A couple of familiar faces have been on the Orioles’ radar recently.
On Sunday, Andrew Cashner returned to the Baltimore mound with the Boston Red Sox, eight days after the Orioles traded him. The Orioles got the upper hand, tagging Cashner for four runs in six innings en route to a 5-0 victory. The 32-year-old has lost his first two starts with the Red Sox, giving up nine earned runs in 11 innings (7.36 ERA).
Next, the O’s are set to face a much more prominent ex-Oriole. Adam Jones, one of the most accomplished stars in club history, will square off against the Orioles for the first time since leaving in free agency this past winter. His Arizona Diamondbacks host the Orioles for three games beginning Monday.
With so many ex-Orioles on the mind, now’s a good time to check on the rest of the 2018 Orioles who have moved on from Baltimore. When I last ran this piece in early April, there were 23 players from last year’s squad who were no longer in the organization. That number has risen to 27, including Cashner. Here’s how they’re faring this year.
The major leaguers
Adam Jones, Diamondbacks
Joining the National League for the first time, Jones made an instant impression on his new team, starting his Diamondbacks career with 16 hits in his first nine games. By the end of April he was the club’s regular rightfielder and cleanup hitter. He had a .314 average and .935 OPS on April 27 and appeared primed for a bounceback season.
Since then, Jones’ numbers have steadily dipped. He particularly struggled in June, batting .224 with a .600 OPS in 22 games, and his overall stats now include a .267 average, .753 OPS, 13 homers and 44 RBIs. With the Diamondbacks sitting at a .500 record and Jones a pending free agent, the club could look to trade the veteran to a contender at the deadline. Jones does not have the power to veto a deal, unlike last year, when he exercised his 10-and-5 rights to block a trade from the Orioles to Philadelphia.
Tim Beckham, Seattle Mariners
Speaking of players who have cooled off after hot starts, Beckham — who was hitting .339 with a 1.053 OPS and four homers through 18 games — has crashed back to earth. He too had a miserable June, during which he had just eight hits in 58 at-bats (.138) and homered only once in 18 games. His batting average (.238) and on-base percentage (.291) are nearly the same as last year with the Orioles (.230/.287), though his 14 homers have already topped last year’s total of 12.
Beckham began the year as Seattle’s shortstop, but committed 12 errors in 41 games and his been supplanted by 24-year-old J.P. Crawford. Beckham has started just one game at short since the start of June, shuffling between the other three infield positions and designated hitter.
Brad Brach, Chicago Cubs
Brach’s debut season with the Cubs has been an ongoing struggle. The tone was set when he walked 10 batters in his first six appearances, and things haven’t improved since. He has a 6.08 ERA in 38 games. Left-handed hitters are batting over .400. Brach has seemingly become an afterthought in the Cubs’ bullpen; he’s made only four appearances in July — allowing runs in three of them — and his last eight appearances have all come in Cubs losses.
Zack Britton, New York Yankees
Britton may not be quite the unhittable, shutdown force he was during his immaculate 2016 season for the Orioles, but he’s cemented himself as an essential part of the first-place Yankees’ bullpen. Through 43 games, he’s registered a 2.25 ERA and recorded three saves, working primarily in an eighth-inning role ahead of closer Aroldis Chapman. Britton has particularly sparkled since May 6, a span of 29 appearances, in which he’s posted a 1.33 ERA and been scored on only twice. In the first season of Britton’s three-year, $39 million deal, the Yankees’ investment is paying off so far.
Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day, Atlanta Braves
There’s a common perception among Orioles fans — whether accurate or not — that young pitchers who stagnate in the Baltimore system will improve once they move to a new team. Call it the Jake Arrieta Effect. Last year, the phenomenon had seemingly struck again with Gausman, who sliced his ERA to 2.87 after the club traded him to the Braves, as opposed to 4.43 with Baltimore before the deal.
Well…not so fast. Based on Gausman’s disastrous 2019 so far, he’s not exactly on track to be the next Arrieta. His season started late because of right-shoulder tendinitis, and once he returned, he stumbled to a 2-5 record and 6.21 ERA in 13 starts before returning to the injured list with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He did deliver a strong seven-inning performance in his return from the IL on Sunday, however.
Meanwhile, O’Day still hasn’t thrown a pitch for the Braves since they acquired him from the Orioles with Gausman last July. He’s spent the entire 2019 season on the shelf with forearm tightness and was transferred to the 60-day IL in early June.
Manny Machado, San Diego Padres
After all the controversy that surrounded Machado last October, when he was vilified for his on-field behavior in the postseason, he’s attracted relatively little attention in laid-back San Diego this season. That somewhat changed last week, when Machado posted an Instagram video criticizing MLB Network analysts for what he called an unfair perspective on Latino players.
On the field, Machado has enjoyed a strong debut season with the Padres, teaming with rookie shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. to form one of the most exciting left sides of the infield in baseball. Machado is batting .268 with an .848 OPS, 25 home runs and 66 RBIs. On Saturday, he hit his 200th career home run, the first 162 of which came in an Orioles uniform.
