- While Lowe will take more than the minimum to recover from his injury, Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy hopes to be more fortunate. Bundy was placed on the IL yesterday with right knee tendinitis, but he tells Roch Kubatko of MASN (via Twitter) he’s confident he can return when first eligible on July 23. It’s been more of the same this year for the former fourth overall pick; despite a solid 24% strikeout rate and 7.9% walk rate, an inability to keep the ball in the yard has Bundy’s ERA above 5.00 for the second consecutive season. Given his performance, he seems unlikely to be much of a trade chip this summer, even if he does return to the field in short order.
5:30pm: Baltimore will pay approximately half of the ~$3.36MM in guarantees left on Cashner’s deal, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets. The Orioles also owe Cashner $1.5MM in signing bonus money in both 2020 and ’21.
Cashner, 32, was famously swapped straight-up for Anthony Rizzo in a 2011 trade between the Cubs and Padres. After a breakout 2013 campaign, in which the hard-throwing righty posted a 3.09 ERA/3.35 FIP (2.6 fWAR) in 26 starts, it’s been mostly unfulfilled promise for the former first-rounder. The TCU product was smashed in the first season of a two-year, $16MM deal he signed with Baltimore prior to the 2018 campaign, with a near-league-low 5.82 K/9 against 3.82 BB/9 en route to a 0.6 fWAR season in 28 starts.
He’s been better this year, though his K rate remains among the league’s lowest and peripheral markers (4.25 FIP, 4.88 xFIP) are non-believers in the sustainability of his 3.83 ERA. Cashner’s average fastball velocity, once an eye-popping 98.8 MPH in predominant relief for the 2012 Padres, now sits at a barely-above-league average 94.0. He’s mostly scrapped the bread-and-butter sinker he featured so prominently from 2013-18, overhauling his repertoire back to the four-seam/changeup/slider mix with which he began his career. Returns have been positive: his 8.7% swinging-strike rate is his highest since transitioning full-time to a big-league rotation, and his chase rate’s bettered the standard he established from 2016-18. Cashner’s grounder-heavy repertoire should play well in Fenway Park, with any opposite-side power somewhat neutralized by the ballpark’s spacious right-field dimensions.
Our own Steve Adams offered ample justification for transitioning the righty back to a late-inning role, but it appears such a move won’t be in the short-term cards for the Bo Sox. Cashner will apparently start Tuesday’s game for Boston, with GM Dave Dombrowski noting that the move eases the undue stress the club’s bullpen has endured thus far. Cashner’s two-year deal includes a $10MM vesting option for 2020 should the righty eclipse the 187 inning mark this year, a fact of which his acquiring club is surely aware.
Boston’s rotation has been solid this season, though it’s true that the fifth spot has been a sore one. Hector Velazquez, Brian Johnson, Ryan Weber, Josh A. Smith and Darwinzon Hernandez have each tried their hands, to less-than-stellar results, and the club had no clear fill-in at the minors’ upper levels. Nathan Eovaldi is set to return soon, but the team expects to plug him straight in to its beleaguered closer’s role.
Both Prado and Romero, 17, will transition from the Red Sox Dominican Summer League affiliate to that of the Orioles. Neither are big-time bonus babies, and reports are scarce, but Orioles GM Mike Elias does have ample experience scouting in Latin America from his time with the Cardinals and Astros organizations.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Bundy underwent a medical exam this morning after feeling discomfort during yesterday’s shellacking at the hands of the Rays, per MASN’s Roch Kubatko. Bundy and the Orioles will sleep better chalking this one up to the injury after Bundy suffered through an 8-hit, 7-run barrage in his shortest outing of the year. He was pulled after one inning. The cavalry didn’t fare much better against the Rays, as Gabriel Ynoa wore the damage a day before they’d planned to use him in a piggyback role. Ynoa was ultimately tagged with 9 runs, 7 earned in 5 1/3 innings.
Bundy took the loss, falling to 4-11 on the year. In 18 starts, Bundy has a 5.28 ERA (5.30 FIP) with a 3.03 strikeout to walk ratio while lobbing 2.1 home runs per nine innings. His numbers took a hit with yesterday’s loss, of course, but the overall numbers aren’t far off what the Orioles have come used to seeing out of Bundy.
