AL EastAnalysis

Revisiting the Orioles 2018 Trade Deadline Moves Two Years Later

The year is 2018. A little boy goes viral for yodeling in a Walmart. Teens nationwide are eating Tide Pods. A pre-teen becomes famous from a selfie with Justin Timberlake at the Super Bowl halftime show. Gritty is introduced as the Philadelphia Flyers new mascot. But most importantly, the Baltimore Orioles begin their latest rebuild. 

The 2018 trade deadline is two years old this summer, and it’s recognized as the point when Baltimore tore it all down and decided to go through another rebuilding phase, something they’ve seemingly been doing for much of the 21st century. Five trades were agreed to that July, and no matter what we thought of them at the time, the perception of them now is very different. Today, I’ll be looking back at those trades, examining what the players leaving Baltimore accomplished with their new clubs, and reevaluating the players and prospects the team got in return. 

*note: all prospect rankings, past and current, are according to MLB Pipeline

Brad Brach to ATL for international slot money

This was the first of two separate trades Baltimore made with Atlanta in the days winding down to the deadline. Brach’s short Braves career was solid, as he put up a 1.52 ERA in 27 appearances out of the bullpen for the NL East champions. He would go on to leave Atlanta for the Cubs that winter. 

The international slot money that came back failed to be put to good use, as the club was still feeling the effects of the lack of a Latin American organizational presence. 

Darren O’Day and Kevin Gausman to ATL for C Brett Cumberland, 3B Jean Carlos Encarnacion, LHP Bruce Zimmermann, RHP Evan Phillips, and international slot money

The second trade with the Braves made two days after the first one may end up being the worst of the five total trades completed. It also has no clear winner. Gausman had an underwhelming stint in Atlanta, posting a 4.77 ERA in 26 starts before being waived last August. O’Day, who was traded while recovering from a hamstring injury that required surgery and a forearm injury, didn’t pitch for his new team until over a year later, appearing in 8 games throughout September and the 2019 postseason. 

That’s why the Braves didn’t come out on top looking back at this one, and here is why the Orioles didn’t either. 

Two of the prospects acquired, Jean Carlos Encarnacion and Brett Cumberland, started their O’s careers ranked in the top 30 among the organization’s prospects, 15th and 29th respectively. Both are now unranked and haven’t earned promotions since coming to Baltimore. Encarnacion, 22, hit just .240 with a .648 OPS for Full A Delmarva in 2019. Cumberland, a 25 year-old supposedly bat-first catcher, didn’t do much better, hitting .248 in 41 games for Double A Bowie. 

Zimmermann is the exception to the rule, going from unranked in 2018 to 28th currently. The 25 year-old left-hander earned a promotion to Triple A Norfolk in 2019 thanks to a 2.58 ERA in 18 games and 17 starts for Bowie, and was recently added to the 60-man player pool for the 2020 season.

Phillips has bounced back and forth from the majors and Norfolk in his time in Baltimore, appearing in 30 big league games with a less than stellar 8.37 ERA. 

As for the international slot money, well, you know where that went. 

Zach Britton to NYY for RHP Dillon Tate, RHP Cody Carroll, and LHP Josh Rogers

Britton, a former All-Star and 4th place finisher in 2016 Cy Young voting, was recovering from a ruptured achilles, suffered the offseason prior, throughout 2018. He managed only 15 innings pitched for the O’s before being shipped to New York for three minor league arms. Much like the O’Day and Gausman trade, these prospects have also fallen down the prospect rankings since joining the organization. 

Tate, 26, began his career as a top 100 prospect in all of baseball with the Texas Rangers. He joined the Orioles ranked 6th in their top 30 but has since fallen to 27th after parts of two subpar seasons at Bowie and a big league call up only to protect him from this past winter’s Rule-5 Draft. 

Carroll, 27, has also dropped quite a bit, 17th to unranked for him. The hard-throwing righty managed to appear in 15 big league games for Baltimore in 2018, but disk surgery sidelined him for the majority of 2019. 

Rogers, 26, has had a very forgettable time in Baltimore, appearing in just 8 games out of the bullpen the last two seasons.

Three trades in, and this deadline has so far failed to produce any solid major league talent. These last two should change that. 

