The Orioles added another young pitcher to their growing arsenal at the expense of one of their most productive players. They also perhaps said goodbye to a hitter who has been among the best in MLB against left-handed pitching.
Baltimore acquired right-handed pitchers Garrett Stallings and Jean Pinto from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for infielder José Iglesias, who batted a team-high .373 and led MLB with a .476 (30-for-63) average with runners on base.
Shortly after, the team declined to tender a contract to infielder Hanser Alberto, allowing him to become a free agent.
“We continue to view the accumulation of talent as a priority and the reality is when you are in a phase like we are, anytime you sign a free agent, it’s in the back of your mind that the trade possibilities exist with that player,” Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said of the Iglesias deal in a Zoom call with reporters.
Stallings was the centerpiece of the deal with the Angels. He was a fifth-round pick by Los Angeles in the 2019 draft from Tennessee, where he managed a 3.33 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 106 strikeouts in 102.2 innings as a junior. Stallings has yet to pitch in a professional game, but Elias likes his potential.
Pinto posted a 2.25 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 12 innings in the Dominican Summer League in 2019.
However, it was a difficult decision to part with Iglesias, whose production and defensive prowess will be difficult to replace in the short-term. Baltimore exercised Iglesias’ $3.5 million club option for 2021 earlier this month, which made the move even more surprising.
“We knew he was very attractive for his offensive, defensive and leadership skills that he put on display with the Orioles,” Elias said. “I think that we got two quality arms from the Angels, one of whom, in particular, is somebody that we’ve been focused on since he was in the 2019 draft — Garrett Stallings, one of the best pitchers in the Southeastern Conference that year.”
The Orioles hope they can re-acquire Alberto, who was expected to make about $2.3 million in 2021, compared to $1.7 million last season. Alberto slashed .283/.306/.393 with 15 doubles, three home runs and 22 RBIs in 54 games (231 plate appearances). He hit .375/.396/.521 in 53 plate appearances against lefties.
“We have absolutely loved having Hanser in every way, shape and form since he got here,” Elias said. “He’s a terrific player. I expect that he’ll have opportunities and interest, but part of our job is to operate within the economic framework of the collective bargaining agreement and the rules that are in place, and the quirks of the arbitration system. You saw today a lot of really good players around the league get non-tendered as part of this process.
“He’s somebody that we continue to have an interest in pursuing. We feel this is a great home for him and continues to be and we will continue talking to him.”
In addition, the Orioles agreed to terms with right-handed pitcher Shawn Armstrong, catcher Pedro Severino and infielders Pat Valaika and Yolmer Sánchez on 2021 contracts, avoiding arbitration. Elias also tendered 2021 contracts to infielder/outfielder Trey Mancini and outfielder Anthony Santander.
Elias said the Orioles are still in rebuilding mode, but they are on the right path in building a sturdy infrastructure. He contends the Tampa Bay Rays, who reached the 2020 World Series, have been a successful model to follow as far as winning with homegrown talent.
“I think it’s accurate to say we’re still in the phase of accumulating talent and trying to rise to the top of young talent,” Elias said. “We want to have the best young talent in baseball. I think we’re going to need that to compete in this division. The baseline that we have, while it’s improving and improving rapidly, there’s still room to go.”
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