Taking a closer look at the Orioles' deadline-day moves - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Taking a closer look at the Orioles’ deadline-day moves

Wednesday night’s unexpected trade of shortstop José Iglesias to the Los Angeles Angels brought a fan reaction similar to a move the Orioles made a year before. On December 2, 2019, just before the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players, the Orioles traded infielder Jonathan Villar to the Miami Marlins for a minor league left-handed pitcher, Easton Lucas.

Iglesias had had his $3.5 million option for 2021 picked up on November 2nd, so his departure wasn’t expected. Villar was about to be non-tendered, but the Orioles found a team that would take him and a salary that could have exceeded $10 million.

Villar was coming off a career year in 2019 when he played in all 162 games, hit 24 home runs and drove in 73 runs, both personal highs, and hit .274 with a .792 OPS. He also stole 40 bases, and became the fifth Oriole to hit for the cycle.

He split time between second base and shortstop, but the Orioles, who had no desire to extend him, didn’t want to risk an arbitrator handing him a $10.4 million salary, as MLBTradeRumors.com thought he could get.

When the trade was made, the reaction was predictable. The Orioles were losing one of their two most potent offensive players from 2019. (It turned out with Trey Mancini missing the 60-game 2020 season because of colon cancer surgery, they’d go without both of them.)

A little over a month after Villar was traded, Iglesias was signed to a one-year deal for $2.5 million with the $3.5 million option for 2021. If he played well, and the season proceeded normally, it wouldn’t have been a surprise for him to be traded in July.

Obviously, it didn’t, and he had missed significant time because of a left quadriceps injury that left him unable to play regularly at shortstop at the time of the August 31st deadline this past season.

Villar didn’t have a good 2020, hitting just .232 with a .593 OPS in 52 games with Miami and Toronto, which acquired him at the deadline in exchange for minor league infielder Griffin Conine, the son of former Oriole Jeff Conine.

Villar is a free agent, and the Orioles could pursue him, but I doubt they will.


It turned out that Iglesias, who hit .373 with a .953 OPS, was a much better offensive player at a quarter of the salary the Orioles thought they might have to pay Villar. The Marlins and Villar settled on an $8.2 million contract for 2020, a hefty increase from the $4.825 million the Orioles paid him in 2019.

Since we don’t know who will play shortstop for the Orioles in 2021, it’s hard to make a judgment on the loss of Iglesias.

The non-tendering of Hanser Alberto was a bit of a surprise because I thought the team would be able to find a suitor for him. I didn’t expect him to be back, not when they agreed to a $1 million contract with Yolmer Sánchez.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said the team will continue talking with Alberto and will try to bring him back at a price lower than the $2.4 million he could fetch in arbitration.

Alberto could be an excellent pickup for a good team that would use him at second and third extensively against left-handers. He’s a career .350 hitter when facing left-handers.

The short-handed Orioles were forced to play him often against right-handers, against whom his career average is .237.

Besides agreeing to a contract with Sánchez, the Orioles also agreed on deals with catcher catcher Pedro Severino ($1.825 million), right-handed reliever Shawn Armstrong ($825,000) and infielder Pat Valaika ($875,000 major league/$300,000 minors).

Severino’s deal makes it unlikely that Adley Rutschman will debut with the Orioles early in the season. If Rutschman arrives in July, which might be ambitious considering that he’s played in only 37 minor league games, Severino could be dealt to a team looking for catching depth.

Armstrong missed a month of 2020 because of a back injury, but he’s been effective for the Orioles, even though he’s out of options. Elias would like a bullpen of pitchers who can be optioned, but if Armstrong continues to perform well, it won’t be an issue.

Valaika’s inclusion was a surprise, but with the departure of Iglesias and Alberto, he provides depth, some power and experience at shortstop and second.

The Orioles have just two unsigned, arbitration-eligible players, Mancini and outfielder Anthony Santander.

Eshelman departs: After clearing waivers, right-handed pitcher Thomas Eshelman refused an outright assignment to Triple-A Norfolk and chose free agency.

Question time: I’ll be answering Orioles questions next week. Please leave your questions in the comments below or email them to me: [email protected].

