One of the less fun things of being a fan of a rebuilding team is that the most exciting moments of a season revolve around who is or isn’t getting traded. The Orioles made two trades on Sunday to hopefully set themselves up for the future. They swung one more on Monday afternoon, with news of a trade trickling out in the minutes after the 4pm trade deadline.
When the dust cleared, Miguel Castro had been dealt to the Mets for minor league pitcher Kevin Smith. The trade also includes either a player to be named later or cash.
Smith, who has already inspired a lot of Silent Bob jokes thanks to his sharing a name with the Clerks writer/director/actor, and will probably inspire more, is a 23-year-old left-handed starting pitcher. He was a seventh round draft pick by the Mets in 2018 out of the University of Georgia.
The immediately interesting thing about Smith is that he struck out 130 batters across 117 innings between High-A and Double-A last season. He did strike out fewer and walk more batters in the six Double-A starts he made.
This does fit a profile of the kind of guy Elias has stockpiled so far in his Orioles tenure. Smith’s college performance came in the SEC and he performed well in his first full professional season in 2019 as well. Smith ranked as the #12 prospect in the Mets system with MLB Pipeline. At Fangraphs, he comes in at #14 in their system, with a 40 future value on the 20-80 scale.
Smith’s Fangraphs scouting capsule from back in January makes it sound like the O’s have added another possible future “crafty lefty” to the competition to be a part of the next good Orioles rotation:
The stuff still isn’t great, but his slider flashes above average, his fastball has a solid spin rate and overall characteristics to go along with some deception and the feel to get the most out of his stuff. The intangibles seem to be driving the success here and the tools aren’t bad, so a big league look in 2020 or 2021 now seems likely.
Castro, 25, closes out his Orioles tenure with a 4.06 ERA across 183 games. It’s not an exciting number for a reliever. He is one of those guys who perpetually had people believing in the potential of his stuff that never quite harnessed it. His early 2020 performance seems to have been enough for the Mets to agree to part with a player to get him. Castro had struck out 24 batters with just five walks in 15.2 innings.
The Mets will have the rights to Castro until he becomes a free agent following the 2022 season. If it finally clicks for him and stays clicked, this will probably look like they paid a cheap price for a good pitcher. My snap reaction is that this looks like the O’s found a good way to sell high on Castro.
The next team the Orioles play is the Mets, so the O’s may very soon face their former reliever.
The final trade tally for the Orioles is not something that will be known until after the season is over and a number of players to be named later get named. There is a player coming from the Marlins for Richard Bleier, two players coming from the Braves for Tommy Milone, one more player coming from the Rockies for the Mychal Givens trade, and possibly one from the Mets for today’s Castro deal.
There are more PTBNL deals in 2020 because teams are not allowed to trade players that are not on their 60-man player pools. Most teams seem to be using those pools for either close-to-the-majors prospects or high-ranked prospects, so whoever the O’s do get, it’s likely not to be any big name in a system, and probably not anyone on the cusp of MLB either. If Elias has honed in on the right currently lightly-regarded prospects, these guys could be useful.
Deadline day was busy for a bunch of ex-Orioles. One notable trade is that the Marlins dealt Jonathan Villar to the Blue Jays for Griffin Conine, son of former Oriole and Marlin Jeff Conine. It is a bit of an apples to oranges comparison thanks to all of the strange circumstances of the 2020 season, but if the younger Conine turns out to be a better acquisition than Easton Lucas, who the O’s got for a full season of Villar, that will be a disappointing outcome for the O’s.
For the last month of the season, the Orioles who are left are going to be the Orioles we are going to see. If fans are lucky, more prospects like Keegan Akin and Ryan Mountcastle will be deemed worthy of some big league experience in the waning weeks.