Over the weekend, after each Orioles/Red Sox game wrapped up, I found myself tuning into some West Coast baseball — specifically, the San Diego Padres visiting the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The series brought back memories of the Orioles’ recent glory years. Two star players from those successful Baltimore clubs, Manny Machado and Adam Jones, are now playing prominent roles for their new teams (the Padres and Diamondbacks, respectively).
With that, it’s time to launch my annual Ex-Oriole Report, where I check in on the departed players from last year’s club and how they’re performing in their post-Orioles career. We’ll update this feature periodically throughout the season.
Of the 56 players who appeared for the 2018 Orioles, 23 are no longer with the organization. Here’s a rundown of where they all ended up, starting with Machado and Jones.
Manny Machado, Padres
It was the trade of Machado last July 18 that officially kicked off the Orioles’ rebuild, as the club dealt five more veterans by the end of that month. In the nine months since he left Baltimore, Machado seems like he’s lived an entire career’s worth of highlights and lowlights. He played in the World Series for the first time, with his Los Angeles Dodgers losing in five games to Boston. But along the way, Machado earned a reputation as one of baseball’s biggest villains with his controversial postseason antics, compounded by his infamous interview with Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal in which he proclaimed, “I’m not Johnny Hustle.”
Those may have been factors in Machado’s sluggish market in free agency, with the 26-year-old remaining unsigned until after pitchers and catchers reported to camp. Ultimately, though, Machado scored a 10-year, $300-million contract with the Padres, which at the time was the largest free-agent contract in American sports history (though it was topped nine days later by Bryce Harper’s $330-million deal with Philadelphia).
The fact that the normally low-spending Padres emerged as the top bidder was a surprise to some, but the San Diego front office was banking on Machado being the superstar leader to help the talented young team reach the next level. So far, the plan is working. Machado is hitting .246 with an .822 OPS, four homers and eight RBIs, giving the Padres a middle-of-the-order threat they’ve lacked for years. He’s helped vault the Padres to first place in the NL West as of Sunday.
And in case you’re wondering, he’s still making defensive plays like this.
Adam Jones and Caleb Joseph, Diamondbacks
It’s strange to see Jones, the heart and soul of the Orioles for over a decade, in any uniform other than the black and orange. But if it’s strange to Jones, he isn’t showing it. Jones has fit like a glove for the Diamondbacks, emerging as one of the club’s best hitters. Jones’ four homers are tied for the team lead (with fellow ex-Oriole Christian Walker), and his .333 average and .994 OPS lead Arizona’s regulars.
When Jones signed with Arizona in early March, he was expected to serve in a fourth outfielder role and play all three positions. But Steven Souza Jr.’s season-ending knee injury at the end of spring training left a hole in right field that Jones has filled. All 12 of his starts have come in right, the position to which he moved for the Orioles last August after 11 years in center.
Recently, Jones has been joined on the Diamondbacks’ roster by Joseph, his teammate for five seasons in Baltimore. Joseph, who wasn’t offered a contract by the Orioles in November, signed with Arizona in February but wasn’t one of the three catchers who made the club’s Opening Day roster. After batting .400 in four games for Triple-A Reno, Joseph was called up to the majors this past Wednesday. He’s hitless in four at-bats so far.
Tim Beckham, Seattle Mariners
After 146 games over parts of two seasons with the Orioles, Beckham became a free agent when the club non-tendered him this past winter. He never found a rhythm in Baltimore after his red-hot first month in August 2017, in which he batted .394 with a 1.062 OPS. Beckham batted .180/.603 the rest of that season, then hit a disappointing .230/.661 during an injury-shortened 2018. He also struggled defensively at shortstop and in his abbreviated stint at third base.
Now with the Mariners, Beckham again is off to a blistering start, hitting .339/1.053 along with four homers and 12 RBIs. Time will tell whether he can avoid another steep drop-off in production. Meanwhile, Beckham has continued to struggle with the leather. He’s been charged with five errors in his 16 games at short.
Brad Brach, Chicago Cubs
The veteran right-hander was the only player the Orioles traded last season without receiving any players in return. The club dealt him to the Atlanta Braves on July 30 for international bonus slot money. He pitched well for the Braves during the stretch run, posting a 1.52 ERA in 27 regular-season games and making two postseason appearances.
Brach, who turned 33 on Friday, is now with the Cubs after signing a one-year, $1.75-million deal in February. He’s struggled with his control, walking 10 batters in 6 2/3 innings, and has a 4.05 ERA in six appearances.
Zack Britton, New York Yankees
It’s been a year of changes for Britton, who not only switched teams last July, but also has a new name. Well, sort of. Britton changed the spelling of Zach to Zack, the name on his birth certificate. Britton told MLB.com that a misprint in the Orioles’ official rosters listed his name as Zach after he was drafted, and he stuck with it as a “stage name” until this winter.
My computer’s spell check still hasn’t gotten used to the change, putting a red squiggly line whenever I write “Zack.” In any case, the former Orioles’ closer re-signed with the Yankees, to whom he was traded last July. In seven games, Britton has surrendered 12 baserunners and allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings while serving in a setup role.
Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day, Braves
Gausman’s shift to the National League — and to a franchise that’s been historically excellent at developing pitchers — worked wonders in 2018. After he was traded from the Orioles to the Braves last July 31, Gausman sliced more than a run and a half off his ERA the rest of the year. He opened this season on the injured list with right shoulder tendinitis, but returned April 5 and picked up where he left off, throwing seven shutout, two-hit innings in his debut. His second start was less successful; Gausman allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings in a loss to the New York Mets.
