The Orioles made a trade Monday night, dealing struggling lefty Brian Matusz and a compensatory draft pick – the 76th overall – for two minor league pitchers from the Atlanta Braves system: right-hander Brandon Barker and lefty Trevor Belicek.
Neither pitcher was listed by Baseball America as one of the best 30 prospects in the Braves’ system. However, both 23-year-olds have pitched well in their limited pro careers.
The Orioles are now left without a left-hander on the pitching staff besides closer Zach Britton. That should be remedied Tuesday, as the Orioles start a series in Houston and are expected to promote lefty Ashur Tolliver from Double-A Bowie.
The 28-year-old Tolliver was a fifth-round pick in 2009 and has pitched in 155 minor league games without making the majors. This year, he has a 2.42 ERA and allowed 22 hits and eight walks while striking out 25 batters in 26 innings. Lefties were hitting .212 against him.
Barker, a 16th round pick in 2014, was 3-2 with a 2.00 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 45 innings for Double-A Mississippi. He’ll report to Double-A Bowie.
Belicek, a 16th rounder last year, was 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA in 12 games between High-A and Double-A this year. He allowed just one walk and struck out 32 in 28 1/3 innings. He will report to High-A Frederick.
Essentially, the Orioles made the move to shed Matusz’s contract, roughly $3 million remaining on a $3.9 million deal. That really looks to be the case after Braves.com speculated that Matusz likely will be designated for assignment by Atlanta, meaning the Braves basically bought the Orioles’ draft pick.
The 29-year-old Matusz, the former fourth pick overall in the 2008 draft, had a 12.00 ERA in seven games with the Orioles this year. He struggled against left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters this year.
This puts an end to Matusz’s enigmatic Orioles career – one that started so promising when he won 15 games in his first 40 starts for the club from 2009 to 2010. But inconsistency as a starter forced him to the bullpen, where he excelled at times. He pitched in 58 or more games and posted an ERA 3.53 or lower each of the last three seasons. But he was limited at the start of the season due to an intercostal injury and didn’t look the same once he returned from the disabled list.