The Orioles announced a series of roster moves Friday, most notably designating veteran outfielder Brett Phillips for assignment and selecting the contract of outfield prospect Kyle Stowers. Baltimore also recalled infielder Richie Martin and lefty Nick Vespi from Triple-A Norfolk, placed infielder Terrin Vavra on the paternity list and optioned right-hander Logan Gillaspie to Norfolk.
Phillips, 28, was acquired from the Rays in exchange for cash on the morning of Aug. 2, just hours before the trade deadline. He’d recently been designated for assignment by Tampa Bay, following the Rays’ acquisition of Jose Siri. Phillips received just 17 plate appearances in his nearly three weeks with Baltimore, going 2-for-17 with a pair of doubles, no walks and nine strikeouts (.118/.118/.235).
Despite the fact that Phillips carries a dismal .147/.217/.249 batting line through 225 plate appearances this season, there’s a decent chance that he’ll end up being claimed once the Orioles put him on waivers (which is the only course of action for them to take now that he’s been designated for assignment and the trade deadline has passed). Phillips is regarded as one of the game’s best gloves — a lights-out defender with plus speed who can handle any of the three outfield slots with aplomb, as evidenced by career marks of 39 Defensive Runs Saved, a 25.3 Ultimate Zone Rating and 31 Outs Above Average (in just 2136 innings of outfield play).
Phillips has never provided a ton of value with the bat, but he’s been considerably better in past seasons than his 2022 numbers would indicate. Entering the 2022 season, Phillips was a .203/.291/.381 hitter with 23 home runs and 29 steals (34 tries) through 675 plate appearances. That’s still well below the league average, of course, but paired with his elite brand of outfield defense, that blend of power and speed still made him a valuable role player.
Given the speed, defense and power, Phillips figures to hold appeal to outfield-needy teams on the waiver wire — particularly with rosters soon to expand from 26 to 28 players in September. Phillips is an ideal late-inning option to have on a postseason club, as he’s an upgrade over at least one outfielder on any team in the Majors and is a threat for a stolen base or perhaps a pinch-hit against a right-handed arm in the right scenario.
As for Stowers, 24, the outfielder was chosen with the 71st overall selection in the 2019 draft. Since then, he’s earned praise from prospect evaluators, largely because of his offensive work. Baseball America has ranked him as one of the top 30 Baltimore prospects in each of the past three years. This year, he’s played 95 games in Triple-A, hitting 19 home runs and slashing .264/.357/.527. That production amounts to a wRC+ of 131, indicating he’s been 31% better at the plate than the league average hitter. He’s also lowered his strikeout rate to 25.6% for the season, which is still higher than average but a marked improvement over last year’s 32.3% rate.
Stowers has already made his MLB debut, getting a brief two-game stint in Toronto earlier this year when a couple of his teammates couldn’t make the journey due to their unvaccinated status. Since he was designated a COVID “substitute” for that series, the O’s were able to remove him from the roster without exposing him to waivers. He has now earned a roster spot in the more traditional way and figures to get a more extended look this time around.
Stowers has played 44 games in center field this year, along with 38 in right and 13 in left. He will jump into an outfield mix that also includes Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Anthony Santander and Ryan McKenna, though Santander has been getting a lot of time as the designated hitter since the Trey Mancini trade.
The Orioles have burst forth out of their rebuild this season and are hanging around the American League postseason picture, currently just 2 1/2 games back. Stowers will have the final six-plus weeks of the season to try to help them with that race as well as trying to earn a spot on the team’s roster going forward, for a club whose future looks increasingly bright.