Good morning, Camden Chatters.
Well, the inevitable has happened. Jonathan Villar is no longer an Oriole. Pour one out for the Birds’ most exciting player of 2019, a spark plug in the lineup who bashed 24 homers and stole 40 bases while serving as a veteran leader for a group of youngsters and inexperienced castoffs.
The only surprise is that Villar wasn’t non-tendered or jettisoned for no return, which was the expected outcome when news broke that the O’s had placed him on outright release waivers last Wednesday. Instead, the Birds got a warm body for him, trading Villar to the Marlins for minor league lefty Easton Lucas, the man with a first name for a last name and a last name for a first name. I don’t know how many times I’ll accidentally call him Lucas Easton in my 2020 minor league recaps, but it will be a lot.
Lucas doesn’t appear to be a particularly exciting prospect — he’s a 23-year-old who hasn’t pitched above Low-A ball, and wasn’t among the Marlins’ top 30 prospects — so in the end this trade may be nothing more than a salary dump. And that’s sad. Whether you agree or disagree with the Orioles’ decision to send Villar packing, it’s an anticlimactic way to say goodbye to the Orioles’ 2019 WAR leader among position players.
Count me as one who was in the “keep Villar” camp. Yes, I realize he’s due to make upwards of $10 million in arbitration, and that the rebuilding Orioles had little use for a guy who’s a year away from free agency. But there’s something to be said for trying to field a team that’s, you know, watchable. We all know the Orioles will be horrendous in 2020, with or without Villar, but for those hardy — or perhaps foolhardy — fans who still intend to follow the team next year, Villar would have made the experience marginally more enjoyable. That’s not immaterial for a franchise that’s already having trouble drawing fans to the park.
I tend to subscribe to the belief that there’s no such thing as a bad one-year contract. If the O’s had decided to keep Villar for $10 million for 2020 and he got off to a hot start — building on his second-half success in 2019 — maybe they’d be able to trade him at the deadline for a better return than a Low-A lottery ticket. And if they couldn’t, so what? He’d be off the books next winter anyway, and he wouldn’t be hampering the Orioles’ rebuilding effort.
We’re not privy to all the information Mike Elias is, of course. Perhaps ownership promised him that if he saved them $10 million this year by cutting Villar, they’d reinvest that money in a later season when the O’s are ready to compete. Or maybe they told him that they couldn’t, say, build an academy in the Dominican unless he cut the payroll. If that’s the case, then sure, the decision makes sense. We’ll probably never know what discussions went on behind closed doors.
But on the surface, it’s a bad look, and an ominous sign moving forward. If the Orioles aren’t willing to keep their best player for a relatively paltry $10 million, then can we trust that they’ll pony up the cash to make the team a sustainable contender in the future? Will the O’s perpetually have to let their top talent depart because of payroll concerns? This decision isn’t so much about Villar — who I agree wasn’t going to be part of the next contending O’s team — as it is about the negative overall message it sends to the players and the fans.
Elias on trade, tenders and more - School of Roch
Elias discusses the trade and talks up Lucas, whom the O’s were interested in drafting in 2019. He also mentions that the Birds would like to find a veteran middle infielder. Gosh, who could have possibly filled that role?
Matt Kremnitzer: Orioles’ Decision To Move On From Jonathan Villar Tough To Swallow - PressBoxOnline.com
Matt Kremnitzer was also on the “keep Villar” train. He sums things up nicely: “With Elias in charge, the long-term outlook of the O’s still seems sunny, but the short term is still awful and now a little less fun.”
Top 10 Orioles games of the decade - Orioles.com
In fairness to Joe Trezza, he’s only been covering the Orioles for a year. But it’s inexplicable that this list doesn’t include the Robert Andino game that knocked the Red Sox out of the playoffs in 2011. That one should be a gimme.
The Minnesota Twins should trade for the Orioles’ Dylan Bundy - Twinkie Town
Our SB Nation sister site Twinkie Town makes the case for Minnesota to acquire Dylan Bundy. I think the homer-prone Bundy would certainly approve, considering Target Field ranked 24th out of 30 ballparks in home runs in 2019, while Camden Yards was fourth.
Orioles birthdays and history
Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Two ex-Orioles share your day, and they were teammates on the 1969-71 O’s clubs: catcher Clay Dalrymple and infielder Chico Salmon. Dalrymple turns 83, while Salmon, who died in 2000, would have been 79.
The Orioles have made a couple of notable trades on this date in history. In 1957, the O’s acquired Hall of Famer Larry Doby, who 10 years earlier had become the first African American player in the American League, in a seven-player deal with the White Sox. Doby never actually played for the Birds, though, as they traded him back to his original team, the Indians, before the 1958 season started. And in 1974, the O’s swung a trade with the Astros to acquire Lee May, who enjoyed a productive six-year career in Baltimore and was elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame.
On this day five years ago, the Orioles lost homegrown right fielder Nick Markakis to the Braves, who signed him to a four-year, $44 million contract. Letting Markakis go was a defensible decision, but the O’s never really found a capable replacement for him in right field. Markakis re-signed with the Braves this offseason and will play his sixth year there in 2020.