The package of three players the Orioles traded for starting pitcher Jack Flaherty seems reasonable. They had several infielders ahead of César Prieto, and Drew Rom, who was with the Orioles for two days in May but didn’t appear in a game, failed to put up strong numbers this season at Triple-A Norfolk.
Rom was 7-6 with a 5.34 earned-run average in 19 games at Norfolk. The Orioles needed to remove a player from the 40-man roster to add Flaherty, so Rom’s inclusion in the deal made sense.
Minor league right-hander Zack Showalter, an 11th-round draft pick last season, has pitched in only nine low minor league games in professional ball and wasn’t among the Orioles’ top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.
Prieto and Rom were on that list, and they were quickly replaced by High-A Aberdeen catcher Creed Willems and Single-A Delmarva left-hander Luis De Léon.
The Orioles were given high marks for the trade, which was particularly interesting after all the criticism heaped upon them for not spending heavily on free agents last offseason.
Prieto was deemed expendable because the conventional wisdom is that the Orioles have too many infield prospects and not enough room for all of them.
That’s making an assumption that all of the prospects are going to be successful in the major leagues, which probably isn’t going to happen.
So far, most of the prospects brought up by the Orioles have been successful, but two highly touted outfielders have had issues.
Colton Cowser, who was the fifth overall pick and the Orioles top choice in 2021, is just 5-for-51 (.098) in his first 20 major league games. Kyle Stowers, who was picked behind Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson in 2019, showed some promise late last season but was 2-for-30 (.067) before he was sent down to Norfolk.
Stowers missed time with right shoulder inflammation and has struggled at Norfolk, though he did hit an inside-the-park grand slam in the first game of Norfolk’s doubleheader on Wednesday.
Even though the Orioles were thought to be flush with outfield prospects, when Cedric Mullins went to the 10-day injured list for the first time in May, both Cowser and Stowers were hurt.
Instead of selecting the contract of Daz Cameron, Elias opted to sign free agent Aaron Hicks, who had just been cut loose by the New York Yankees.
Hicks had a nice start with the Orioles, but both Hicks and Mullins recently landed on the injured list, and Stowers wasn’t a consideration. Instead, the Orioles brought back Ryan McKenna from the Tides, and when Elias was questioned about the possibility of acquiring another outfielder at the trade deadline, he mentioned Cameron as a possibility if the team needed him. He didn’t mention Stowers.
For the moment, it might seem unlikely that the Orioles will find places for top infield prospects Jackson Holliday, Connor Norby and Joey Ortiz next season, but if they deserve places on the roster, they’ll find room.
Holliday is unlikely to start the season with the Orioles, but Norby, Ortiz and top outfield prospect Heston Kjerstad could. Some could even be up before the end of the season. The Orioles get to add a position player on September 1st.
Adam Frazier will be a free agent after this season, and even though Norby isn’t a left-handed hitter, he plays second base and the outfield as Frazier does.
Jorge Mateo and Ramón Urías are both arbitration-eligible after this season, and the Orioles may prefer younger, more inexpensive players with higher ceilings.
Prieto was slotted in back of Holliday, Norby and Ortiz as was shortstop Darell Hernaiz, who was dealt to Oakland for left-handed starter Cole Irvin.
However, as in the case of Hicks and Mullins being on the injured list concurrently, things can change quickly, and depth might not be what it seems.
Another big-time prospect, Coby Mayo, has also had his issues offensively since his recent elevation from Double-A Bowie to Norfolk. He’s been playing first and third base, and if he’s impressive enough, the Orioles could find room for him, as well.
Mancini at crossroads: Just two years ago, Trey Mancini was lauded for his courageous comeback after missing the 2020 season because of colon cancer surgery and chemotherapy.
Mancini was the runner-up to the New York Mets’ Pete Alonso in the Home Run Derby in 2021 and capped his Orioles career with an inside-the-park home run in his final home game before he was traded last year to the Houston Astros.
Mancini didn’t put up strong numbers with the Astros, but was part of a World Series champion, and signed a two-year, $14 million contract with the Chicago Cubs.
After hitting just .234 with four home runs and 28 RBIs with the Cubs, Mancini was designated for assignment on Tuesday.
When he clears waivers, Mancini will be a free agent, and perhaps another team will gives him a chance. If not, he could take the rest of the season off and receive an invitation to another team’s spring training camp in 2024.
Notes: To make room for Jack Flaherty on the Orioles’ 26-man roster, the team optioned reliever Bryan Baker to Norfolk. Baker had a 3.64 ERA, but he allowed more than half the runners he inherited (52 percent) to score. … Outfielder Dylan Beavers was promoted from Aberdeen to Bowie. …Félix Bautista was named the American League’s Reliever of the Month for July, the third time this seaason he’s won the award.