The other Oriole sent packing in that trade, bullpen mainstay O’Day, has yet to throw a pitch for the Braves. He’d already undergone season-ending hamstring surgery when the Braves acquired him, and he began 2019 on the injured list with forearm tightness. The Braves have not set a timetable for his return. At 36 and plagued by injuries the last several years, O’Day’s career appears to be winding down.
Jonathan Schoop, Minnesota Twins
If there’s one Oriole whose career was turned upside down by the team’s trading frenzy in 2018, it’s Schoop, the 2017 All-Star and Most Valuable Oriole. After missing close to a month of last season because of a right oblique strain, Schoop was just starting to heat up at the plate — batting .360 with a 1.056 OPS and nine home runs in July — when the Orioles sent him packing to Milwaukee moments before the non-waiver trade deadline.
The trade surprised Schoop, who was more than a year away from free-agent eligibility. He struggled badly with the Brewers, hitting just .202 with a .577 OPS, four homers and 21 RBIs in 46 games, and he was benched for the majority of their postseason run. The Brewers non-tendered him after the season, and Schoop jumped on a one-year, $7.5 million deal with the Twins a week later.
Schoop has gotten comfortable in his return to the American League, batting .256 with an .803 OPS, two homers and six RBIs in 11 games. He’s reunited with his former Orioles mentor, designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who signed a one-year contract with the Twins in January.
The minor leaguers
Nine players from last year’s Orioles are in the minor leagues with other organizations. One is Craig Gentry, who served two years in Baltimore as a spare outfielder before the Orioles released him last September. Gentry latched on with the San Francisco Giants in February, was cut at the end of spring training, and then signed with the Colorado Rockies last week. He’s had five hits in his first two games with Triple-A Albuquerque.
Fellow outfielder John Andreoli had a whirlwind offseason. On October 31, he was claimed off waivers by the Mariners, the club from whom the Orioles had claimed him two months earlier. Andreoli was then claimed by the Texas Rangers on January 15 and the Giants on February 1, then traded to the Twins near the end of spring training. He’s playing for the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate, Rochester, and is hitting .289 with an .872 OPS in nine games.
It’s been more than a calendar year since lefty Nestor Cortes Jr. was in the Orioles’ organization. The former Rule 5 pick survived just four games in the majors with the Orioles, last appearing April 9, 2018, before they returned him to the Yankees. He spent the rest of that season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, going 6-6 with a 3.78 ERA in 23 games (18 starts), and remains with the RailRiders to open 2019. Cortes has allowed just one run in 12 2/3 innings in two starts.
Other 2018 short-timers in new homes include Corban Joseph, who last year joined Caleb to become the second pair of brother teammates in Orioles history. Now at Triple-A Las Vegas in the Oakland system, Corban is batting .310 with an .858 OPS in seven games. Right-hander Ryan Meisinger, who had a 6.43 ERA in 18 games for the Orioles, was claimed off waivers by the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s had a rough go of it at Triple-A Memphis, taking the loss in three of his five relief outings while posting a 7.56 ERA. And blink-and-you-missed-him infielder Luis Sardinas is 1-for-4 for Double-A Harrisburg in the Washington Nationals’ system.
Among the ex-Orioles discarded by new general manager Mike Elias after he took the reins in mid-November is Donnie Hart, who spent parts of three seasons as a lefty specialist before the Orioles cut him loose. The Dodgers claimed him March 7, then lost him on waivers to the Brewers April 4. He’s working at Triple-A San Antonio, where he’s given up three runs — none of them earned — in five games.
Elias dealt infielder Breyvic Valera, one of the five players acquired by Dan Duquette in the Machado trade, to the Giants in January. Playing for Triple-A Sacramento, Valera has a .207 average, .706 OPS, one homer and four RBIs in nine games. And the most recently jettisoned 2018 Oriole is catcher Andrew Susac, exchanged to Kansas City on April 2. He was assigned to Triple-A Omaha, where he’s 2-for-10 in five games.
Quick, what’s your favorite Jhan Marinez memory? A journeyman’s journeyman, the right-hander joined his seventh big league organization in five years with his eight-game stint with the 2018 Orioles. Now he’s playing in the Mexican League with the Diablos Rojos del Mexico. He’s 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA in five relief appearances.
Four members of the 2018 Orioles aren’t currently playing professional baseball. Pedro Alvarez was invited to spring training with the Miami Marlins and hit quite well — 11-for-34 with three homers and 10 RBIs — but elected to opt out when told he wouldn’t make the team. Alvarez apparently did not find a better offer and remains unsigned.
Colby Rasmus, after walking away from the Tampa Bay Rays in the middle of the season in 2017, did exactly the same thing to the Orioles in 2018. This time, it’s a good bet he’ll stay retired. Danny Valencia appeared in 78 games as a hitter and one as a pitcher in 2018 before the Orioles released him in August. He hasn’t signed with a team, but he’s active on Twitter if you’d like to read his takes on baseball and other sports happenings.
Finally, the Orioles’ longtime No. 1 starter, Chris Tillman, remains a free agent. It’s a long shot that any team will pick him up after his dreary 2017 and 2018 seasons, in which he was a combined 2-12 with an 8.42 ERA in 31 games (26 starts) and allowed nearly two baserunners per inning. Tillman finished 2018 in the Texas Rangers’ system and had no luck there, either, amassing a 10.00 ERA in four starts for Triple-A Round Rock.
If he doesn’t return to the majors, Tillman — who celebrates his 31st birthday today — can look back fondly on a 10-year career that included 74 wins, an All-Star selection and three postseason starts.
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