TORONTO - As the Orioles have continued to struggle to score runs and the losses began to mount, no one in the clubhouse has blinders on. They know how bad it is and as they look around that clubhouse these days, players seem to realize it could look very different in there over the next few weeks and months.
The team has four pending free agents - Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton and Brad Brach - and any or all of the four could go in trade-deadline deals in July. Or maybe sooner. And the retooling and/or rebuilding of an Orioles team that made three playoff appearances from 2012 through 2016, but has bottomed out this year, may not end there.
During an interview before yesterday’s game, Mark Trumbo said he has wondered which players will be here later this season. Changes and trades could include anyone, himself included.
“It’s natural to think that,” Trumbo said. “I’ve been traded quite a few times before and know that is the reality of how things go. When a team is struggling, sometimes those changes take place. As players, it is easy to get wrapped up in that, and it can be a distraction. I think, for me, I’ve done it enough that maybe am a little better equipped to deal with it than younger guys that haven’t experienced it.”
After he led the majors in homers with 47 in 2016, Trumbo became a free agent. He stayed on the market quite a while but then signed a new three-year deal worth $37.5 million with the Orioles the following January. He’s in the second year of that deal now.
He understands that this season has gotten so bad that team management may need to start looking to the future more.
“Obviously, every team is looking to put the best product on the field they can and sometimes they choose to go in another direction. I don’t know if that will be the case here, but you know, this is a business and it’s going to be run like one. Our job as players is to go out on the field, give our best effort and do what you can.
“Oh, there are examples of that (teams punting a season to rebuild), sure. As a player, it’s not my job to speculate on the future of the team. Trying to put at-bats together is all we can control, and I think that’s the best approach.”
Trumbo knows there has been an avalanche of fan criticism of the Orioles. Again, no one has blinders on. The fans expected so much more. But one criticism he feels is unfair is to say the players don’t care just because they’ve lost so much.
“Everyone cares,” he said. “You show up every day and take pride in what you do. Sometimes it doesn’t shake out in your favor and it’s easy to find all the reasons in the world why it’s not going well. But I know that everyone here cares and they want to be playing to the highest level that they can. This has been a challenging year but we are going to do what we can to improve it.”
As the offense went south, Trumbo spent time on the disabled list. But whether active on the roster or not, he has tried to lend support to teammates, especially young players such as Trey Mancini. But not just him.
“That is kind of the role of someone in my position. I had a lot of good examples when I was their age, and now I’m kind of in the older group. You just try to give some perspective. It may seem like it’s as rough as it can get, but there are better times ahead for them and the team. It is easy to kind of think this is forever and permanent. But you know, you blink and you’re in a much better spot sometimes. The game can be really cruel and then it gets better,” he said.
The latest on the (lack of) offense: After last night’s 5-1 loss at Toronto, in which they got just five hits, the Orioles have scored just eight runs in four games on this road trip, and they actually won twice in New York. They have just 23 hits on the trip and have gone 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position the past two nights at Rogers Centre.
The continued lack of offense comes at a time when the Orioles rotation is starting to thrive. In the four games on this trip, the rotation ERA is 1.80. Over the last nine games, the O’s have eight quality starts and a rotation ERA of 3.25. They have gone 2-7, scoring just 16 runs in those games.
The Orioles have scored one run or no runs five times the past nine games. They have done that 18 times on the season to lead the majors.
On the farm: Lefty Zac Lowther pitched a gem for Single-A Frederick last night. He went six scoreless on three hits as the Keys beat Wilmington 3-2. Lowther walked one, fanned eight and threw 85 pitches. He picked up his first Carolina League win and is 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA in two starts for Frederick.
In eight starts this year between Frederick and Single-A Delmarva, Lowther has gone 4-1 with a 1.10 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 41 innings. In 20 career pro games since last year’s draft, he is 6-3 with a 1.42 ERA. In 95 1/3 innings he has allowed 52 hits with 24 walks and 136 strikeouts.
Rodriguez agrees: I reported here on Wednesday morning that the Orioles were going to reach an agreement with their top draft pick, prep pitcher Grayson Rodriguez, for a slightly under-slot bonus. Early this morning, Fan Rag’s Jon Heyman reported that the agreement is done and for $4.3 million. The slot amount for that pick was $4,375,100.
I also reported the O’s are going to agree with their second pick, Oregon State shortstop Cadyn Grenier, for a bonus slightly under the slot amount for his pick at No. 37, which is $1,923,500.