Three years ago near the trade deadline, the Orioles engaged in the selling-off of their remaining top assets. It brought a glimmer of hope to a team careening toward a disastrous 47-115 season.
The reality hasn’t been so cheery.
Upfront, let’s be clear that the Orioles lost these trades, particularly the Britton and Machado deals, regardless of what these players do in the future. The team could have gotten a greater return at the 2017 deadline or during the 2017-18 offseason than they ever could have received at the 2018 deadline.
All that being said, let’s take a look at these trades individually.
The Manny Machado Trade
Here’s what I thought the Orioles could actually get for Manny Machado
Those players are Walker Buehler, who has been an all-world pitcher for the Dodgers; Alex Verdugo, who got flipped to the Red Sox for 60-games of Mookie Betts; Caleb Ferguson, who is 25 but just had Tommy John surgery; and Keibert Ruiz, who is still 23.
The Orioles of course got nothing even resembling this package. Here’s what the team actually got:
IF Rylan Bannon has not been lighting the world on fire in Norfolk. He’s spent some time on the IL.
OF Yusniel Díaz was the centerpiece of the trade. He too has been hurt at Norfolk and still hasn’t made the major leagues.
RHP Dean Kremer has been a disaster this year in the Orioles rotation. He is 0-7 with a 7.25 ERA.
LHP Zach Pop made the majors……but after the Orioles lost him in the Rule 5 draft to the Marlins. It doesn’t appear that the Marlins will have any interest in returning him.
IF Breyvic Valera played 12 games for the Orioles. Since then, the Orioles have sold him to the Giants, and he has been successively selected off waivers by the Yankees, Blue Jays, Padres, and the Blue Jays again. He’s currently playing for AAA Buffalo.
For the Dodgers sake, they went to the World Series with Machado before they lost to the Red Sox before losing Machado in free agency to the Padres.
It’s hard to say the Dodgers won the trade, since their goal was expressly to win the World Series and they did not do that. However, the Orioles certainly lost the trade regardless. The Dodgers got 2.5 in WAR in 66 games from Machado. The Orioles have received a -0.2 WAR from all five players combined in the last three years.
This trade could redeem itself if Bannon and Diaz become serviceable Major League players. But Diaz was already supposed to be a big league stalwart by this point, so unless he comes up and wins the Rookie of the Year or something his contributions will not live up to expectations.
The Jonathan Schoop Trade
In one of the surprising deals on deadline day, the Orioles traded Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers. In return, they received:
IF Jean Carmona is still a 21-year old lottery ticket infielder;
RHP Luis Ortiz pitched 5.2 not very good innings for the 2018 and 2019 Orioles. He is currently pitching in the Rangers system.
IF Jonathan Villar had a career year in his one full season for the Orioles in 2019, a 4.5 WAR player who arguable should have been an All-Star. Unfortunately, the Orioles shipped him to Miami in a salary dump for LHP Easton Lucas, a 24-year old pitching in A-ball.
Schoop actually wound up having a 0.0 WAR for the Brewers; he was not very good at all before they non-tendered him after the 2018 season. Schoop had a decent season in 2019 for the Twins, and has spent the last two years with the Tigers.
In the short term, the Orioles actually won this trade. The season-and-half of Jonathan Villar for the Orioles was better than the half-season of Schoop the Brewers received. And yet this trade leaves a sour taste in my mouth. The Orioles gave up on Schoop the year after he hit 32 home runs and went to the All Star Game. He’s still not thirty yet. And the Villar salary dump left a sour taste in my mouth since they basically gave the Marlins Villar for absolutely nothing. So yeah, the Orioles won; but it seems to be have been a pyrrhic victory.
The Brad Brach Trade
The Orioles dumped Brach to the Braves for international bonus slot money. Hard to evaluate a trade where only slot money is coming back. But Brach was great for the Braves during their playoff run.
The Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day Trade
Speaking of the Orioles giving up on guys, now we get to the Kevin Gausman trade. Somehow, the Orioles managed to make two different trades with the Braves on consecutive days.
Even before we get to the players received in return, this trade looks horrible in hindsight. Gausman was a 2021 National League All Star for the Giants and has a sub 2.00 ERA. At a time when the Orioles have exactly one serviceable Major League Pitcher in the rotation, the Orioles could use a guy like that.
Gausman went 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA down the stretch in 2018 for the Braves, but was a mess in 2019, going 3-7 with a 6.19 ERA before the Braves waived him. Ultimately, he was a 0.2 WAR for the Braves.
