The game of baseball creates different types of disappointment. The Orioles are a disappointing team finishing up a disappointing season, but expectations for the club were never high. This year’s team never possessed a great deal of potential, and few can call themselves surprised with another 100-loss season.
Still, there were players on the club expected to succeed on an individual level. Ryan Mountcastle recovered from a slow start and put together a strong
sophomore rookie season, and Cedric Mullins blew past expectations to become a starting outfielder for the American League All-Star team. Tyler Wells went from the Rule 5 draft to the back of the bullpen, and John Means tossed a no-hitter from the top of the rotation.
Unfortunately, the positives stop there. Rio Ruiz never produced at the plate, and Félix Hernández never started a game for the Orioles. Although, neither did Chris Davis, and some may call that a positive. Regardless, the free-agent signings of Matt Harvey and Maikel Franco did not propel the Birds toward a winning record.
Tanner Scott has always been linked with the word potential. After all, there are not many left-handed people that can throw a baseball 100 MPH. The heat is there, his slider is nasty, and the guy holds a pen with his left hand. That screams late-inning reliever to me.
Scott entered last season with the usual “man, if he could put it all together” phrase tattooed on his back. Then something crazy happened— he did. Scott pitched to a 1.21 ERA and 1.065 WHIP in the abridged season. He struck out 23 batters and allowed just three earned runs over 20.2 innings. The narrative switched from “can he put it together?” to “can he keep it together?”
The answer prior to the All-Star break was a resounding yes. Scott held batters to a .181 average and pitched to a 2.78 ERA through 40 games. His WHIP increased to 1.374, but his 26 walks were just a part of the Tanner Scott Experience. Unfortunately, the free passes became less easy to tolerate after the mid-summer classic.
Scott’s ERA spiked to 9.82 in 22 games after the break. The WHIP nearly hit two, and opponents enjoyed a .321 average against the lefty. Scott eventually made his way to the injured list last week with a sprained knee, and MASN’s Roch Kubatko reported that the reliever is likely done for the year.
Scott and Fry have been linked together after the duo broke out last season, but both pitchers took a turn for the worse in the second half. Fry struggled more out of the gate with a 4.09 ERA through his first 34 games. He still struck out 44 batters compared to 17 walks, and he limited hitters to a .210 average.
The numbers spiraled out of control after that. Fry walked more batters (18) than he struck out (16) over his final 18 games. He allowed 17 earned runs over 14.1 innings, and his WHIP soared to 2.093. The Orioles optioned Fry to Norfolk at the end of August.
Fry’s struggles have continued at Triple-A. He holds a 9.53 ERA and 2.294 WHIP over eight appearances for the Tides. Not great.
While Scott found his way to the injured list, Fry appears healthy. The Orioles would have likely cut Fry a break if he had a lingering medical issue. Instead, the woes are linked to command.
Scott and Fry figured to be Baltimore’s two most likely trade candidates at the deadline this year. Mike Elias did not like the offers he received, but there’s no way he appreciates their performances lately either. Both pitchers are arbitration eligible after this season, and the pair have been floated by some as non-tender candidates.
Simply put, there is no reason for the Orioles to give up on Scott or Fry. While both will receive raises, neither will break the bank. With Baltimore spreading out Chris Davis’s salary over several years, the O’s have next to no salary commitments into next season. They need to spend money just to keep MLB off their back, and both pitchers have looked the part for stretches over the last two seasons.
Scott’s 2020 success may not have spanned 162 games, but his second-half struggles this year represent a much smaller sample size overall. Twenty-five games last season and 40 more this year are likely more indicative of future performance than just 18.1 innings after the break. A healthy Tanner Scott should still figure into the Orioles’ future plans.
Fry’s continued struggles at Triple-A are concerning, and the 29-year-old is two years older than Scott. Still, the Orioles should have room for Fry in the bullpen. Baltimore moved on from Shawn Armstrong after a disastrous start this year, and Fry would likely receive a similar amount of leash next season to prove he kicked his struggles to the curb.
The Orioles will need 40-man roster spots for free agents, players returning from the 60-day IL, and prospects they wish to protect from the Rule-5 draft. Still, one look at the current roster reveals several players with less potential than the two lefty relievers.
In a year filled with disappointments, these two rank near the top. Baltimore entered the season with only a few known commodities and losing two does not help the rebuild. Scott and Fry may not have earned a raise with their performances this season, but that’s how arbitration works. Still, non-tendering either does not make sense at this time.
If Elias did not enjoy the trade offers he received for the two in July, he certainly will not like any offers that would come about at the winter meetings. Both pitchers should be back on the team next year with their sights set on a bounce-back season.