SARASOTA, Florida—Orioles general manager Mike Elias said that Sunday’s surprising trade of the team’s most experienced relievers, left-hander Tanner Scott and right-hander Cole Sulser, was “pursuing value and strengthening the organization.”
The Orioles traded Scott and Sulser to the Miami Marlins for 17-year-old Dominican centerfielder Kevin Guerrero, 25-year-old left-handed pitcher Antonio Velez, a player to be named later and Miami’s Competitive Balance Round B pick in this summer’s draft.
“We have some interesting relief pitchers, and in the last several seasons, when we’ve found trades that we feel like make sense for the overall health and long-term success of the organization, we do them,” Elias said on Monday.
“The pick for us is probably the most salient part of the return just because anything is possible with a high draft pick. I think we have a methodology and track record in drafting pretty well and to get that opportunity right at the end of the second round is a big deal, and it’s hard to make trades nowadays.
“People don’t want to give up their prospects. Who likes doing that? I think with a pick, it’s a little easier because … they’re just giving up a draft pick and kind of forgetting about it. That’s a nice return to get in a trade and it’s hard to get something that has that type of potential. We also like the other possibilities we’re getting.”
In 2020, the Orioles traded left-hander Richard Bleier to the Marlins, and right-handers Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens to the New York Mets and Colorado Rockies.
At last July’s trade deadline, the Orioles decided not to trade Scott, Sulser and left-hander Paul Fry.
“Last year at the [deadline] when we didn’t trade any relievers … when they have multiple years remaining potentially with the club, you can be a little bit picky and wait for the right deal because you’re able to plan your future with some of these guys, and we felt we found that yesterday and getting the comp pick and what will end up being the three players that we ultimately get back,” Elias said.
“It was very tough. It’s obviously in the short term going to create some holes in our bullpen right now that we’re still sorting out from a number of angles, and this will make that even more so. Long term, just having Tanner and Cole not in the clubhouse, not in the bullpen, not in the organization, it’s always kind of sad, but this is baseball.”
Scott, who settled his arbitration case for $1.05 million last month, was 9-8 with a 4.73 ERA and one save in five seasons with the Orioles. Last year, the 27-year-old was 5-4 with a 5.17 ERA in 62 games. The left-hander had two stints on the 10-day injured because of a left knee sprain and had a 9.82 ERA in the second half.
Sulser, 32, who was claimed on waivers from Tampa Bay just after the 2019 season, was 6-9 with a 3.45 ERA and 13 saves in 2020 and 2021.
Guerrero batted .260 with 11 RBs in 40 games with the Marlins’ entry in the Dominican Summer League last season. Velez was 7-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 23 games last season with High-A Beloit and Double-A Pensacola.
The deal opens two spots on the 40-man roster. The Orioles need to add a backup catcher to veteran Robinson Chirinos and could add infielder Chris Owings, who signed a minor league contract. Right-hander Travis Lakins also could be added to the roster.
“Certainly doesn’t go into the decision whether the trade return is enough, but it’s something that once you decide to make the moves, there are some downstream benefits in our situation to having those spots,” Elias said. “Not just in a global sense, but also in the bullpen, in particular. We’ve got some interesting arms in camp on the 40-man roster and we’ve got players in the organization off the 40-man roster that we want to bring up and see what they do.”
Right-handers Jorge López and Dillon Tate are contenders to close for the Orioles, who begin the 2022 season on Friday against Tampa Bay.
“It’s certainly tough to do something like this in the middle of spring training while we’re all here together,” Elias said. “Tanner Scott has been in the organization so long, such a well-liked guy, and such a talent, it’s tough.”
Elias said that he will continue to look to add free agents, pitchers from the waiver wire or those who opt out of minor league contracts in the final days of spring training. The Orioles could made additional trades.
“We pulled this trigger on this as tough as it was, as tough as the timing is because we felt this is the type of return we would need to give up two good relievers in Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser,” he said.
Mancini settlement: The Orioles settled their arbitration case with designated hitter/first baseman Trey Mancini, their most senior player, on Saturday night. Mancini, who asked for $8 million while the Orioles offered $7.375 million, settled at $7.5 million with a $250,000 buyout and a mutual option for $10 million in 2023.
Elias had said that the team had a policy of not negotiating after the sides had exchanged figures and would proceed to arbitration.
“I’m glad that we got that figured out from a number of different angles … I think it’s a good outcome,” Elias said. “We’ll be able to avoid the hearing. The general practice around the league is that we are ‘file to go,’ but if there are non-one-year resolutions that come about … that we don’t’ shut off those explorations. Because there’s a mutual option, that’s why we were willing to engage. It’s a good outcome.”
Mancini said that it was an unexpected development, and that he wasn’t eager to proceed with an arbitration hearing.
“I think we got there in a little bit of a roundabout way,” Mancini said. “But at the same time with the hearings being [to be determined] this year, I don’t think that necessarily influenced my decision to take it or not, but we thought that it was a good number and preferable to not dragging it into the season.
“As much as I wasn’t going to let it be a distraction, I think like once a date is set and you know you’re going to go to a case, you never know how you’re going to feel leading up to it, so it’s nice to have it done.”
Mancini doesn’t think the settlement enhances the possibility that he’ll remain an Oriole for the entire 2022 season or beyond.
“I don’t think it changes my situation very much if I’m being honest,” Mancini said. “Just with the way that mutual options have worked in the past if I’m speaking honestly. There’s not too many scenarios, I feel like, where both sides take it. It’s usually one way or the other.”
The Orioles have another arbitration case with Opening Day starter John Means, who asked for $3.1 million while the Orioles offered $2.7 million.
Elias declined to say if there would be a settlement with Means.
“I don’t comment on that. It’s not my way to talk about that kind of business out in the open while that possibility exists,” he said.
The Scott and Sulser trade reinforced to Mancini that he could be traded at any point between now and the trade deadline.
“I’ve seen a lot of my teammates get traded over the years,” Mancini said. “I know how it goes. At any second anybody could be dealt. It’s a business.”
Rutschman’s status: Elias is optimistic about the status of catcher Adley Rutschman, who won’t begin the regular season on time because of a strained right triceps muscle he suffered in a minor league intrasquad game on March 11th.
“It’s going smoothly,” Elias said. “Fingers crossed. He’ll be out and playing in a matter of weeks. He missed spring training. We’ve got that to worry about, but I think he’ll be playing real baseball games in April.”