BALTIMORE—The trade of relief pitcher Richard Bleier wouldn’t have been surprising had it occurred a month later, on August 31, at this year’s trade deadline. But the Orioles moved quickly to move the 33-year-old left-hander to the Miami Marlins after Friday’s game for a player to be named later.
The player that the Orioles will receive is not in Miami’s 60-man player pool because minor leaguers not on that list can’t be traded this season.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said that the Marlins, who’ve had at least 18 players test positive for Covid-19, had liked Bleier for some time.
“Before their most recent crisis began, they had had interest in Richard,” Elias said in a video conference call on Saturday.
“With our position right now as a rebuilding team, we’re listening to everything, particularly with a veteran reliever like that. There’s interest from other clubs at times and we explore it. He’s occupied a very prominent place in the recent history of the team. He’s been a part of some good runs here.
“He’s been a leader in the bullpen. He pitched through injury at times. He’s an Oriole. It’s tough seeing him leave. It’s part of the process and the transition that this club is going through. We know things like this happen. We did it last year. It’s happening this year.”
The trade is the second Elias has made with the Marlins in the last eight months. He traded infielder Jonathan Villar to Miami last December for a minor league left-hander, Easton Lucas.
“We’re going to get something back that we like and is meaningful for our future,” Elias said. “Almost as importantly, it opens up a roster spot both on the 40-man and on the active roster to get opportunity, that’s’ part of this, too.”
Earlier in the day, it was announced that Miami would play four games in Baltimore on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and they’ve been aggressively acquiring major league talent to replace players sidelined because of positive tests for the coronavirus.
“I presume that the roster situation they’re in right now and perhaps that they’re coming here to play, makes this a convenient timing to do something,” Elias said.
Elias said the trade of Bleier, who lives in Miami, isn’t a sign that the Orioles don’t think they’ll be competitive in 2020.
“No, not at all,” Elias said. “We’re off to a good start. We’re 3-3 and we could have won an extra game there. The guys are playing well. It’s good energy. We’ve got good young players on the team that are perhaps having breakout years.
“We’re still at a point in our cycle where we’re going to prioritize stuff in the talent pipeline as much as possible in the minor leagues and getting that base and the goal is to persist in that way once we have that talent base filled in.
“It’s an ‘anything goes’ kind of year. We’re going to go out and try and win every game every night.”
The trade removed a key left-hander from manager Brandon Hyde’s bullpen.
“Rich was one of our older players,” Hyde said. “We don’t have a ton of them, one of the older guys in the clubhouse, someone who pitched for multiple teams, had a nice run, did a nice job for the few years he was here, came back from a tough injury, performed well later in the year last year, was off to a good start this year.
“He’s going to be missed. He’s a guy in the bullpen with a really inexperienced group that sometimes has trouble with command. He’s one guy that we could rely on to throw strikes and usually gets ground balls. It was somebody that I could rely on from that standpoint. Now, it’s up to other guys.”
Shawn Armstrong, another key bullpen piece, was sad to see Bleier go.
“You never expect it to happen that fast,” Armstrong said. “Losing somebody like that stinks in the long run, but at the same time, we’re in a rebuild, it gives another guy the opportunity to step up and take advantage of being in that role.”
Odds and ends: First baseman Chris Davis was scratched from the starting lineup because of knee soreness. Hyde said he’s available to pinch-hit … Shortstop José Iglesias is out for the third straight day because of a sore left quad … To replace Bleier on the roster, the Orioles selected the contract of catcher Bryan Holaday from the alternate site. The Orioles have 39 players on the 40-man roster and 54 players in the 60-man player pool. Holaday, who’s 32, has a .241 average in nine seasons.