So, in the end, the Orioles found a trade partner for infielder Jonathan Villar. In a bit of a surprise, it was the Miami Marlins. Miami acquired Villar last night and sent to the Orioles 23-year-old minor league lefty Easton Lucas.
Drafted in round 14 in June out of Pepperdine, Lucas went 1-2 with a 3.63 ERA, pitching in one game in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and mostly in the short-season Single-A New York-Penn League. Over 34 2/3 innings, he walked nine, fanned 41, allowed just three homers and had a WHIP of 1.11.
At Pepperdine in 2019, he went 5-4 with a 3.87 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Over 76 2/3 innings, he fanned 71.
Here is his pre-draft report from Baseball America: “A 6-foot-4, 180-pound lefthander, Lucas showed a solid four-pitch mix this season but didn’t have the results scouts expected given his stuff. Lucas throws an 88-92 mph fastball, an above-average slider and also has an average curveball and changeup, but batters still hit him consistently. He allowed 73 hits in 76 2/3 innings of work, despite solid strikeout and walk rates. A redshirt junior, Lucas missed most of his 2017 sophomore season with an injury. Last summer he had a solid stint in the Cape Cod League, posting a 2.28 ERA with 17 strikeouts and eight walks in 23 2/3 innings of work and earning a selection to the Cape Cod League All-Star Game.”
I was a bit surprised to see Villar traded so late in the process, but the Orioles did at least get a player for him. I don’t fully understand why Miami could not have acquired him via waivers and not given up any players, but this is how it went down.
So to recap on Monday, the Orioles signed arbitration-eligible reliever Richard Bleier to a 2020 contract, reportedly for $915,000. They tendered 2020 contracts to pitchers Dylan Bundy, Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro, infielder Hanser Alberto and infielder/outfielder Trey Mancini.
The Orioles could still trade Bundy or any player tendered a contract. They can sign those players at any time. If they don’t agree to terms with the player, the player’s salary will be set via an arbitration hearing in February.
With Villar leaving, the Orioles now have 38 players on the 40-man roster.
As we’ve debated the Villar move in our comments section, I get the angst from some fans over losing Villar after his very strong 2019 season. They wanted a team without a lot of talent to hang onto a player that showed a lot of talent in 2019.
Some of the reactions did surprise me. I think some fans were convinced that Villar would be easy to trade had the club kept him. But that may not have been the case. He was not easy to trade this time, coming off his strong 2019, or at the trade deadline last season. If Villar’s performance falls back to where it was in 2017 (an OPS of .665) or 2018 (an OPS of .709) he would be a $10 million player that the Orioles couldn’t move. At that price, the risk was too much for a rebuilding team. Miami may look to trade him in July, but they’ll be trading a rental player a half-season from free agency. This year, in the Andrew Cashner deal with Boston, we saw the kind of a return a rental player might bring.
So Villar is gone and some fans are angry.
Said Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias of the Villar trade: “With a guy who’s going into his last year of arbitration with the team, facing free agency, who is set to command a large salary that he’s earned through his play and in years past, when we have an opportunity to use that playing time on other players who may be around longer, to use that payroll on other players and other objectives that fit more tightly with our strategy and get a young pitcher back that we view as a prospect, a potential future piece for the team, it’s something you have to do.”
Other players who did well in 2019 or had a big dollar number as an arbitration projection for 2020, were non-tendered last night.
Minnesota non-tendered C.J. Cron, who hit 25 homers, drove in 78, and had a .780 OPS and an OPS plus of 103. He was due to get $7.7 million. Seattle non-tendered Domingo Santana, who hit 21 homers with an OPS of .770. He was projected to earn $4.4 million. Houston non-tendered right-hander Aaron Sanchez, the 2016 AL ERA leader who went 5-14 with an ERA of 5.89 and was due to get $5.6 million. San Francisco non-tendered Kevin Pillar and Oakland non-tendered reliever Blake Treinen. He had an ERA of 0.78 in 2018 and finished sixth in the AL Cy Young voting.
So plenty of teams non-tendered players that played well for them in 2018 and/or 2019. Some of these teams were in the playoffs last year. None of the players I mentioned were projected to get over $10 million in arbitration.
By the way, there were 40 players non-tendered on Monday, up from 27 in 2018 and 19 in 2017. So, again, I can understand fans that are not happy Villar is gone. But the Orioles aren’t the only team that moved a player off their roster Monday and salary concerns for those players for 2020 were considered by various teams - some playoff contenders and some rebuilding clubs.
New free agents: If they want, the Orioles could reacquire Kevin Gausman, Tim Beckham, Caleb Joseph, Josh Osich or Joey Rickard. They are all among those non-tendered Monday. To see the entire list, click here. For more Elias quotes, click here.