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The Orioles are going for deep cuts with their players to be named later

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In their July trades, the Orioles received several players to be named later. They’ve since had a few named. They are far off from MLB.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles-Workouts Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

As the Orioles traded their veteran players earlier in the season, they received a number of players to be named later (PTBNL) in those deals. They had one coming from the Marlins for Richard Bleier, one from the Rockies for Mychal Givens, one from the Mets for Miguel Castro, and two from the Braves for Tommy Milone. Over the past week, the O’s had three of those five players named. All three were international amateur signings in either 2018 or 2019.

The 2020-specific rules for trades that MLB established meant that there were more of these PTBNL being swapped around than usual, as teams were only allowed to make trades of players who were in their 60-man player pool. The player pool is itself a 2020-only concept. Neither the would-be contenders the O’s traded with nor the O’s themselves had player pool space at the end of August to add far-off prospects.

Now that the end of the season is drawing nearer, both the O’s and other teams can cut loose the “just in case” veterans they have had hanging around at their alternate sites and finish some of these trades. The Orioles have done this with moves like releasing Rob Zastryzny from Bowie, a player who most people probably had no idea was at Bowie. At this point, the O’s are only still waiting on their two PTBNL from the Braves.

The three players they have received in the last several days:

  • From the Marlins for Bleier: SS Isaac De Leon
  • From the Rockies for Givens: OF Mishael Deson
  • From the Mets for Castro: SS Victor Gonzalez

De Leon, 18, signed with the Marlins out of the Dominican Republic during the 2018-19 period for $275,000. He played for the Marlins Dominican Summer League affiliate last year and batted .256/.367/.324 over 66 games, with more walks (38) than strikeouts (36). I will take a guess that last detail was of interest to Mike Elias.

Deson, also 18, was signed by the Rockies from the DR during that same period. His bonus was $350,000. Deson played in 61 DSL games and batted .252/.327/.336. He showed some speed potential, stealing 23 bases, though he was caught 11 times in the process.

Gonzalez, 17, was a Mets signing from the DR in the 2019-20 period for $250,000. He has not yet made a professional debut as the 16-year-olds signed tend not to debut the year they sign.

These are the kinds of players that the Orioles made little to no effort to add into the organization during the Dan Duquette era. One way to get talent into the system is to get quantity in the form of, say, ten international amateur players who cost $250,000 each and hope that one or two of them turn into quality later. If you never get the quantity, you don’t get the chance to develop the quality.

If you look for any one of these guys even on a deep prospect ranking, you won’t find them. For instance, in December, Fangraphs ranked 41 Marlins prospects and name-checked an additional 16 prospects beyond that. That’s a thorough listing of prospects. De Leon’s name was not mentioned. It’s the same story with Deson, who was not in the top 31 Rockies nor the 19 unranked players included. The Mets had 31 guys ranked and another ten mentioned, none of whom were Victor Gonzalez.

No prospect ranking is ever the final word on any player’s development. This is even more true when it comes to teenagers with low-six-figure bonuses from places in the Caribbean and Central/South America, because they haven’t had time to show what they are or aren’t yet.

Still, the odds are long for any of them individually. The idea I heard expressed on more than one MASN broadcast that these PTBNL would move the Orioles higher up farm rankings than its current #8 place from MLB Pipeline or #10 placement on Fangraphs was never realistic. These guys likely won’t be ranked or mentioned in next spring’s edition of Orioles prospect lists. They have not yet had the opportunity to make a name for themselves, especially with all minor league activity curtailed in 2020.

Last July’s trade of Andrew Cashner to the Red Sox didn’t involve any PTBNL since there were no special rules in place in 2019, but those players fit in this broad category as well. The acquired players, Elio Prado and Noelberth Romero, were 17 years old last summer and each signed in the 2018-19 bonus period. According to SoxProspects.com, Prado received a bonus of only $85,000, while Romero got $275,000. They were both signed from Venezuela.

I had a bit higher hopes than “one more name for the lottery ticket pile” from the Bleier trade, since that trade was made way before the deadline, involved multiple years of control, and was made with a Marlins team that was at that time desperate for live bodies as so much of its Opening Day roster dealt with COVID-19. It seems Bleier was a bit less valued to the rest of MLB teams than I might have liked. So all the Orioles got for him was De Leon.

As for the other guys, even if they do end up amounting to nothing, they also weren’t the headline or only players in those trades. The O’s got infielders Terrin Vavra and Tyler Nevin from the Rockies for Givens, and lefty pitching prospect Kevin Smith from the Mets for Castro. Those are players who figure to get their shot within the next year or two.

There are still the two players to come from the Braves. It’s not a sure thing that those players will fit the same mold as these others because the Braves had heavy restrictions on their recent international signings due to a previous front office breaking some rules.

Atlanta was unable to hand out any bonus larger than $300,000 for the 2018-19 signing period, and in last year’s signing period they couldn’t sign any player to more than a $10,000 bonus. We could see Elias return to the type of player he got in the Jonathan Villar and Dylan Bundy deals, which both consisted of college pitchers recently drafted beyond the top three rounds of the draft.

For the sake of completeness, there’s also an outstanding PTBNL for Hector Velazquez, who the Orioles designated for assignment before he ever pitched in a game for the team and was eventually sent to the Astros for a PTBNL. Given that Velazquez was DFA’d before the trade, he is even less likely to merit a PTBNL of any note whatsoever.