When the 2018 season started, the Orioles were trying to make one last playoff run with an opening day roster that included Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop, Trey Mancini, Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner, Alex Cobb, Kevin Gausman, Brad Brach and Darren O’Day.
Two years previously, they made the American League wild card game, losing in extra innings in Toronto. But in 2017, the club went 75-87. They were trending down, but with Machado in his last year before free agency, the Orioles were trying for one last run with that core group.
We know now that not only did that plan not work, it blew up quickly. The 2018 Orioles started 5-14 and on May 8 were 8-27. At that point they were 17 games out of first place, 13 back of the second wild card spot and nine games out of fourth place. It was dismal. The season was pretty much over well before Memorial Day. That club would finish 47-115.
That led to numerous changes, including the end of the line for both Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter. But long before that, while Duquette was still the head of baseball operations, the selloff began. The biggest piece was Machado.
On July 18, 2018 he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. They knew they were getting a player that was a rental, but they still traded a five-player package to the Orioles.
At the time of the deal, Machado was having a huge season for the Orioles. In 96 games, he was batting .315/.387/.575 with 24 homers, 65 RBIs and a .963 OPS. For the Dodgers he hit .273/.338/.487 with 13 homers, 42 RBIs and an .825 OPS.
That Dodgers team lost the World Series to Boston, as Machado went 4-for-22 in that series. On Feb. 21, 2019, the San Diego Padres signed Machado to a 10-year deal worth $300 million through 2028. That deal includes an opt-out after the 2023 season.
So it worked out well financially for the player the Orioles drafted No. 3 overall in 2010. Let’s see how it has worked out for the Orioles so far and take a look at the four players that they got in the deal who are still with the club.
He was the top prospect included in the trade. Days before the deal he hit two homers in the All-Star Futures Game. He would end that 2018 season rated the Orioles’ No. 1 prospect. Right now he is No. 6 in Baseball America and No. 7 on MLBPipeline.com.
Diaz, 23, has plenty of tools and talent, and the club hopes that he is a future regular in the Orioles outfield. He was limited to 76 games at Double-A Bowie in 2019 but he ended the year batting .299 with an .842 OPS his last 28 games. His wRC+ was 135 last year, telling us he hit 35 percent better than average in the Eastern League. Baseball America rated him the No. 14 prospect in the league for the 2019 season.
Diaz alone could probably make that trade a win for Baltimore if he becomes a solid regular for several years with the team. Remember the Orioles got him for two months of Machado with the Dodgers.
Kremer, 24, went 9-6 with a 3.72 ERA on the farm last season. Over 113 2/3 innings he posted a 2.9 walk rate with a 9.7 strikeout rate, down from 12.2 in 2018, when he led all of the minors in strikeouts. He could be a real key in this trade. If he turns into a solid rotation regular, that would be huge for the pitching-starved Orioles.
Kremer impressed in the Arizona Fall League last year, going 1-1 with a 2.37 ERA. Over 19 innings he walked four and fanned 23 with a 0.895 WHIP. The O’s hope that was a glimpse of things to come.
With a fastball that often sits in the low 90s and touches more, he also throws a curve, slider and changeup. Kremer is rated the No. 9 O’s prospect by MLBPipeline.com and No. 11 by Baseball America.
A non-roster invitee to spring training this year, Bannon turns 24 on April 22. The Dodgers drafted him in round eight in 2017 after he was the Big East conference Player of the Year at Xavier, where he was a teammate of O’s pitching prospect Zac Lowther.
Last year in 130 games between Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, he batted .266/.345/.421 with 32 doubles, four triples, 11 homers and 59 RBIs. He made 84 starts at third base and 37 at second base.
MLBPipeline.com rates Bannon as the No. 18 O’s prospect, and Baseball America has him at No. 30. Over the winter a scout told me “he can really play defense and is a smart player. But he might be too focused on power for his (5-foot-7) size.” But generally, Bannon impressed the scout.
Like Diaz, Bannon was likely headed to Triple-A before the shutdown of baseball. Both players are very much on the radar, but both could use big years to close in on playing with the Orioles.
Pop has put up some very impressive numbers since the Orioles acquired him. But his career is on a hold for a bit after he underwent Tommy John surgery last May. Pop resumed light throwing in mid-November, advancing from a distance of 45 feet to 60 feet to 75 feet and then some long toss. During an interview at Twin Lakes Park on March 7, he told me he was throwing off flat ground and hoped to advance past that milestone soon. He had a goal of getting into games in late May or June.
The 23-year-old righty went to Double-A Bowie after the trade and began the 2019 season with the Baysox before he was shut down. In 22 games with Bowie over those two seasons, he is 2-1 with a 1.97 ERA and a 0.969 WHIP. In 32 innings, he allowed just 21 hits and no homers with 10 walks and 28 strikeouts.
So some really promising numbers for Pop, who can throw a mid-90s fastball and also features a solid slider and good groundball rates. A native of Canada, he was drafted by Los Angeles in round seven of 2017 from the University of Kentucky.
He could be a future back-end bullpen pitcher for the Orioles. In his minor league career he is 3-3 with a 1.34 ERA. Over 80 1/3 innings he allowed 48 hits with 25 walks, 80 strikeouts and a 0.909 WHIP.
To this point he remains the only player acquired in that deal to play for the Orioles. In 12 games in 2018 he batted .286/.325/.343 and he has hit .223 in 138 career major league plate appearances.
Valera’s contract was sold to the San Francisco Giants on Jan. 5, 2019 and he has been with three other organizations since that date. They are the New York Yankees, Toronto and San Diego. The Padres claimed him on Feb. 12 this year from the Blue Jays.
It’s probably going to take several years to know, but this trade could be one the Orioles benefit from for many seasons. If Diaz and/or Kremer hit it big, that will make this trade a win. Right now all four remaining players have a shot to help the big club.
Some will look back and feel the Orioles should have re-signed Machado. But the organization clearly decided at some point that the price would be just too high.
Even with Machado, the 2017 Orioles posted a losing record, and the 2018 club bottomed out big-time. The hope now is that all four players in the trade who are still with the club will be part of the rebuild and part of producing a future winner in Baltimore.