The Orioles made their first of what will likely be several trades over the weekend when they dealt Andrew Cashner to the Red Sox, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports that closer Mychal Givens is drawing interest and is “definitely” available — a departure from recent seasons under previous front office management. The Phillies and Nationals, in particular, have interest in Givens, per the report. Obviously, a deal with the Nats would be difficult to hammer out when the two clubs continue to be embroiled in the ongoing dispute over MASN television rights fees.
Givens’ 2019 numbers are pedestrian at first glance. The right-hander’s 4.50 ERA is wholly unremarkable, and even last season’s 3.99 mark hardly generates excitement. Front offices aren’t going to put much stock in earned run average when evaluating a pitcher, however, particularly amid 2019’s home run deluge. Givens entered the season having averaged well less than a homer per nine innings pitched in his career, but he’s served up eight long balls in 36 innings in 2019. That’s led to a spike in his ERA, but it’s of some note that nine of the 18 earned runs he’s given up this year were surrendered in a combined two outings (a four-run meltdown in June and a five-run outing in May — both fueled by homers).
Looking beyond his ho-hum ERA, Givens offers a fair bit of intrigue. First and foremost, this year’s 12.8 K/9 and 34.5 percent overall strikeout rate are easily career-best marks. He’s also sporting a career-high 15.3 percent swinging-strike rate and 32 percent opponents’ chase rate on out-of-zone pitches. Givens’ 95.1 mph average fastball is right in line with his career rate, and the spin rate on that heater checks into the 77th percentile among MLB hurlers.
A rudimentary look at Givens’ splits reveals what many would expect to be the case: his home park hasn’t done him any favors. Six of the eight long ball surrendered by Givens have come at Camden Yards. On the road, opponents have managed an awful .185/.286/.315 output against him.
Digging a bit deeper, opposing hitters have posted a .350 weighted on-base average (wOBA) against Givens, but that’s almost entirely a function of the aforementioned home run issues. He’s yielded just a .217 batting average and a .304 on-base percentage thus far on the season. Based on the quality of contact he’s allowed, Statcast projects an expected wOBA of just .297 — significantly lower than the league average of .324 (excluding pitchers).
With any trade candidate, the player’s contract plays a sizable role in driving trade interest. In the case of Givens, the Orioles are in an advantageous position. He’s earning a minimal $2.15MM in 2019 and is controlled via arbitration through the 2021 season. With only about $890K of this season’s salary yet to be paid out, Givens is affordable for any contender and can also be viewed as a relatively long-term option, both of which should fuel interest between now and July 31. He may not be as appealing a trade chip as teammate Trey Mancini, but Givens is the highest-valued asset the Orioles seem decidedly likely to move.