One of the ongoing stories for the Orioles this offseason has been that teams want their relievers. A couple of days ago, we heard about the Mets being interested in Brad Brach, possibly as a piece to net the Orioles one of the Mets outfielders. According to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, another team has checked in about Brach: the Braves.
Don’t expect a trade any time soon, though, because Sherman says what the Orioles asked for was viewed as being too much by the Braves. The O’s wanted 23-year-old outfielder Mallex Smith and more on top of that in exchange for Brach.
Smith was originally drafted by the Padres in the fifth round in the 2012 draft. The Padres traded him to the Braves in the Justin Upton trade in December of 2014. The 5’9” lefty made his MLB debut this past season, batting .238/.316/.365 over 215 plate appearances in 72 games. He missed three months of the season due to a broken thumb suffered when he was hit by a pitch.
That’s an underwhelming debut, to be sure, but if you look at his performance when he was on the way up the ladder as a prospect, it’s not hard to see why he was interesting to teams. Although he’s never hit for a lot of power, he maintained a walk rate of over 10% at every level up to Double-A, with an OBP at .360 or higher. In the minors, he was mostly a center fielder.
So there’s still some upside there to be shown at the MLB level, surely - although there’s risk too. Orioles fans are plenty familiar with players who are good up through Double-A but just don’t have enough skill to succeed at higher levels. Which is probably why they wanted a little more than just Smith from the Braves.
Although it seems like nothing will be happening from this one, it’s interesting to hear what the Orioles are looking for to potentially trade Brach. For the O’s, it’s probably better if they are able to spin two years of Brach (or Zach Britton, or whoever) into more years of a player who fills a hole on the team, rather than for one year of someone like Curtis Granderson.
A player like Smith, who won’t be a free agent until after the 2021 season, who can play center field well, is exactly who the Orioles should be looking for. Smith was worth +7 runs in the outfield in just 451 innings last season, per Defensive Runs Saved.
That’s good! That means Adam Jones can get some more rest with a capable backup, and Smith would presumably be able to slide in to right field on other days, though he’s only played a grand total of 51 professional innings there.
As always, probably nothing will happen. But in this case, if something like this ends up happening later, that would be OK. The Orioles seem like they’re not going to trade a reliever unless they get the price they want. That’s just fine.