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. CalsPals

    December 4, 2020 at 7:21 am

    WHEN Severino hits the wall & they decide to bring up Rutschman no one will want him, we got him because he wasn’t protected (for a reason), another waste of money to a frugal team, makes no sense, just remember Rutschman WILL remember this, too sad, how to treat people has nothing to do with analytics…go O’s…

    • Phil770

      December 4, 2020 at 12:11 pm

      At the moment, there is nothing for AR or his agent to be upset about for which they will want to “get even” when the time comes. A couple of other things to note, teams are allowed to make trades before the deadline, so Severino could be dealt in Spring training or just after. If Sisco or AR win the job in Spring Training, then Severino can be released at a buyout that is already determined, or flipped for another “prospect” or two.

      Rich, in response to your call out for questions, could you get statistics on ERA for pitchers when Serverino caught and for when Sisco caught. Agree with others that he has faded offensively and defensively each of the past two seasons, trying to understand the true value, and maybe he calls a better game than the others. Thanks.

    • Shamus

      December 4, 2020 at 12:25 pm

      It’s just business, nothing personal

    • CalsPals

      December 4, 2020 at 12:30 pm

      Tell that to them, don’t disagree, just saying…go O’s…

    • Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

      December 4, 2020 at 5:04 pm

      Ridiculous to assert that Rutschman has anything to be upset about because they reached a deal with a guy who was already on the team. What were they going to do? Just play Cisco every day and hope he doesn’t fall apart until Adley is ready? Come on, man.

    • CalsPals

      December 4, 2020 at 5:21 pm

      Not yet…give Mikey time….go O’s…

  2. Orial

    December 4, 2020 at 8:40 am

    Still trying to wrap my thought pattern around Iglesis’ departure. Gotta be that bum leg because other than that 2 questionable pitching prospects don’t support the decision. But as the old saying goes–” trust the system”. 2021 SS is not on the present roster–period(I sure hope that includes the talent that we saw from last year’s bubble). Severino being back is fine but please work work with him in keeping the ball in front of him. His concentration level seems to dwindle as the season goes on. Message to coaches–“stay on him”. With inevitable injuries it’s nice to see Valaika back. Will Mancini(hopefully),Santander,Mountcastle supply enough offense for a full-time stint at SS for Martin and his .210 BA to work out?

    • Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

      December 4, 2020 at 5:10 pm

      They traded a glove-first SS in his thirties, who only played 40-ish games for the team, and received a pitching prospect that immediately slots into the top 30 of a good farm system, and had an impressive collegiate career.

      I don’t see the problem here.

      Iglesias is not ARod in his prime. Over a nine year career and nearly 3,000 at-bats the guy is putting up an OPS+ of 88. IOW, over his career, he’s been 12% *worse* than the average MLB hitter.

      Not worth crying over folks. This is exactly the kind of shrewd trade I want the front office to make.

    • CalsPals

      December 5, 2020 at 8:22 am

      Ok Mikey…go O’s…

  3. Rob IsraOsFan

    December 4, 2020 at 11:03 am

    Rich, thanks for updating us on Villar’s performance in 2020…feel a LOT better now that we didn’t bring him back…lol. If you can do a “Where are they now” write-up on other former O’s from the past 5 years, that will be cool.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 4, 2020 at 3:49 pm

      Thank you, Rob. When it’s relevant to the subject, I’m happy to reference Orioles of the recent past.

  4. NormOs

    December 4, 2020 at 11:57 am

    I guess we know who is in for a very hefty raise and a brand new extended contract, and he is neither pitcher nor position player or manager but to the Angelos family he is the MVP. Example: Saved $3.5 Mil and got 2 pitchers in return with the odds that they will never reach AAA much less MLB.

    • BarstoolSleeper

      December 4, 2020 at 3:25 pm

      The Iglesias move was obviously a salary dump getting two unproven pitchers in return. Having said that, it’s way too early to say that the trade deal is bad. Iggy was a plus defender and got on base but he’s 31 and not part of the future so I understand flipping him for prospects who could be a part of the future. The Os let Alberto walk because they didn’t want to give him a measly 2.4$mil. He can still be resigned but this organization obviously doesn’t want to spend money right now. I don’t agree with not spending to keep a professional team on the field but the outfield is solid, if Mancini can hit like he did before his medical setback and Mountcastle keeps moving forward, the future isn’t all doom and gloom fellas.

