From time to time this year, I’ve been checking in on Orioles from the 2017 team who have landed elsewhere this season. Who has found success since leaving Baltimore? Who has slumped? Who hasn’t found a new home?
The last time I updated this feature, at the All-Star break, there were 21 players from last year’s Orioles squad who were no longer with the organization. In the two months since, eight more players have been added to that tally, thanks to a trade-deadline flurry that signaled the Orioles’ shift to a rebuilding effort.
So, in our final installment of the year, let’s start by checking in on the players the Orioles dealt away in July, then update the rest of the former 2017 crew.
Manny Machado, Los Angeles Dodgers
The blockbuster that kicked off the Orioles’ trading frenzy was the deal that sent Machado to the Dodgers for five prospects during the All-Star break. After playing shortstop all season with the Orioles, that’s been Machado’s primary position with the Dodgers (42 starts), but he also shifted back to third base for 16 starts while Justin Turner was injured.
So far, Machado’s offensive numbers with Los Angeles (.268 average, .825 OPS, 13 homers, 37 RBIs in 59 games) haven’t been quite as scorching as his stats with Baltimore before the trade (.315 average, .963 OPS, 24 homers, 65 RBIs in 96 games). Still, Machado has more than made himself at home under the bright lights of L.A. The Dodgers held a Manny Machado bobblehead giveaway on Saturday, and Machado celebrated his big night by hitting a three-run homer in the club’s victory.
Zach Britton, New York Yankees
After spending his first 12 professional seasons with the Orioles, Britton had a rough adjustment to New York when he was traded to the Yankees on July 24. In just his second appearance in pinstripes, Britton walked home the tying run in a game against Kansas City and was booed by the home crowd at Yankee Stadium. Britton was scored upon in four of his first eight outings, walking six batters in 7 1/3 innings and posting a 7.36 ERA.
Britton, though, has settled down since then, partly thanks to the Orioles. He pitched twice in a three-game series in Baltimore and contributed his longest outing as a Yankee (1 2/3 scoreless innings on Aug. 26) and his first save (Aug. 24). Including those outings — plus two other scoreless appearances against the Orioles — Britton has a 1.15 ERA in his last 15 games, with 11 strikeouts and two walks.
Brad Brach, Atlanta Braves
How little trade value did Brach have? The Orioles dealt him July 30 to the Braves for $250,000 of international bonus pool money. A month later, they traded three times that amount of international money — $750,000 — to the Philadelphia Phillies for minor leaguer Jack Zoellner, a 23-year-old first baseman who was hitting .236 in rookie ball.
Had the Orioles known how well Brach would perform with Atlanta, perhaps they could have garnered a bit more in the return package. Brach has a 1.23 ERA and one save in 25 games out of the Braves’ bullpen, striking out 20 batters in 22 innings.
Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day, Braves
Just one day after the Brach trade, the Orioles and Braves struck another deal, a deadline-day stunner that sent Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to Atlanta for four prospects and international bonus slot money.
In parts of six seasons with the Orioles, Gausman was generally a league-average starter, falling short of the expectations placed on him when he was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft. But he has found new life since being traded to Atlanta, crediting the Braves’ coaches with a couple of mechanical adjustments — including a move to the third-base side of the rubber — that have contributed to his success. As a result, he’s gone 5-2 with a 2.80 ERA in nine starts.
Granted, it’s a small sample size, and facing National League lineups instead of AL offenses would improve any pitcher’s stats. Still, if Gausman is able to sustain his improvement and realize the potential he never quite achieved in Baltimore, it’ll cast even more doubt on the Orioles’ much-maligned pitching development system.
O’Day, meanwhile, was simply a salary dump. He was on the disabled list at the time of the trade after suffering a season-ending left hamstring strain, and the Orioles wanted to get his $9 million contract for 2019 off the books. It remains to be seen whether the Braves will give him a shot in next season’s bullpen or simply release him and eat the money.
It was an extremely anticlimactic departure from Baltimore for O’Day, who was one of the most reliable relievers in Orioles’ history. In parts of seven years with the club, O’Day was 28-14 with a 2.40 ERA and 19 saves. He made 391 appearances, sixth-most of any Oriole.
Jonathan Schoop, Milwaukee Brewers
Schoop, unlike the other recently traded Orioles, has struggled in his new home. Sent to the Brewers just minutes before the deadline, Schoop already seemed a strange fit in Milwaukee, which was overflowing with infielders. Fighting for playing time with Mike Moustakas, Travis Shaw and Orlando Arcia, Schoop has started only 26 of the Brewers’ 46 games since he joined the club. Eleven of those starts have been at shortstop, a position Schoop played just twice in his major league career before this season.
