- The Orioles fired a combined 11 members of their front office and scouting departments Friday, Rich Dubroff of BaltimoreBaseball.com relays. Tripp Norton, who had been the Orioles’ director of baseball operations dating back to 2012 (and was with the O’s since 1998), was the most prominent member of the organization to lose his job. The club also parted with scout Nathan Showalter, son of ex-Baltimore manager Buck Showalter. First-year general manager Mike Elias, who’s attempting to remake the front office in his image, said the team will “be very busy bringing people into this organization” to replace those it let go.
The Nationals secured a key legal victory in their long-running TV rights fees battle with the jointly owned and Orioles-controlled Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), as Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun was among those to report. The decision upholds an arbitration award in the Nationals’ favor, which was issued earlier this year.
This does not represent a final victory for the Nationals, as the Orioles (through MASN) will still be able to appeal on various issues. But there may now be an end in sight for the D.C. club, which lost at the trial-court stage when the O’s challenged the original arbitration decision in late 2015. That decision kicked off the complicated, multi-round process that is still unfolding.
The Nationals have cured the conflict-of-interest issue — relating to legal representation — that led to the initial ruling. This time, the O’s presented a theory that MLB could not serve as the arbitration forum because it had an interest in the outcome due to loans it made to the Nationals.
If the Baltimore legal team isn’t able to pull off another upset win at the appellate level, the team will ultimately owe a hefty bill to its southern neighbors. As discussed at the time of the arbitration panel’s decision, the expectation is that the Nationals will be due something in range of $60MM to $70MM once all the accounting is sorted out. The new ruling also requires the Orioles to pony up interest on the obligations — one of the matters that will surely be addressed on appeal.
There are still plenty of loose ends. As noted, there will be a direct appeal on several issues. The Orioles have also initiated a separate arbitration proceeding regarding the team’s decision not to distribute certain funds to the Nationals during the pendency of the initial dispute. And since the rights fees re-set occurs every five years, this particular litigation/arbitration covers the rights fees for only the 2012-16 seasons … meaning there’s an ongoing need to work out the numbers for the ensuing five-year periods.
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has lost his role as a regular, at least for now, Joe Trezza of MLB.com writes. Manager Brandon Hyde said he’ll “continue to pick my spots” when it comes to playing Davis, who’s nearing the conclusion of a second straight horrific campaign and the end of the fourth season of a seven-year, $161MM contract. The rebuilding Orioles are aiming to give more at-bats to young players and a possibly returning Mark Trumbo than Davis, owner of a .179/.270/.312 line in 300 plate appearances this season. Notably, the 33-year-old Davis got into a dugout altercation with Hyde on Aug. 7, and has started just five games since. But Hyde complimented Davis on Thursday, saying that “he’s been a pro the entire way — 100% pro. He understands. He’s been in the dugout supporting our guys. He’s been real great in the clubhouse and he’s handled this situation really well.”
Longtime slugger Mark Trumbo has missed the entire season to this point, but even though the Orioles are in the running for last place, he’s not giving up on 2019. Trumbo plans to start a Triple-A rehab assignment “around Aug. 27,” play five games and then come off the injured list to rejoin the team, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets.
If Trumbo is able to return this season, it might be the last we see of the 33-year-old designated hitter/outfielder, whom Kubatko recently relayed could retire at the end of 2019. Trumbo has sat out the season because of right knee problems, which came after issues in the joint held him to 90 games a year ago. We’re almost at the one-year anniversary of the knee surgery Trumbo underwent last September.
Regardless of whether Trumbo plays again this season, his Orioles tenure is likely nearing an end. Trumbo has just a few weeks remaining on the three-year, $37.5MM contract the Orioles re-signed him to after 2016, when he was coming off a major league-leading 47-home run season. Trumbo notched a career-best 125 wRC+ over 667 plate appearances that year, but he hasn’t been nearly as threatening since then. Trumbo combined to hit .244/.298/.417 (90 wRC+) with 40 homers in 961 PA from 2017-18.
The Baltimore organization has continued to cycle through arms at the MLB level, with an obvious need for depth. But the churn has also created a roster squeeze in the upper minors, which perhaps explains these moves.
Wotherspoon, 27, got his first MLB look earlier this year but failed to impress in a brief showing. He’s sporting a 5.54 ERA in 65 innings of Triple-A ball, with 9.3 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9.
As for Lucas, he has seen big-league time in two prior big-league seasons in addition to two stints this year with the O’s. The former 21st rounder twice accepted outright assignments but wasn’t on tap for a return to the MLB roster after managing only a 6.85 ERA in 23 2/3 frames with Norfolk.