Scott, 27, is recalled for the first time since being acquired from the Mariners. He made two starts and three bullpen appearances in Seattle, serving up 10 earned runs in just 7 2/3 innings of work. The South African native was a 5th round draft pick of the Cubs in 2011. David Hess, meanwhile, will serve as the 26th man for today’s doubleheader, a role with which he is by now quite familiar.
- The Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk announced several roster moves today, including the news that right-hander Matt Wotherspoon was outrighted to Triple-A after clearing waivers. Wotherspoon was designated for assignment last week, and this marks the second time this season that the O’s outrighted him off their 40-man roster. Now in his sixth pro season, Wotherspoon made his Major League debut earlier this year, getting hit hard for eight earned runs over 4 2/3 innings for Baltimore.
Rookie Orioles GM Mike Elias held a long and interesting chat with Dan Connolly of The Athletic (subscription link), touching upon a host of topics of interest to the broader player market. The full interview transcript is essential reading for fans of the Baltimore organization, in particular, but we’ll cover a few key bits of hot stove relevance here.
Though the Orioles roster isn’t exactly brimming with trade chips, it does have a few of note. Elias says that trade chatter volume is “already very high.” Deadline work is “really the main thing that the front office staff and I are spending our time on now in the month of July.”
While he wasn’t willing and/or able to predict how many moves the O’s will end up swinging this summer, Elias left no doubt that he’s ready for action. He did drop a few clues on some key player assets as well. Elias suggested the Orioles put a high value on reliever Mychal Givens, saying that “he’s striking out more people than ever and is throwing really hard.” While the results haven’t been there for Givens, he figures to be a target of contenders in search of pen upgrades — as we discussed in ranking him the top O’s trade candidate.
The most valuable potential summer trade piece on the roster is surely outfielder Trey Mancini, a player examined not long back by MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk. Elias largely reiterated his previously stated stance on Mancini, calling him “a very big part of the future of this team” while reiterating that the team is “in a position in our competitive cycle where we need to be open to anything that comes our way.”
On paper, the single likeliest player to be moved is starter Andrew Cashner. Prior reporting indicates the organization is unsurprisingly quite willing to do so. The veteran righty threw his trade status into some uncertainty with some ambiguous recent comments (also in a chat with Connolly) in which he suggested he’d need to decide whether to accept a trade despite lacking no-trade protection. Elias wisely skirted the topic, saying: “I don’t read too much into it. It’s not anything that we’ve discussed.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a matter of no moment whatsoever. MLBTR’s Steve Adams has argued that Cashner ought to be shifted into a relief role; some clubs would surely consider him as such, particularly entering the postseason. They’ll want assurances that the hurler will report if they strike a deal, making some added work for Elias to avoid complications. The GM heaped praise upon Cashner, saying that he has enjoyed “a big bounceback” and “looks terrific.” No doubt the O’s will hope they can massage the situation and come away with a decent return.
If interest never develops on Cashner, it could still make sense to hang onto him. After all, the club has an interest in filling innings even in a hopeless season. Elias discussed the difficulty of keeping palatable arms on the roster. To his credit, he didn’t sugarcoat the situation or pull punches, acknowledging that the organization has had to rely on players that may not quite have been prepared for the challenge. “They’re working hard,” he said of the many members of the staff, “but it’s difficult to come up and compete in the major leagues [and] in this division against major-league hitters if you don’t have major-league command or major-league stuff or some combination of the two of those things.” The O’s hope to build out greater depth to further “stabilize” the pitching situation. “I think we’ve made some minor additions recently in the past couple weeks and we’ll continue to do that,” said Elias.
That doesn’t mean the long-term focus will change, of course. Elias cited “three broad goals” and identified progress in each area. “[E]levating the talent level across the organization” was an obvious key. The top Baltimore baseball decisionmaker says he was pleased with recent amateur efforts. He calls 1-1 draft pick Adley Rutschman “a player that, across draft years, is somebody that stands out.” Elias also praised the organization’s international efforts: “it was just important for us to get it going and I think that we even exceeded our own expectations.”