Jonathan Schoop to MIL for shortstop Jean Carmona, RHP Luis Ortiz, and INF Jonathan Villar

Schoop was one of my favorite Orioles and, along with Adam Jones, the hardest to see go. He had just wrapped up a career year in 2018, earning his only All-Star appearance and finishing 12th in AL MVP voting. That’s what Milualkee was hoping to get out of him, instead Schoop was moved to the bench after hitting .202 followiung the deal. He would be a half season rental for the Brewers, as he’d go on to sign a 1 year deal with Minnesota following the team’s NLCS loss. 

Carmona and Ortiz followed suit with almost every other prospect acquired, as they too have since stumbled down the Orioles prospect rankings. Carmona fell from 14th to unranked and Ortiz from 7th to unranked. 

Ortiz, another former top 100 prospect and 1st round pick, only has 3 games on his major league resume. The 24 year-old’s minor league resume isn’t something to write home about either, with a 6.38 ERA at Norfolk in 2019. 

Carmona, a switch-hitting shortstop, and like prospects previously mentioned, has yet to earn a promotion in the year and a half with the organization. In 25 games at Short A Aberdeen this past year, the 20 year-old swung to a .224 average with a .561 OPS. Again, not something to write home about.

The biggest piece of the return proved to be switch-hitting second baseman Jonathan Villar. Villar had a career 2019 campaign, posting top three career finishes in average (.274), OPS (.792), steals (40), walks (61), and homers (24), adding a career best 3.9 WAR while playing all 162 games. Heading into his last year of arbitration, Baltimore was able to move Villar to Miami in exchange for minor league pitcher Easton Lucas, a 14th round pick in the 2019 draft who racked up 40 punchouts in 30 innings of work in the New York-Penn league. 

Manny Machado to LAD for 3B Rylan Bannon, OF Yusniel Diaz, RHP Dean Kremer, RHP Zach Pop, and INF Breyvic Valera

And now the big one. Manny Machado was the top prize of the 2018 deadline and Los Angeles, after losing Corey Seager for the remaining of the year to Tommy John surgery, was the highest bidder. In return, the Orioles jump started their rebuild, adding 4 young talents to the minor league system. 

The Dodgers granted Machado’s wish of playing shortstop, and in return the 5-time All-Star became an integral part of their World Series run. Ultimately, Machado and the Dodgers would of course go on to lose the series to the Boston Red Sox in 5 games, as Machado struggled with only 4 hits in the series. He would then sign a 10 year, $300 contract with San Diego that winter. 

The handful of prospects coming back to Baltimore is easily the best bunch from any trade previously mentioned. Diaz came to Bowie ranked 52nd in baseball and 1st in the organization, but has since slid down to 7th. The 23 year-old outfielder slugged his way to a .807 OPS this past year, but two stints on the injured list are partly to blame for why Diaz has yet to be moved to Norfolk.

Kremer and Bannon are both risers since coming to Charm City. The right-handed Kremer, who jumped from 16th to 9th in the team’s prospect rankings, earned a promotion to Norfolk late last season after consecutive seasons of sub-3 ERA’s at Bowie in 23 starts. According to manager Brandon Hyde, the 24 year-old remains a solid candidate to make his debut at some point in this shortened season. Bannon, who followed Kremer’s path of a late season promotion to Norfolk, followed it up with a .317 average and .893 OPS for the Tides. 

Pop, a 23 year-old right-hander, may have soon been on his way to a promotion to Norfolk if a minor league season would have been played after pitching to a 2.53 ERA in 2018 then 0.84 this past season for Bowie. Valera, a utility infielder who appeared in 12 games for the O’s, was waived by the team following the season. 

Looking back, the 2018 trade deadline was a little underwhelming in terms of where these prospects are now. 

Although the 2018 trade deadline is the point in time where we look back and think, “that’s when this rebuild started”, the job wasn’t finished with those few moves; rather, a foundation was set for Mike Elias to build upon. With the emergence of Grayson Rodriguez, D.L. Hall, and Austin Hays, and the selections of Adley Rutchsman and Heston Kjerstad in recent drafts, it’s only natural for some of these guys to get overlooked. If just a couple of these players go on to become productive big leaguers for the next great Orioles team, we can mark these moves as a success. 

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Taylor Lyons

Taylor is a lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan and freshman at LSU, where he is studying mass communications and sports journalism. Twitter: @taylorjlyons

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