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As Rays finish Archer deal with another prospect, O’s Gausman swap looks worse

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Instead of adding prospects like the Rays did in the Chris Archer deal, the Orioles traded Kevin Gausman to cut payroll.

Milwaukee Brewers v Atlanta Braves Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Often the PTBNL, player to be named later, in baseball trades is a throw-in and not an essential element of the final deal. But that wasn’t the case on Monday when the Pirates sent pitcher Shane Baz – the 12th overall pick from the 2017 draft – to the Rays to complete the Chris Archer trade.

The 19-year-old Baz is now the Rays’ number six prospect according to MLB.com, which is particularly impressive given that Tampa Bay employs a deep farm system. He supplemented an already impressive haul that included flamethrower Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Austin Meadows, making it even harder to swallow the meager return the Orioles received in their trade of Kevin Gausman to the Braves.

Gausman and Archer were the top two starters to change teams at July’s trade deadline, with Archer seen as the more valuable of the two – but not by that much. Gausman’s ERA since 2016 is 4.17 compared to Archer’s 4.14, and Archer pitched to a 4.31 ERA this year in Tampa. Gausman is also more than two years younger. When you look at the returns of the two deals, though, it would seem that Archer was on an entirely different level.

Atlanta sent international signing bonus slot money and four players to Baltimore. None of them – Brett Cumberland, Jean Carlos Encarnacion, Bruce Zimmermann and Evan Phillips – is considered a top prospect, but all three of the new Rays are.

Pitching adjustments

The Orioles got a first-hand view of Glasnow’s nasty fastball and biting curve last week in Tampa Bay when he struck out nine in four innings without allowing a walk. Tweaking his delivery to help him better aim his pitches, the Rays think they may have found a fix for his previous control issues.

The Braves believe they also found a way to improve Gausman’s performance by pitching him from the stretch even with no runners on base. He did well in his first try this past Friday, giving up just one run on six hits in an eight-inning win versus the Brewers. Gausman threw 71 of 94 pitches for strikes, walking none and striking out eight. Afterward, he said,

It was something that was working in my bullpen. [Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez] was like, ‘You can pitch out the stretch the whole game if you want to.’ I felt like I really didn’t miss a beat. It didn’t feel weird at all.

Too bad Orioles pitching coach Roger McDowell couldn’t have said the same thing. By the way, how is he still in Baltimore?

Gausman followed with his second Braves win last night, allowing two runs in six innings against the Marlins. That makes three quality starts for Gausman since leaving Baltimore. That’s a small sample size, but it’s hard not to reminded of Jake Arrieta and how the Cubs allowed him to shed the bad advice he received as an Oriole to become one of the game’s most dominant pitchers, winning the Cy Young in 2015.

Lowering the payroll

Whether Gausman becomes the next Arrieta or not, it’s clear that the Orioles’ primary purpose in trading him was not to bring back the best prospects like the Rays did with Archer. It was to lower the payroll. They chose to include O’Day as a complete salary dump, saving in the vicinity of $12 million. Presumably, this lessened the prospect return.

There’s been talk of the Orioles’ interest in number one Cuban prospect Victor Victor Mesa, and they could save face if they used the $2.5 million in international money to sign him when MLB determines he is eligible. But be certain the Orioles won’t be the only club eyeing the outfielder.

However they devote those dollars, it doesn’t look like they plan to spend much to sign domestic free agents to help with the team’s rebuild. As he made his pitch to fans for the O’s rebuild, GM Dan Duquette acknowledged that money would be diverted from the MLB payroll to areas of the organization that had been withering on the vine, including scouting, international signings. analytics, and technology.

That means fans will largely not see these investments, only their results whenever things start going better for the Orioles. If they choose to dump salary rather than get prospects in the near future of this rebuild, they’re hurting their chances of helping things get better any time soon.