Of equal importance for long-term sustainability, Elias gave a glimpse of some of the less visible work being done:
“We also want to elevate the capabilities of our baseball operations department and we have certainly done that on the international side. But [Vice President & Assistant General Manager, Analytics] Sig Mejdal and staff are doing so much behind the scenes to equip our decision-makers and our player development people and our scouting people with tools that they need to do their jobs well and compete around the league and provide us with an edge, one day, in terms of our decision-making and our capabilities. And we’ve got a lot going on there. And we’ve also got all kinds of projects going on behind the scenes in terms of planning with infrastructure, with facilities and all that’s happening. And happening with the support and involvement of ownership. So, I really think we’re moving things in the right direction this year, in a big way. We’re doing it fast and we’re gonna keep going.”
In one other area of particular contractual interest, Elias again addressed the subject of highly paid former slugging star Chris Davis. The 33-year-old has had some moments this year, but there’s no denying that his problems are far from resolved. Elias reiterated the team’s commitment to Davis:
“He’s a big part of this team and this team’s history and we’ve got him here. So it makes sense for everyone to try to make the most of the situation and get him back to where he needs to be. We think it’s possible. And we’ve seen flashes of it and it’s a big priority for us.”
While one wonders whether the O’s will eventually have a breaking point with Davis, who’s owed $23MM annually through 2022 (a chunk of it deferred), the club obviously isn’t there yet.
Orioles righty Josh Lucas cleared waivers and has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Norfolk, per a team announcement. He was designated for assignment when Baltimore claimed former A’s righty Aaron Brooks off waivers. Brooks has now been formally added to Baltimore’s big league roster, the team also announced.
It’s the second time that Lucas, 28, has accepted an outright assignment with the Orioles this season rather than head out into free agency. In two stints with the big league club, Lucas has pitched to a 5.74 ERA. To his credit, Lucas has 16 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings and has continually shown an ability to keep the ball on the ground at an above-average clip. He’s not a hard thrower, averaging 90-91 mph on his heater, but he’s nevertheless managed to be fairly stingy in terms of surrendering home runs throughout his minor league career.
In 114 career innings of Triple-A ball, Lucas has a 3.47 ERA with 8.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and 0.5 HR/9. Given the patchwork state of the Orioles’ roster, it seems quite possible that another opportunity in the Majors could present itself later in the year (which undoubtedly factored into Lucas’ decision to accept the assignment).
To state that the Baltimore Orioles figure to be deadline sellers would be an understatement. At 27-61, the Orioles are likely on a fast-track to the #1 overall pick in the 2020 Rule Four draft, and it’s no secret that teams at such a juncture are often the most eager to unload veteran assets for pieces that more neatly fit within the next contention window.
Of course, a bigger issue for a team like the Orioles is what, if any, pieces are on hand that would attract serious attention from clubs in search of improvement. After trading star third baseman Manny Machado at last year’s deadline, Baltimore’s Opening Day lineup this season consisted mostly of lightly regarded journeymen and faded former standouts like Jonathan Villar and Chris Davis. One member of that Opening Day lineup, however, has begun to generate serious trade interest in advance of the July 31st trade deadline, according to a report from Ken Rosenthal (via Twitter).
After a 2018 season that saw him regress to below-average league offensive levels (93 wRC+), outfielder Trey Mancini has reasserted himself this year as a high-caliber big league bat. From an offensive standpoint, Mancini’s .297 /.354 /.528 slash line (130 wRC+) would seem to represent a marked improvement over the outfield options of many clubs, even if defensive metrics continue to dog the 27-year-old’s performance on the grass. At worst, Mancini would seem to profile as a cheap, controllable DH option for an acquiring AL club.
Rosenthal does point out, however, that such cheap control could actually prove to be an impediment to a potential trade. Mancini, who will carry an arbitration figure for the first time next season, is currently making the league minimum, and–as a productive and recognizable Orioles player–he could be considered more valuable to the O’s franchise than to any other club. It may be just as reasonable, based on that viewpoint, to speculate the Orioles could play the wait-and-see game on Mancini’s market – perhaps with an eye on an offseason deal.
Orioles general manager Mike Elias suggested in late June it would be difficult for the starter-starved club to part with either Dylan Bundy or Andrew Cashner prior to the July 31 trade deadline. However, at least in Cashner’s case, Baltimore “certainly would” part with the right-hander, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Elias has been “checking the Cashner market for quite a while,” Kubatko adds.
