The Orioles and Braves have struck a deal that sends lefty Brian Matusz and the 76th overall draft pick from Baltimore to Atlanta. Minor league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek are headed to the O’s in the swap.
Ultimately, the move constitutes a draft pick purchase, with the Orioles willing to part with their competitive balance round B selection and its $838,900 assigned pool value in order to offload the commitment to Matusz and add some potentially interesting arms. Of greater consequence than the selection itself, the Braves will boost their bonus pool up to just over $13MM, per the calculations of Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs (Twitter link). They’ll still fall a bit shy of the Phillies to remain in third in total spending capacity this summer.
A 29-year-old southpaw, Matusz is earning $3.9MM this year in his final season of arbitration control. The remaining $3MM or so of that deal will all be assumed by the Braves, who have already designated Matusz for assignment, as MLB.com’s Mark Bowman suggested on Twitter.
Matusz has struggled mightily out of the gates in 2016, allowing eight earned runs in six innings while recording just one strikeout against seven walks. He’s been hurt especially by the long ball, having allowed a three bombs on just ten flyballs.
Of course, the southpaw was much more effective in years past, though he’s generally outperformed his peripherals to do so. Over 2013-15, he put up 151 2/3 innings of 3.32 ERA ball, with 9.4 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9. Even if he won’t get a chance in Atlanta, Matusz seems to be a worthwhile rebound candidate given his solid track record. His fastball velocity is down by just over one mile per hour, and he’s been missing the zone a bit more than usual, but there’s good reason to believe that he’s also been hit with some poor fortune.
Neither of the pitchers acquired by the Orioles opened the year among the top 30 in a deep system, per Baseball America, but both had impressed thus far in 2016. Barker, 23, was off to a very nice start at the Double-A level, working to a 2.00 ERA in 45 frames with 8.0 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9. The righty was a 16th-round selection in the 2014 draft out of Mercer.
Belicek, meanwhile, is also a 23-year-old former 16th-rounder. The Texas A&M southpaw was taken last year, and just earned a promotion to Double-A after an impressive showing at the High A level. In his 28 1/3 total frames this year, he’s worked to a 2.22 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and a ridiculous 32:1 K/BB ratio.
Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com first reported that Matusz was traded (via Twitter).