The Manny Machado era of the Orioles is not the only one to end this week. The O’s also moved to bring an end to Chris Tillman’s time in Baltimore, designating the veteran for assignment on Friday afternoon.
The move to release Tillman clears a spot on the 40-man roster, which the O’s decided that they needed to do to make room for infielder Renato Núñez, whose contract was selected from Norfolk. Núñez, 24, may be a temporary replacement in the third base mix in the aftermath of the Machado trade. I would rather see more of him than Jace Peterson.
The O’s were also forced to make a decision about Tillman’s future because his rehab assignment had come to an end. Tillman had been all across the O’s minor league system with six starts over the last month. He proved largely incapable of retiring even A-ball hitters.
Few people even seemed to believe that the lower back strain that placed Tillman on the disabled list was anything other than an excuse for the O’s to avoid making a decision about Tillman for a while. Tillman, as everyone who has had the misfortune of watching him pitch at the MLB level for the past two seasons knows, just didn’t have it any more. His 7.84 ERA last season was not an accident and neither was his 10.46 ERA in seven games this season.
Perhaps the shoulder injury he suffered in 2016 has still had its effects on his ability to pitch. Tillman and the Orioles have insisted otherwise over the past two years, and indeed, Tillman seems to have made it through the dreaded Orioles physical to receive the $3 million contract they gave him for this season. The Orioles wasted a lot of money on one-year contracts this offseason.
There was a reason no other team wanted to give Tillman an MLB deal, and you have to wonder what on Earth the Orioles thought they saw that was improved from last year as they watched him throw over the offseason. If they really looked at Tillman and thought, “This guy can still be good,” that speaks poorly for their ability to evaluate any pitcher.
Maybe the sentimental ties to a guy who has been with the team since 2009 clouded their judgment. While that is understandable to an extent, this does not make any of his awful starts this season any more fun to watch.
Whatever the case, Tillman has been sent to the great DFA in the sky. It is another sign that the Orioles are serious with this new rebuilding business. There are no more innings to waste to find out if maybe Tillman is somehow still capable of pitching to a 5 ERA when the O’s could instead be evaluating players like David Hess, Yefry Ramirez, or even Jimmy Yacabonis. So he is gone.