The Orioles obviously haven’t found a taker for Cashner yet, though he has upped his value with a resurgent year. After Cashner’s disastrous 2018, his first season as an Oriole, it would have been difficult to envision him emerging as a trade chip this summer. But the 32-year-old has come out of the gates this season with a 3.83 ERA/4.26 FIP, 6.17 K/9 against 2.71 BB/9, and a 49.2 percent groundball rate in 96 1/3 innings. Cashner turned in his fifth consecutive quality start Saturday, throwing seven innings of one-run ball in Toronto.
Cashner’s success in 2019 has come thanks in part to an ability to stymie opposite-handed hitters, whom he has limited to a paltry .229 weighted on-base average. At the same time, Cashner has held enemy lineups to a .273 wOBA the first time through the order, a .311 mark the second time and a .312 figure the third time. Cashner’s better output has come with an increase in velocity. He averaged 92.4 mph on his fastball a year ago, but the number has revisited its 93.5 mph mean from 2017 – a season in which he defied uninspiring peripherals to post a 3.40 ERA with the Rangers. He landed a two-year, $16MM deal from the O’s the next winter as a result.
Cashner’s on track to reach free agency again during the upcoming offseason, and he is owed approximately $3.7MM of his current $8MM salary in the meantime. Considering Cashner is not a major difference-maker at this stage of his career, Baltimore might have to eat some of his remaining money to augment his trade value in the next few weeks. If Cashner keeps pitching well until then, though, he may indeed end the season with a playoff contender.
Brooks, 29, appeared in 15 games for the A’s this season, starting six. He was mostly rocked over that span, pitching to a 5.01 ERA/5.67 FIP with a chilling 12 homers allowed in just 50 1/3 IP. The former Royal, Cub, and Brewer farmhand’s had major difficulty keeping the ball in the yard throughout his nine-year big-league career, so he wouldn’t figure to be a choice fit for Baltimore’s cozy Camden Yards dimensions.
Lucas, 28 and coincidentally a member of the A’s last season, was hit hard in nine appearances for Baltimore this season. The righty’s average fastball checked in at just 90.1 MPH for the club this year, well below the 93.5 MLB reliever average.
It’s the latest in a near-constant reshuffling of the Oriole pitching staff this season, yet again a sore spot for the club on its second consecutive #1 pick trajectory. Only John Means and Andrew Cashner have offered any solace in the rotation, with 23 bullpen members combining to post a league-high 1.89 HR/9.
Orioles left-hander Josh Rogers underwent his second Tommy John surgery today, manager Brandon Hyde announced to reporters (Twitter links via Joe Trezza of MLB.com). He’ll miss the remainder of the 2019 season and, in all likelihood, the bulk of the 2020 campaign as well. Rogers also underwent Tommy John surgery in high school back in 2013.
Rogers, 24, came to the Orioles as part of the trade that sent Zack Britton to the division-rival Yankees prior to last year’s non-waiver trade deadline. At the time, he looked like a near-MLB-ready arm that could occupy a spot at the back of the rotation or in the bullpen. Last year saw Rogers pitch to a combined 3.54 ERA in 139 2/3 innings between the Triple-A affiliates for the two organizations. Given his proximity to the Majors, he was viewed as a candidate to log a fair share of innings for the Orioles in the first full season of their rebuild.
However, Rogers has struggled immensely both in the Majors and in Triple-A this season, logging an ERA north of 8.00 in a combined 69 1/3 innings. It’s certainly possible that issues in his elbow contributed to his poor results in 2019, though. While he’s not considered a premium prospect, Rogers ranked 28th among Baltimore farmhands heading into the season, according to Baseball America, who tabbed him as a potential fifth starter. For an Orioles club that is desperately thin on arms behind John Means, Andrew Cashner and Dylan Bundy, that would’ve been a most welcome outcome. Rogers is the second pitching prospect acquired in last summer’s fire sale to undergo Tommy John surgery this year, joining fellow righty Zach Pop, whom the Orioles acquired as part of their return for Manny Machado.
Instead, the Orioles have looked to a pair of minor trades to try to help stop the bleeding in the final two spots of the rotation. Baltimore acquired right-hander Tom Eshelman from the Phillies in exchange for international bonus money last month and acquired righty Asher Wojciechowski from the Indians in exchange for cash on Monday this week. Eshelman made his big league debut Monday, and the well-traveled Wojciechowski followed him in the rotation last night. There will likely be plenty of fluctuation in the composition of the team’s rotation between now and season’s end, but Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that the out-of-options Wojciechowski will remain in the starting five for now.