a really good thing going on.
“We do not feel that he’s wasting his time or not getting anything out of Bowie despite the success he’s had thus far, and we’re also mindful of the fact that the Triple-A season is going to be a long one this year. There’s a lot of time left on that season. It goes into October with the way that it’s currently scheduled and structured because of the pandemic. So, when it becomes the correct thing with his development, we’ll make that move. It’s certainly something that we’re talking about organizationally and something we want to get right.”
The Orioles continue their series in Detroit tonight with Anthony Santander reinstated from the COVID-19 list and playing right field. Keegan Akin hasn’t been activated. Neither player confirmed whether or not they’ve been vaccinated. Santander tested positive for COVID-19 last summer and was late reporting to camp.
“As an organization, we do encourage that people out there get this vaccine,” Elias said. “It’s helping to get our society and our world back to normal. We’re over 85 percent. We’re proud of that. We’ve got banners all over the park encouraging our fans to do so. We know the medicine and the science behind it and we think it’s something that people should do.
“When it comes to individual people or specifically Orioles employees, whether they’re players or scouts or ushers or whatever, I’m very protective of personal medical information, particularly our players, whether it’s about a topic like this or COVID or something like what’s happened to a couple of our players the last couple of years with some really serious illnesses. I’m just very reserved about discussing that because it’s a private matter. So that said, we do encourage people to be educated and make the decision they want to make.”