- Orioles left-handed pitching prospect D.L. Hall has been shut down for the season following a left lat strain, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports (Twitter link). While the injury isn’t considered serious, Hall won’t have enough time to get back before the Orioles’ A-ball affiliate in Frederick completes its season. The 21st overall pick of the 2017 draft, Hall has a 3.46 ERA and 12.9 K/9 over 80 2/3 innings for Frederick this season, though with a troubling 6.0 BB/9. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Hall 35th in his midseason top-50 prospects list and Baseball America has Hall 38th in their top 100 list, while MLB.com (62) and Fangraphs (63) are just a touch less bullish on his promise.
Harvey, 24, is a former top prospect whose ascent was slowed by a number of injuries. When he enters a game, it will be a major league debut for Harvey, though it’s not his first call-up. Harvey spent three games with the big league club without making an appearance in April 2018, baltimorebaseball.com’s Rich Dubroff reminds us (via Twitter).
The 6’3″ North Carolina native has been a starter for most of his career, including for 11 turns in Double-A this season, where he went 2-5 with a 5.19 ERA/5.57 FIP/3.52 xFIP over 59 innings. Upon a promotion to Norfolk, Harvey moved to the bullpen. In 16 2/3 innings over 12 relief outings, he struck out 22 while walking just 5 batters en route to a 4.32 ERA/3.62 FIP. Fangraphs gives him a 40 FV while ranking him the Orioles 22nd best prospect before the start of the season. MLB.com currently pegs him as the organization’s 15th best prospect.
Eshelman, 25, has been an active traveler this season. He started the year in Reading with the Phillies Double-A affiliate. A month after being promoted to Lehigh Valley, the Phillies traded Eshelman to the Orioles in June. Eshelman made his debut in a spot start against the Rays on July 1. After giving up two runs over five in the 3-6 loss, he was optioned back to Triple-A until a call-up two weeks later.
In total, Eshelman made four starts and six relief appearances for Brandon Hyde’s club. He went 1-2 with a 6.50 ERA/7.33 FIP in 36 innings of work.
Let’s catch up on a few announcements regarding players who have been outrighted after clearing waivers …
- The Orioles announced that righty Jimmy Yacabonis is destined for Triple-A after clearing. He had struggled in a 41-inning showcase this year, managing only a 5.40 ERA with 7.2 K/9 against 5.3 BB/9. Yacabonis has produced similar numbers in parts of two prior seasons in the majors.
- A pair of hurlers are heading to the Yankees’ top affiliate via outright assignment. Southpaw Joe Mantiply struggled in his lone outing with the Yanks after being acquired from the Reds. That was his first time in the bigs since a brief 2016 debut. Righty Brady Lail also lost his 40-man spot after a single MLB appearance. He has worked to a 2.79 ERA with 11.8 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 over 42 minor-league frames this year.
- The Orioles signed left-hander Hunter Cervenka to a minor league contract. Cervenka had a 2.95 ERA, 10.5 K/9, and 2.17 K/BB rate over 42 2/3 innings for the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate this season before being released in late July. The 29-year-old has been able to consistently miss bats (career 9.4 K/9) over his 506 2/3 minor league innings, though given that he has also battled some at-times extreme control problems, this season’s 4.5 BB/9 is a fairly positive development for the southpaw. Cervenka tossed 48 innings for the Braves and Marlins in 2016-17 and hasn’t been back to the big leagues since, spending 2018 pitching in the independent Atlantic League and in the Tigers’ farm system.
The Orioles announced this afternoon that they’ve designated right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis for assignment. His spot on the roster will go to fellow righty Ryan Eades, whose previously reported waiver claim out of the Twins organization has now been formally announced by the Orioles.
Yacabonis, 27, has struggled substantially in the Majors despite solid, if unremarkable results in the upper minors. He’s in the midst of his final season with minor league options, so the Orioles seemingly value the flexibility that Eades brings to the table over a righty who has received numerous auditions in recent seasons.
Dating back to his 2017 MLB debut, Yacabonis has pitched 101 2/3 innings for the Orioles, mostly as a reliever or opener. In that time he’s turned in a 5.75 ERA while averaging 6.6 strikeouts, 5.0 walks and 1.68 home runs per nine innings pitched. Yacabonis’ heater has averaged 94 mph with slightly above-average spin in that time, but he’s given up far too much hard contact and struggled both throwing strikes and commanding the ball within the zone. He’ll be made available to the other 29 teams in the league via outright waivers in the coming days., though if he clears, the Orioles will be able to retain him and assign him to a minor league affiliate without dedicating a 40-man roster spot to him.