Darren O’Day was a salary dump throw in, seeing as how he was injured at the time of the trade. In 2019 and 2020 with Atlanta we 1.25 ERA and a 0.9 WAR. Yes, the throw-in wind up giving the Braves more WAR than the centerpiece.
C Brett Cumberland and still hasn’t made the majors yet. Given the Orioles catching woes this season, maybe he should. But he’s only hitting .209 at Norfolk right now. Cumberland probably felt better about his potential major league trajectory before the Orioles drafted Adley Rutschman in 2019. But Rutschman will need a backup, so maybe Cumberland could fill that role some day.
IF JC Encarnacion washed out of the Orioles system and is now playing for the York Revolution
RHP Evan Phillips has pitched to a -0.5 WAR for the Birds in 44 appearances in 2018, 2019, and 2020. He’s having a decent season at Norfolk right now and will almost certainly pitch for the big club at some point the rest of the season.
LHP Bruce Zimmermann has been the most useful acquisition so far. The hometown kid has been the second best pitcher in the starting rotation this year (before his injury) pitching this year to a 4-4 record with a 4.83 ERA. He has a total 0.6 WAR.
They also received international bonus slot money.
So at the end of the day, the Braves received a total 1.1 WAR from the Orioles in this trade in exchange for 0.1 WAR so far. Now there’s still opportunity for the Orioles to receive more value in this deal if Zimmermann continues to develop as a Major League pitcher after his injury, if Phillips becomes a serviceable reliever, or if Cumberland becomes a reliable backup catcher, the total WAR could come out in the Orioles favor.
But it’s still hard to say the Orioles won this trade, regardless of who eventually wins the battle of the WAR, because of Gausman going 9-3 with a 1.73 ERA before the All Star Break and because of the train wreck of a rotation the Orioles currently have.
The Zack Britton Trade
The Britton deal was the hardest pill to swallow because the Orioles traded him to the Yankees and then he ultimately resigned with the Yankees. You never like to see the Orioles make trades with the Yankees, especially when the deal sends the Evil Empire an all-world relief pitcher.
The wildest thing about the trade is that Britton was one of the best closers in baseball from 2014-2016 and he got traded to a team where he’s not even the most dominated left-handed closer on the team since the Yankees have Aroldis Chapman. In the three years since the trade, Britton has only 14 saves, though he has pitched to a 2.22 ERA and a 3.4 WAR.
The haul the Orioles got from the Yankees is the only haul that so far has included all players who have made the bigs. Not, so far, that that matters:
RHP Cody Carroll has pitched to a 13.74 ERA and a -0.9 WAR in 19 IP for the Orioles. He’s currently pitching to a 4.70 ERA at Norfolk right now and is almost 29 years old. I’m pretty sure the Orioles are getting what they are going to get from Carroll.
LHP Josh Rogers pitched to a 1-3 record with an 8.65 ERA and a -0.5 WAR in 26 IP. The Orioles released him in June and he is now pitching with Rochester in the Nationals system.
RHP Dillon Tate was the centerpiece of the trade. The club thought he might be a starter, but has instead been a bullpen piece since getting called up in 2019. In three seasons, he’s pitched to a 0.5 WAR.
The Orioles actually got a pretty nice haul. Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll and Josh Rogers are all nice pieces. While it may seem like a bit of an overpay in talent, all three were set to be Rule 5 eligible, thus needing room on an already crowded 40-man roster. That said, the Orioles did improve in this trade and got two pieces that may be ready to help immediately.
Yeah, it did not turn out that way.
So the final numbers: Britton was a 3.4 WAR for the Yankees. The Orioles have received -0.9 WAR in return from three players. Given how hard it is for relievers to accumulate WAR, I don’t see the Orioles winning this trade in the immediate future.
Look, not every trade is Larry Andersen for Jeff Bagwell or James Shields for Fernando Tatis, Jr.. I think we all understand that. But if you aggregate everything the Orioles traded at and right before the 2018 Trade Deadline, the Orioles traded 7.4 WAR in value to the their trade partners and received a combined 5.1 WAR in return, most of which was generated by Jonathan Villar.
Partially, this shows you the problems with making deals at the deadline. When you’re, for the most part, trading rental players whose contracts are expiring, you can’t get the value in return you can get when you make deals in the offseason.
Compare these deals to the Erik Bedard deal where the Orioles received Chris Tillman, Adam Jones, and others in return.
The Dan Duquette regime is gone now, but it seems the Mike Elias has learned some of the lessons from their mistakes.