Step 2 in the Orioles’ purge came late Tuesday night, as they traded Zach Britton to the Yankees for three pitching prospects.
First of all, I am glad to see that the O’s didn’t get caught up in not wanting to trade with an intra-division rival. This had emerged as a fear of mine in recent weeks, but the O’s did what needed to be done: trade Britton to the team offering the best deal regardless of who that team is. It’s impossible to care about the potential embarrassment of helping the Yankees when you have the worst record in the majors. That’s the real embarrassment.
Britton is a classic example of a failed starter becoming an ace reliever. He was not at all a success as a starting pitcher at the major-league level from 2011-13, was made a reliever in 2014 due to being out of minor-league options and blossomed. Britton from 2014-16 had numbers that were sensational: 209 innings, 1.38 ERA, 299 ERA+, 0.909 WHIP. His 2016 is one of the greatest seasons ever by a reliever: four earned runs over 67 innings, good for a 0.54 ERA and 803 ERA+. And Britton set an American League record for 60 consecutive save opportunities converted from October 1, 2015 – August 21, 2017.
But Britton famously and inexplicably was not used by Buck Showalter in the Orioles’ 5-2 11-inning loss at Toronto in the AL Wild-Card Game in Oct. 2016, and this in many ways was the beginning of the end for not just Britton with the O’s but for the team’s run of success under Buck and Dan Duquette. Britton suffered through an injury-plagued and underwhelming 2017 (1.527 WHIP), during which he was nearly traded to Houston. And then came the disastrous news this past December that Britton had suffered a ruptured right Achilles while working out in California. He admirably made his major-league debut this season on June 12 and has been good since some early struggles, including getting his velocity back.
The package that the O’s got back for Britton is nowhere near what the Yankees got back for two relievers in Aroldis Chapman (second baseman Gleyber Torres and reliever Adam Warren) and Andrew Miller (outfielder Clint Frazier and pitcher Justus Sheffield) in those now infamous trades of July 2016. But as was the case with the five-player package that the O’s got back for Manny Machado from the Dodgers last Wednesday night, the consensus on the return seems to be more positive than negative. Of course, only time will tell. The centerpiece of what the O’s got back for Britton is starter Dillon Tate, who was the fourth overall pick of the 2015 draft and was ranked as the Yankees’ no. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline. Another piece, reliever Cody Carroll, was ranked as their no. 15 prospect, had a 2.38 ERA and 55 strikeouts over 41 2/3 innings for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season and has not allowed a home run over 171 batters faced this season. The third piece is lefty starter Josh Rogers, who has been pitching for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre but is not all that highly regarded.
It’s worth noting, though, that the O’s received just one top-100 prospect per MLB Pipeline (Cuban outfielder Yusniel Diaz) among the eight players the team got back for Machado and Britton. It’s hard to call this some great haul. Ya do like that the O’s got back eight guys and are diversifying the chances for hits.
So who and what are next in what is hopefully a much-needed unloading of players and necessary rebuild? Well, Adam Jones and Brad Brach, the Orioles’ two other major free agents-to-be this offseason, need to go, though Brach has been really bad this season (4.85 ERA, 1.77 WHIP). I maintain that Mark Trumbo should be traded, as he’s in the second season of a pretty modest three-year contract. Jonathan Schoop has gotten hot off a horrendous start to his season, so I would be open to trading him off having deemed him an untouchable last season. And then there are Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.
MLB insider Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweeted on Monday that the Colorado Rockies were scouting Bundy and Gausman, adding that the Rockies have had a longstanding interest in Gausman, who is a Colorado native. I said last year when I was begging the O’s to trade away their assess and begin the necessary rebuild that Bundy and Gausman would be among the players I wouldn’t trade. I’m now off that. Now, I wouldn’t just give these guys away. But Bundy is set to be a free agent after the 2021 season. Gausman is set to be a free agent after the 2020 season. The O’s may well still be rebuilding when these guys hit free agency. Why not potentially trade them now, when their new teams will be getting these players with multiple years of team control? The O’s have got to be forward thinking in how they engage in this rebuild; lack of foresight killed them regarding Manny Machado. There’s another key point: Bundy (the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft) and Gausman (the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft) just aren’t that good. They have their moments and have offered flashes of greatness, but the notion that either guy is a true “ace” is just wrong. Gausman got bombed in the 5-3 loss to Boston on Monday night, giving up five runs in 4 2/3 innings. He now has a 4.54 ERA and 1.37 WHIP over 20 starts this season. He had a 4.68 ERA and 1.49 WHIP over 34 starts last season. That’s not an “ace” or anything close. Bundy has a 4.57 ERA over 19 starts this season off a 4.24 ERA over 28 starts in 2017. Again, not exactly ace-like.