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Orioles close out trade season by acquiring Brett Phillips for cash

The Orioles have added to their roster, if a negative WAR player counts as an addition.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox
“Brett, what do you think about being traded to the Orioles?
Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The final run-up to this year’s trade deadline in MLB did not see any more players traded away than you already knew about this morning. Trey Mancini was shipped to the Astros yesterday, with Jorge López being sent to the Twins for four pitching prospects this morning. What the Orioles did do, and don’t ask me why because I don’t know, is acquire Brett Phillips from the Rays for cash considerations.

In a way, you can count this as one more bit connected to the three-team trade involving Mancini from Monday. That deal saw the Rays get an outfielder from the Astros, with the Rays then designating Phillips for assignment. With Phillips in DFA limbo, the Orioles stepped in to make the minor addition rather than waiting for Phillips to hit waivers to see if the O’s, now with a non-horrible record, would win the claim.

Phillips, 28, is a lefty-batting outfielder who really stunk for the Rays this season, batting .147/.225/.250 in 75 games. An Orioles fan could be forgiven for not realizing Phillips has been horrible this year because he actually hit .273 in 13 games against the O’s. As recently as last year, Phillips was a 2+ bWAR player, though, combining a league-average bat for the first time in his career with some solid defense mixed between center and right field. This year, he’s a -0.2 bWAR, with fWAR slightly more generous at +0.2.

It’s a head-scratcher, though, because like... you know, the Orioles already have the three starting spots in their outfield pretty well covered with Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, and Anthony Santander. None of those guys were traded on Tuesday. They’ve got a pretty solid speed/defense fourth outfield option in Ryan McKenna. And they’ve got at least one outfielder, if not two, who’s been at Triple-A this season (Kyle Stowers definitely, Yusniel Díaz maybe) and is deserving of getting an MLB opportunity.

Here Phillips is anyway. I guess he will supplant McKenna as the fourth outfielder, but who knows. It’s strange. If his addition had been the precursor to a last-hour trade of another outfielder, it would make more sense. That did not end up happening. We will see in the coming days how the Orioles end up fitting him onto the roster.

Phillips is making a $1.4 million salary this season and has two more years of arbitration remaining, if his team, now the O’s, wishes to offer them to him. I don’t get it, but I don’t have to. The results from this will tell us what we need to know about it.