    • CalsPals

      December 4, 2020 at 3:38 pm

      Seems odd to salary dump someone they didn’t have to have, I think the intent was to try an find a Diamond in the rough, still don’t think weakening your defense is the way to go…go O’s…

    • BarstoolSleeper

      December 4, 2020 at 3:52 pm

      It was either pick up his $3.5mil option and keep him/trade him or eat a $500k buyout for no reason. So they offered him the $3.5 and moved him picking up 2 prospects and ultimately saving the club the $500k buyout. I agree with you calspals, with our young pitching staff that weakening the middle of the infield is a bad idea but I do see the “rebuild” side of the coin as well. Let’s hope Elias can find another bargain bin fill in or maybe we hope Ritchie Martin will turn some heads this spring


      December 7, 2020 at 8:41 am

      HEY! HEY! HEY! Barstool Sleeper, I thought I was the Boy Wonder’s biggest critic! LOL

  5. Bhoffman1

    December 4, 2020 at 5:11 pm

    Quote from the Athletic. Rebuilding is ugly. Once the dust settles the Orioles lost 2/3 of their middle infield for 2021. My feeling is if Sanchez hits something I like him at 2nd over Alberto for his defense but Iglesias hit almost 400 on a bad leg. Elias said it was a no brainer signing him but he LIED to us it was never about keeping him. Are these two kids we got such great prospects, we have a lot of young pitchers in our system. I don’t like it one bit. I’m not a kid and it would be nice to say we can rebuild but hold on to a few veteran players who can play besides CD who can’t do anything anymore and make 2021 competitive

  6. Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

    December 4, 2020 at 6:01 pm

    So much whining over a guy who played 40-ish games, is in his 30’s, and is a defense-first SS. No one did much but shrug when he was signed late in the offseason. Now he’s as valuable as Cal Ripken apparently.

    Iglesias was never, ever going to be a core part of this rebuild. The guy had 150 at-bats where he was a very good hitter. And has nearly 3000 at-bats that show he is a glove-first guy, and can barely crack a slugging percentage of .400.

    What are you all seeing that’s so valuable here?

    For those ragging on the “no names” they picked up, well, let’s take a quick look at the centerpiece of the trade, Garrett Stallings. Stallings was ranked the #21 prospect in the Angels system, even though he didn’t play an inning last year due to the minors being shut down.

    He is an accomplished college pitcher, one of the best in the Southeast Conference which noted as the toughest in collegiate baseball. He has four pitches he can throw for strikes, and only walked 1.3 per nine innings in a conference loaded with good hitters. That’s 102 innings with 106 strikeouts against only 16 walks, and gave up less than a homerun per nine (0.9).

    Reverse this trade. Let’s imagine that Stallings had been drafted by Elias, and then the Orioles traded him to the Angels for Iglesias, a player with a career 88 OPS+. That means over his career he’s been 12% worse than the average MLB hitter. Heck, Rio Ruiz managed to put up a 93 OPS+ this past season, and most of you want him run out of town immediately.

    You would all have lost your minds (and rightfully so!) if Elias gave up a pitching prospect for an aging defense-first SS.

    • willmiranda

      December 5, 2020 at 10:04 am

      You write, “Stallings was ranked the #21 prospect in the Angels system, even though he didn’t play an inning last year. . . . ” Of what value is a ranking system based on precisely zero relevant data? Schoolboy numbers are difficult to project onto the professional screen. And if there is a centerpiece to the trade, it is Iglesias. I doubt that Elias called the Angels to ask whom he would have to give up to get Stallings. If Iglesias works out for the Angels as well as Bundy did, I’m sure they’ll be happy.

    • Tileman

      December 7, 2020 at 8:32 am

      Great analysis ZD and correct assumption. Plus a pro BB team never has enough pitching.

  7. Boog Robinson Robinson

    December 4, 2020 at 7:37 pm

    What I find rather comical around here, is that we ALL are referring to saving $3.5 million as a salary “dump”. Whaaaaaaaat? Realllly?

