The Orioles made another move in their quest to rebuild on Sunday afternoon, trading reliever Brad Brach to the Braves. In a bit of a surprise, the Orioles did not even receive a player back for Brach, instead getting back international signing bonus slot money from Atlanta.
It is a humble return compared to what you might have imagined back in March in the event of the Orioles needing to become sellers. Brach has not pitched very well this season, with a 4.85 ERA in 39 innings and a 1.769 WHIP. His walk rate was up, his strikeout rate was down, and this was a multi-year trend after a more pedestrian 2017 season. That’s how you end up being traded for $250,000 in international slot money rather than any kind of prospect at all.
This is immediately interesting for the Orioles to have done because it is the first time that the team has actually gone out of its way to acquire any international pool space. Past years have seen them flush away this money in trades for players like Chris Lee, outrighted off the 40-man roster today, Franderlin Romero, and Brallan Perez.
While a couple of the players they acquired with international money, Yefry Ramirez and Paul Fry, have found their way up to the Orioles this season, on the whole, the Orioles would be better off investing internationally.
Dan Duquette signaled following the Manny Machado trade that the team would be rebuilding and investing internationally again. He told season ticket holders at a Saturday Q&A session that ownership had recently chosen to put as much money as possible into the big league payroll and that other areas had lagged behind. Here we are with the O’s picking up an extra bit of money.
This news takes on an extra bit of intrigue when paired with the rumor from Friday that the Orioles have some interest in Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa, the #1 international prospect this signing period. Mesa has not yet been declared eligible to sign by MLB. The O’s can’t just show up in the Dominican Republic and sign any of this year’s talented 16-year-olds. They already signed. But if they can get Mesa in the fold, they can take another big step in the rebuilding effort.
In addition to the O’s getting a bit of bonus slot money, the Braves will be paying the remainder of Brach’s $5.17 million salary for the season. That amounts to roughly $1.5 million saved for the O’s. If the money goes into the Angelos family coffers, there’s no benefit to the rebuild there. If they take that money and invest in front office analytics and technology resources where the team is currently deficient, that is a big deal, too.
Brach joins a Braves team that has former Orioles Nick Markakis and Ryan Flaherty, along with former Orioles coaches Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti in their front office. Perhaps they can help him get back to the form he had in his 2016 All-Star season. There will be former Orioles all across the playoffs this season.
The Brach trade opens up another spot on the 40-man roster in addition to a spot in the bullpen. Reliever Cody Carroll, acquired from the Yankees in the Zach Britton trade, seems like one player who might be about to get an audition. Hopefully the O’s also find some room to play outfield prospect Cedric Mullins in the very, very near future.