The change in surroundings and sporadic playing time have stifled Schoop’s production. He’s batting .195 with a .565 OPS, four home runs and 20 RBIs in 43 games. There’s even been talk that the Brewers might non-tender Schoop after the season, when he’s eligible for arbitration and will likely command a salary of $9 million or more.
THE PRODUCTIVE SEASONS
There are plenty more former 2017 Orioles floating around the majors, not just those who were traded this season. Four pitchers who were terrible for the Orioles last year have enjoyed newfound success since leaving the club. That includes two members of the Orioles’ much-maligned starting rotation: Wade Miley and Jeremy Hellickson.
Miley, who was 8-15 with a 5.61 ERA in Baltimore last season, is putting up a career-best 2.32 ERA with the Brewers, albeit in an injury-shortened year. A groin tear and an oblique strain limited him to just two starts before July but, since returning, he’s been a vital part of the Brewers’ charge to the postseason as they’ve won 11 of his 15 starts. Miley has worked at least five innings in all but two outings and hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any. Last year, by contrast, Miley had 14 starts (out of 32) in which he surrendered four or more earned runs, and nine in which he didn’t last five innings.
Hellickson, similarly, has found a return to the National League much to his liking. After posting a horrendous 6.97 ERA in 10 starts with the Orioles last year, Hellickson whittled that mark down to 3.45 ERA for the Washington Nationals, going 5-3 in 19 starts. The Nationals didn’t push Hellickson too hard; only twice did he pitch six innings or more. His season came to an early end because of a right wrist injury in September.
Remember Vidal Nuno or Richard Rodriguez, two relievers who combined for an 11.51 ERA and 11 homers allowed in 17 games for the Orioles in 2017? This year, each has an ERA well below 3.00. Rodriguez has been a valuable back-end reliever for the Pittsburgh Pirates, racking up more strikeouts (85) than baserunners allowed (74) while amassing a 2.43 ERA in 66 2/3 innings. Nuno has worked long relief for the Tampa Bay Rays, eating up 31 innings in 14 games and posting a 1.45 ERA.
THE UNPRODUCTIVE SEASONS
Not every former 2017 Oriole has struck gold elsewhere this year. Among the most prominent duds is Welington Castillo, who hit well as the Orioles’ primary catcher last season but has had a season to forget with the Chicago White Sox in 2018. Castillo has disappointed a bit offensively — batting .261 with a .716 OPS, lagging below his career .743 mark — and he was suspended 80 games after testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug, Erythropoietin. Castillo, in the first season of a two-year, $15 million deal, seems out of place on the rebuilding White Sox roster.
In Atlanta, former Orioles’ utility man Ryan Flaherty is finishing up a terrible offensive season, which is a sentence that would have seemed surprising if you’d uttered it in April. After all, Flaherty started the season red hot, ranking among the NL’s leaders in batting average in the opening month while manning the everyday third base job. But his playing time — and production — dropped off the table starting in May, and he even spent a stint in the minors. He’s been reduced to a pinch-hitting gig that he seems ill-suited for, considering he’s just 4-for-31. Flaherty, who has a .217 average and .588 OPS, almost certainly won’t be joining his ex-Orioles’ teammates Gausman, Brach and Nick Markakis on the Braves’ postseason roster.
Another ex-Oriole struggling at the plate is catcher Francisco Pena of the St. Louis Cardinals. Pena, who had two homers in 10 at-bats for the Orioles last season, has just two in 128 at-bats this year, and he’s batting .203 with a .507 OPS as Yadier Molina’s backup. Granted, Pena is employed mainly for his defense rather than his bat — except he has struggled behind the plate, too. Pena has thrown out just one of 15 attempted base-stealers this year, a 7 percent mark.
At least Pena has stayed employed in the majors all year, which is more than can be said for right-hander Alec Asher. The 2017 Orioles’ swing man has pitched two games in the majors this year for the Brewers — one in May, one in July — but spent the bulk of the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, an unforgiving environment for pitchers. In 21 games (16 starts), Asher went 6-4 with a 6.05 ERA. The Brewers didn’t call him up when rosters expanded in September.
