The industry consensus is that the O’s have done a good job in their trades of Manny Machado and Zach Britton. In exchange for two expiring contracts, they injected two new prospects into their top six and six into their top thirty according to MLB.com. That’s a nice way to start a rebuild.
But as others have noted, this isn’t the true rebuild that’s needed if only expiring contracts are traded. If the Warehouse is serious about restocking the farm system and gearing up for a legitimate future run at contention, other trade candidates should be considered. We are talking about Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, and Mychal Givens. These are all players with multiple years of club control, which is a quality that major league executives crave.
I’m especially interested in Gausman and Bundy considering contenders’ constant demand for starting pitching at the trading deadline. Gausman has shown flashes of brilliance but has been mostly average, posting an ERA of 4.54. He allows way too many baserunners (1.37 WHIP) and his strikeouts per nine innings are down (7.6). But he’s healthy and possess first round talent.
Bundy is trending in the wrong direction since coming off the disabled list. His ERA through three July starts is 10.95 and his command has been shaky. His strikeout numbers have been strong this season (nearly ten per game) and there is no denying the talent he has. As is the case with Gausman, many rival pitching coaches would love the challenge of getting Bundy to the next level.
It appears as though other clubs have at least cursory interest in the pair of O’s starters.
#Rockies scouting #Orioles’ Gausman and Bundy, sources tell The Athletic. COL has longstanding interest in Gausman, a Colorado native. Team also looking at starters and relievers from other clubs. Difficult and potentially pivotal week ahead at Coors - two vs. HOU, three vs. OAK.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 23, 2018
Other teams having interest doesn’t mean much on its own. The Orioles would have to be interested in trading. There are mixed reports on that.
Was told earlier today that #Orioles were prioritizing getting Machado/Britton done as early as possible b4 deadline to get 2 best commodities off dockets, so can have time to try to maximize Brach/Jones, plus maybe Bundy, Gausman, Givens, Schoop.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 25, 2018
Brewers have checked in on Kevin Gausman. He and Dylan Bundy aren’t that likely to be dealt tho.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 27, 2018
The decision to trade Gausman and Bundy has been fiercely debated in Birdland. Let’s assume that whoever is making these decisions in the Warehouse decides to go all in on the rebuild and actively markets these two former first round picks. Joel Sherman raises an interesting point.
Recently an #Orioles exec mentioned how thin their pitching was at the upper regions and if they traded Bundy/Gausman they might not have enough arms to cover games. So I would expect Rogers/Carroll will arrive for staff soon, Tate perhaps in Sept. if deal goes thru. #Yankees— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 25, 2018
Who would pitch for the Orioles if two members of the rotation were subtracted? Norfolk’s roster isn’t exactly loaded with prospects beating down the door, but there are a few options.
Hess was recalled on Wednesday to fill the hole in the bullpen created by Zach Britton being traded. Hess’ Orioles debut got off to a nice start after being called up to start on May 12. After five starts, his ERA sat at 3.07. But that number rose drastically after allowing at least five runs in his next four starts. He was sent back down to Norfolk following a July 4 relief appearance that left his MLB ERA at 6.06.
Hess’ problems continued in the International League; he allowed nine earned runs in nine innings over his first two outings back with the Tides. But his most recent outing on July 21 was much better. He pitched seven scoreless innings while striking out nine. His ERA at the AAA level is now 3.15 and he is most likely the next man up in the O’s rotation.
Rogers was the left-hander acquired from the Yankees for Zach Britton earlier this week. The consensus among scouts is that he is nearly major league ready. The 2015 11th round pick has pitched to a 3.16 ERA throughout his professional career. This has been his first season at AAA and he’s held his own. His ERA 3.95 over nineteen starts is respectable though his 1.34 WHIP is a tad high. Rogers carries the reputation of having great command despite a career high walks per nine innings this season (2.4). He doesn’t strike many hitters out (7.5 strikeouts per nine innings in his career) but “knows how to pitch.”
A reliever until this season, the Orioles decided to make Yacabonis a starting pitcher in spring training. He has started all sixteen games in which he’s appeared in at Norfolk this season and his ERA there is 2.95. While he doesn’t strike many batters out either, his WHIP at AAA this season is a very respectable 1.08.
Yacabonis has been given multiple opportunities at the major league level between 2017 and 2018. The results haven’t been very good. His ERA is 5.34 through eighteen games (thirty-two innings). While that doesn’t inspire confidence, he was always in constant fear of being placed back on the Baltimore-Norfolk shuttle. An opening in the rotation would be a good opportunity to see what Yacabonis can do.
Means was not considered a prospect to watch entering the 2018 season and his ERA of 4.30 over his first eight games at Bowie didn’t provide anything to get excited about. But he was moved up to Norfolk and has been fantastic there. His AAA ERA is 2.87 and an even better 2.20 over his last ten outings. He’s struck out over eight batters per nine innings (better than his career average) and has walked nine batters in 75.1 innings as a Tide.
While he isn’t flashy and wasn’t a high draft pick (eleventh round in 2014), he’s worked his way up through the system and has performed very well at the highest level in the minors. I wouldn’t mind seeing what he can do in the majors.
Akin is by far the highest upside name on this list. The 2016 second round pick out of Western Michigan University posted a pedestrian 4.14 ERA at Frederick last season. But he’s stepped up his game in a big way at Bowie this season. He has a 2.92 ERA and has struck out over one hitter per inning. Interestingly, he’s having fantastic results despite suffering some serious control issues. He has walked a troubling 4.4 batters per game this season, which fuels his slightly elevated 1.22 WHIP.
Akin is a top ten prospect in the O’s system whose star is rising. The Warehouse won’t rush his development to fill a rotation spot for a team that could be the worst in franchise history. They will certainly be more careful with him than the other names on this list and I find it unlikely he leapfrogs them to the majors. But if player development staff overlooks the walk rates and deems him ready, we could see Akin before the end of the season.
If Gausman and/or Bundy are traded, who is your first choice to step into the rotation?
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