During the past month the Orioles, have dealt three members of their bullpen in Richard Bleier, Mychal Givens and then, with just minutes left on the clock, Miguel Castro. One of the things about bullpens on a bad team — and the Orioles have been a bad team since their 22-10 opening act of the 2017 season — is that all they do is stop the bleeding when the patient is not salvageable.
So while I liked each of those three and I love for teams I root for to have strong bullpens, the loss of these three will open up more defined roles for Dillon Tate, Hunter Harvey, Cesar Valdez, and who knows, maybe Bruce Zimmermann. In case you haven’t noticed due to the blown saves by Cole Sulser, some other relievers have been very good, including Shawn Armstrong, Paul Fry, Travis Lakins and especially Tanner Scott. It remains to be seen if Sulser will get swallowed up by his late-game implosions.
And let’s be real clear: If you give enough chances to guys in your organization, you can create a top tier ‘pen. The Orioles right now may be struggling to get a closer established, but they have enough talent in Harvey, Tate, Lakins, Scott and maybe Sulser to be in good shape.
And who’s to say that one or two of the arms GM Mike Elias picked up in the Dylan Bundy and Jonathan Villar deals last winter don’t fill out the ‘pen? But enough about the ‘pen. What about the return the Orioles got for the aforementioned trio of relievers plus Tommy Milone?
As is his mantra, Elias at every turn talks about adding players to the organization who make the team better. We still don’t know who the Orioles will get from the Marlins to complete the Bleier trade. The player to be named later is especially prevalent in trades this year because the only players teams can trade during the season this year are players in 60-man pools.
The return for Milone was two players to be named later. If you watched Milone’s performance in his Braves debut, during which he was staked to a 10-0 lead and then had to be removed before he could go the requisite five innings, you’d probably take a bat and a ball for Milone. But seriously, the return may very well be two young international players who may make a dent 4-6 years from now.
In the last deal before the deadline, the O’s received 6-foot-5 left-handed pitcher Kevin Smith from the Mets for Castro. Smith was ranked the No. 12 prospect in the Mets’ system by MLB Pipeline. In 2019, Smith started 17 games at High-A Port St. Lucie, posting a 3.15 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 85.2 innings. He was bumped up to Double-A Binghamton in time to make six starts at that level. He threw 31.1 innings, recording a 3.45 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. All told, Smith had 130 strikeouts in 117 innings last year.
The Givens deal provides the Orioles with two honest-to-goodness players plus a player to be named later. The two players are infielder Terrin Vavra and first baseman Tyler Nevin. They were the No. 7 and 14 prospects in the Rockies organization, respectively, according to MLB Pipeline.
Both have deep baseball backgrounds. Vavra’s father, Joe, is the hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers, and Nevin’s father, Phil, is currently the third base coach for the New York Yankees. There is some irony with a Nevin ending up an Oriole. Phil vetoed a trade from the San Diego Padres to the Orioles in 2005, and when Phil was selected No. 1 in the 1992 draft, the Orioles actually ended up with the player everyone wanted in Jeffrey Hammonds, who the O’s got at No. 4. If the Astros weren’t trying to be frugal at the time and had drafted Hammonds, maybe Phil would have been an Oriole much sooner.
Vavra was a third-round pick in the 2018 draft out of the University of Minnesota. He is 23 years old and has played two seasons of professional ball. In 2018, he batted .302/.396/.467 with Short-A Boise in the Northwest League. In 2019, he hit .318/.409/.489 at Low-A Asheville in the South Atlantic League.
Nevin is also 23 and has been playing professionally since 2015. In 2019, he hit .251/.345/.399 with Double-A Hartford in the Eastern League. In 2018, he hit .328/.386/.503 at High-A Lancaster in the California League. In both of those seasons, Nevin hit 13 home runs. He knocked in 61 runs in 2019 and 62 in 2018. Elias said Nevin projects to be the first baseman at Triple-A Norfolk in 2021.
All in all, Elias does keep moving the rebuild along. In the case of the Milone deal, it opened the door for them to take a month-long look at Keegan Akin as a starting pitcher. The Castro and Givens deals really paved the way for the club to take extended looks at Hunter Harvey and Dillon Tate. Both will be counted on heavily.
Photo Credits: Kenya Allen/PressBox