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Orioles’ international bonus trade strategy begins showing major league results

Players like starter Yefry Ramirez and reliever Paul Fry are starting to make an impact on the big league club after being acquired with international bonus money last year.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

By now, the Orioles’ game plan regarding international bonus slot money is fairly well known. Instead of spending said money on prospects from out of the country, Baltimore commonly uses it to trade for players.

It’s a controversial strategy to many, considering the amount of talent coming into the major leagues from afar. Yet recently, the Orioles have been unwilling to participate in the international market in a significant way. But the fruits of their labor from trading bonus slots in the past year plus are starting to show now.

The Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli chronicled a series of trades Baltimore made in 2017 using international bonus money in this piece from last summer. Two names in the aforementioned article stick out because they currently reside on the Orioles’ 25-man roster; Yefry Ramirez and Paul Fry.

The Orioles got Fry from the Seattle Mariners on April 14, 2017, and Ramirez came from the New York Yankees on July 31, 2017. Both players were acquired for future considerations — in these cases, international bonus slot money.

Most recently, Ramirez started game two of Monday’s doubleheader against New York and was sent back down to the minors shortly after. But he was recalled before the minimum 10 days back in the minors because he replaced the injured Andrew Cashner on the roster. Ramirez has been called up and down nine times this season.

Paul Fry was originally recalled April 25 of last year but never got into a major league game before he was sent back down to the minors a few days later on April 27. He was recalled this year on June 29 and he has been with the big league club ever since.

It’s hard to gauge the results for these two players for two reasons. One, there’s a very small sample size available to draw conclusions from. Two, this is a lost season and it’s hard to judge success and make decisions about these players’ futures on the team.

But in a season full of dysfunction, it’s vital to find positives when at all possible. And while the O’s international bonus money strategy has largely been seen as a negative, players like Ramirez and Fry have made it to the majors and achieved modest early success.

Despite having an 0-3 record, Ramirez has a 3.93 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 18.1 innings pitched through four games (three starts) for Baltimore. He’s averaged 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings, but at the same time, 2.9 walks per nine. Still, it would be good to see him get deeper into games and maintain more consistency.

Ramirez has had two good starts sandwiched by two bad ones. In his first game on June 13 against Boston, he gave up three runs in 4.1 innings. In his next two starts, he gave up one earned run over a combined 10 innings. His last start against the Yankees was a clunker, where he allowed four runs in four innings.

With Cashner on the disabled list, it looks like Ramirez will get at least one more start before potentially being demoted again. In 72 innings pitched for Triple-A Norfolk this year, Ramirez has a 3.88 ERA, 72 strikeouts, 22 walks and 1.17 WHIP. Minor league opponents are hitting .227 against him.

Reliever Paul Fry has only pitched 5.1 innings this season for the O’s, but they have been quality innings. He has registered seven strikeouts over that time and has yet to allow a walk. His ERA stands at 1.69 and his WHIP at 0.93.

Let’s not forget that Fry is a left-hander too, and the Orioles could always use another effective lefty in the bullpen, especially after the injury to Richard Bleier. Two other southpaw relievers yet to truly establish themselves are Tanner Scott, who has an uninspiring 6.29 ERA and 13 walks through 24.1 innings in the bigs, and Donnie Hart, who is constantly being called up and down.

In his time split between Double-A and Triple-A this year, Fry is 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. He’s racking up the strikeouts, with 57 in 42.1 innings. Opponents are hitting .209 against him and he’s allowing 3.06 ground outs to air outs.

Time will tell whether these two players can stick with the O’s. But it’s good to see a couple of players acquired with international slot money break into the majors. With this year going the way it is, the Orioles have nothing to lose by running these pitchers out there on a consistent basis to get a true sense of what they can offer.