Perhaps no ex-Oriole, though, has had a worse season than Chris Tillman, the one-time staff ace whose career has taken a catastrophic fall. His Baltimore tenure reached an unsightly end after he went 1-5 with a 10.46 ERA in seven starts in April and May, then was torched on his minor league rehab assignment in June and July. After the Orioles released him in July, Tillman attempted to revive his career in the Texas Rangers’ organization, but he gave up nine earned runs in nine innings over four starts at Triple-A Round Rock.
If this is the end for Tillman, it’s a sad final chapter for a pitcher who was a key contributor to the Orioles’ 2012-2016 turnaround.
Rewrite the history books: there are two members of the 2017 Orioles who broke or tied major league records this season.
Of course, they weren’t exactly earth-shattering accomplishments that will launch the players into Hall of Fame discussions. In fact, this might be the first you’re hearing of them. But they’re the kind of achievements that would make even the most well-traveled journeyman gape in awe.
In June, Edwin Jackson tied Octavio Dotel’s major league record by playing for his 13th different major league club, the Oakland Athletics. Jackson, whose career seemed cooked when he struggled through three terrible relief appearances for the Orioles last year, has bounced back in a big way. He’s gone 6-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 16 starts for the Athletics, contributing to a club that has surprisingly played itself into a postseason berth. Not bad for a pitcher who has played for seven clubs in the last four years alone.
But even Jackson has never changed teams at the kind of breakneck pace that ex-Oriole Oliver Drake has this season. Drake started 2018 with the Brewers, who’d acquired him from Baltimore last year. After 11 games, the Brewers sold Drake’s contract to the Cleveland Indians. He lasted only four games there before he was claimed on waivers by the Los Angeles Angels. He made another eight appearances for the Angels, also spending time in their minors, before the Toronto Blue Jays claimed him July 26. A week later, his two-game stint with Toronto was finished when the Minnesota Twins plucked Drake off waivers and put him in their bullpen.
With that, Drake became the first player in major league history to play for five different teams in a single season. The New York Times chronicled Drake’s whirlwind, record-breaking journey. He has, at least, finally seemed to find a home in Minnesota, posting a 2.60 ERA in 16 appearances. He’s pitched more games with the Twins than with his three previous clubs combined.
THE KOREAN/INDEPENDENT LEAGUERS
Blink-and-you-missed-him 2017 Oriole David Washington landed in the independent Atlantic League this year, where he batted .226 with 24 homers and 71 RBIs in the regular season for the Long Island Ducks. His club advanced to the playoffs, where he had three hits in 14 at-bats — all home runs.
Checking overseas on the Korean Baseball Organization, ex-Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim has returned to his longtime home with a bang. Kim leads all KBO hitters with a .362 batting average, ranks second with a .423 OBP and ranks third with a 1.013 OPS. For good measure, he’s notched 20 homers and 101 RBIs.
Kim’s teammate with the LG Twins, righty Tyler Wilson, is 9-4 with a 3.01 ERA, throwing 19 quality starts in his 24 outings. In August, Wilson had some personal news worth celebrating, too. Perfectly befitting of a player on the Twins, Wilson and his wife, Chelsea…had twins.
Logan Verrett, who made four appearances for the Orioles last year, is also pitching in the KBO. He’s 6-9 with a 5.08 ERA in 25 starts for the NC Dinos.
Two 2017 Orioles are officially retired. Paul Janish, who hung up the cleats last August, finished his first year as an assistant coach at Rice University in May. The Rice Owls went 26-31 with two ties. Elsewhere, fellow infielder Johnny Giavotella, who had brief stints in two organizations this season, announced his retirement on Twitter on Aug. 11. “Kansas City, Anaheim, and Baltimore will always hold special places in my heart for the opportunity of a lifetime,” he wrote of the three major league teams he played for.
The most recently unemployed ex-Oriole is Craig Gentry, who was released by the club earlier this month. Gentry has yet to find a new home, which is a bit surprising; you’d think his defense and speed could serve as useful bench depth for a contender in the waning weeks of the regular season.
Others who played partial seasons this year include righty Stefan Crichton, who hasn’t been signed since the Arizona Diamondbacks released him June 23, and lefty Jayson Aquino, who was dropped from the Orioles’
minor league system June 29. Aquino joined the independent Kansas City T-Bones on July 19 but was released after less than a month.
Meanwhile, three 2017 Orioles didn’t play professional baseball anywhere this season: J.J. Hardy, Ubaldo Jimenez and Seth Smith. Hardy, for one, isn’t officially announcing his retirement just yet. He told MASN’s Roch Kubatko last month, “I’m not ready to retire, and right now I’m not ready to play. So I’m kind of stuck in the middle.”