    The average salary for an MLB player is $4.7, and Mikey and company are “‘dumping” $3.5 on a starting quality major league shortstop? And we’re buying it as a “dump”. How pathetic has this team become ? And for whatever reason, I really don’t care. It’s simply embarrassing to the city and it’s fans.

    If you’re an Oriole fan, I hope you have a taste for C&W music.

    • Bhoffman1

      December 5, 2020 at 8:15 am

      Especially when Elias said for 3.5 it was a no brainer to pick up his option and sign him considering he possibly was the MVP last year. I’m sure trading him wasn’t a spur of the moment decision and was planned all along. I’m so tired of hearing rebuilding and another year of not competing and I think most fans agree with me.

    • CalsPals

      December 5, 2020 at 8:23 am

      :)…go O’s… a

    • WorldlyView

      December 5, 2020 at 5:00 pm

      In the short-term, an Orioles salary dump can be defined as dropping any player making more than one million dollars. It would make good short-term business sense for ownership to assume that there will be severe limits on the number of paying bodies allowed into the stadium next year. The way to minimize financial losses in such a scenario is to be willing to endure a maximum number of game losses in 2021. Fans will just have to endure, content to dream about better times. My theory will be proven when the O’s trade Mancini for 6 Rookie League prospects.

      • Tileman

        December 7, 2020 at 8:38 am

        The O’s farm system has historically been abysmal relative to all other farm systems over the past 20 years starting with Wren and Syd Thrift. Every Oriole fan dreamed of a farm system that rivaled the Rays.
        We finally have a GM that sees the value in building a strong minor league talent stream.

        • VICTORTEE

          December 7, 2020 at 8:45 am

          And his prior organization valued cheating also.

  8. dlgruber1

    December 4, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    So here’s what I see in my crystal ball. To me Elias is looking at 2023 as the year to target the playoffs. Anybody who he feels will not be a help at that time is either gonna be traded or DFA’d. By 2023 Elias plans on the starting infield being Mancini at 1st and Henderson at SS and of course AR catching. I’m thinking he hasn’t acquired his 2nd baseman or 3rd basemen yet. He’s hoping for an outfield of Kjerstad, Hays and Santander with RM playing some LF, 1B and DH. A pitching staff of Rodriguez, Hall, Akin, Kremer and Means with Scott as primary closer. CD will finally be gone and he wants to go pedal to the metal by 2023.

    • Bhoffman1

      December 5, 2020 at 8:18 am

      Your dreaming if you think Kjerstad, Henderson , Rodriguez will be here. Also you left Diaz off the team I guess you feel he doesn’t get a shot

    • willmiranda

      December 5, 2020 at 10:21 am

      Playoffs!!?? Playoffs??!! I think we had this discussion halfway through the last season. First, let’s get out of the cellar. By 2023, I suspect that Elias will be interviewing for a better job with an organization with deeper pockets. He will claim that financial restraints kept him from completing his elite pipeline, but that the blueprints are still good, as evidenced by the O’s going from 118 losses to only 93.

      • NormOs

        December 5, 2020 at 5:04 pm

        Will, a team with deeper pockets? We never find out what the O’s can or can’t spend we only know that they are a “small market” team which, I assume, means they can only afford a few cheap major league players and the crap that other teams don’t want, you know, waiver wire and rule 5.


      December 7, 2020 at 8:46 am

      Mancini will be too expensive and too old for the Boy Wonder.

  9. Phil770

    December 5, 2020 at 12:30 pm

    The clamor here is that Losing a good fielding, MLB SS hurts development of the young pitchers. Iglesias is solid and could legitimately stabilize the defense, to think Elias can find a replacement with just anybody is ludicrous; Sanchez is a good risk at 2B, but not SS. To me the squawking is more than justified, it directly affects the rebuild. Given the dearth of middle infielders in the system and even FA, this transaction strains the sensabilities. I don’t agree with most of the cynical comments about Elias’ GM abilities, but this decision…. Tim Beckam was a 1/1 pick as a SS, I am sure he’s available. Even DD couldn’t make that one work, Manny couldn’t make it work as a SS, in Baltimore or LA.

    • Bhoffman1

      December 5, 2020 at 7:37 pm

      Said perfectly Phil

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