Jonathan Schoop, Minnesota Twins
Schoop has put 2019’s miserable two-month stint in Milwaukee in the rearview mirror, finding a new home in Minnesota in a lineup full of bashers. Schoop, with 15 home runs, is one of 10 Twins hitters to reach double digits in that category. The club leads the majors with 181 long balls. Schoop also has a .258 average and .778 OPS, solid numbers for a hitter who usually bats sixth or lower in the Minnesota lineup.
The up and downers
Several of last year’s Orioles have spent the season bouncing back and forth between the majors and minors. One is the Diamondbacks’ Caleb Joseph, who — barring a roster move in the next two days — won’t get to face the Orioles, the team with whom he spent the first 11 years of his professional career. Joseph is playing with Triple-A Reno, where he’s hitting .268 with an .870 OPS, seven homers and 21 RBIs in 37 games. He’s had two stints with the big club this year, going 4-for-28 (.143) — and also making two scoreless pitching appearances, retiring all four batters he faced. Is it too late for Joseph to convert to a pitching career?
Lefty Donnie Hart, a member of the 2016 Orioles postseason team, is with the Milwaukee Brewers organization. In four games in the majors, he’s worked 6 2/3 scoreless innings, walking four and allowing four hits. He’s spent most of the season at Triple-A San Antonio, where his ERA is 4.00 in 38 games.
Two of last year’s Orioles have (sporadically) joined Britton on the Yankees. Former Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes Jr. has ridden the shuttle all year between New York and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, getting promoted and demoted seven times each. At the former stop, he’s made 14 appearances with a 4.34 ERA and notched three wins in long relief. At the latter, he’s gone 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA for the RailRiders.
Joining Cortes in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is infielder Breyvic Valera, part of last year’s Machado trade, who started this season in the San Francisco organization before the Yankees claimed him on waivers. The 27-year-old has been outstanding with the bat at Triple-A, hitting .333 with a .947 OPS, 10 homers and 33 RBIs, but made it to the Yankees for only one game, in which he was 1-for-3.
The recent ex-Orioles
In addition to Cashner, three other players who started the 2019 season in the Orioles’ organization have been sent to new homes this year. The first to depart was right-hander Mike Wright, whose five-year Orioles career ended April 24 when he was traded to the Mariners. He held a 5.95 ERA in 101 career games with Baltimore, and things didn’t improve much in Seattle, where he gave up 12 earned runs in 16 innings (6.75 ERA) in nine games. The Mariners designated him for assignment July 5 and outrighted him to Triple-A when he cleared waivers. He’s 0-2 with a 3.71 ERA in eight games (six starts) for Tacoma.
On May 27, the Orioles dealt right-hander Yefry Ramirez, who had a 6.07 ERA from 2018-19 with Baltimore, to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Since then, he’s made 10 appearances (three starts) with Triple-A Indianapolis, scuffling to a 6.93 ERA and 0-3 record. The Pirates called him up June 16 for two days, but he didn’t get into a game before returning to the minors.
One of former executive vice president Dan Duquette’s many Rule 5 acquisitions, Joey Rickard, was designated for assignment June 17 and claimed by the Giants four days later. Rickard played 317 games with the Orioles over parts of four years, finishing his Baltimore career with a .245 average and .671 OPS. Now with Triple-A Sacramento, he’s hitting .398 with a 1.018 OPS in 25 games in the Pacific Coast League.
The minor leaguers
A few members of the 2018 Orioles have yet to make it back to the majors this year but are playing well in the minors. That list is headlined by infielder Corban Joseph, who leads the PCL with a .375 average for the Las Vegas Aviators, Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate. His 1.025 OPS ranks fourth, and he has 10 homers and 57 RBIs.
Also playing well are outfielder John Andreoli (.301/.946 in 39 games for Tacoma) and reliever Ryan Meisinger (3.09 ERA in 21 games for Triple-A Memphis in the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization). Having less success is infielder Luis Sardinas, who’s batting just .190 for Double-A Harrisburg in the Washington Nationals’ system. And catcher Andrew Susac has a .234 average and .807 OPS for the Kansas City Royals’ Triple-A squad, Omaha, but is currently on the injured list.
In the Mexican League, journeyman right-hander Jhan Marinez is spending this season with the Diablos Rojos del Mexico, where he’s 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA in seven appearances.
Not in baseball
Last season, the Orioles surprisingly included four non-roster invitees on their Opening Day roster: veterans Pedro Alvarez, Craig Gentry, Colby Rasmus and Danny Valencia. Today, none of the four is playing professional baseball. Gentry is the only one who has announced his retirement, playing three games at Triple-A Albuquerque before calling it quits, but the others — plus longtime Orioles ace Chris Tillman — remain unemployed and have likely finished their major league careers.
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