BALTIMORE — With Tuesday afternoon’s trade deadline looming, the Baltimore Orioles surprised everyone by agreeing to trade Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to Atlanta.
The Orioles received four prospects in return for Gausman and O’Day – Infielder Jean Carlos Encarnacion, catcher Brett Cumberland, left-handed pitcher Bruce Zimmermann and right-handed pitcher Evan Phillips. The Braves have one of the most loaded farm systems in baseball and sent two of their top 30 prospects to Baltimore in the deal.
Encarnacion headlines the group as one of the best infielders coming up in the Braves system. He was signed in 2016 at the age of 18 out of the Dominican Republic and has spent the past two years playing rookie ball. In 2018 he was moved to Single-A Rome where he is currently hitting .288 with 10 homers and 57 RBI’s in just under 100 games. His 100 strikeouts are a concern but Encarnacion has shown a lot of potential as a hitter.
Standing at 6’3″, he could grow into a power hitter but for now his ability to make contact is enough to earn him attention. Defensively, Encarnacion has settled into a role at third base after initially playing some shortstop.
Cumberland rounds out the Braves top 30 prospect list as one of a few young catchers in their farm system. As a switch hitter, Cumberland has shown some power from both sides of the plate but often swings and misses. The 23-year-old has spent time at Single-A and Double-A this season where he is hitting just .228 with 90 strikeouts in 87 games. His defense behind the plate is still a work in progress as well.
Outside of these top 30 pickups, the Orioles also acquired two pitching prospects. Zimmermann will likely make more headlines in this deal as a starter, while Phillips continues to develop as a reliever. Zimmermann is a lefty with good strikeout numbers. In 20 starts between Single-A and Double-A, he has a 9-4 record with a 2.96 ERA. His 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings is also a good sign.
Phillips is a right-handed pitcher who started his minor league journey back in 2015. He currently finds himself at the Triple-A level with a 1.99 ERA and eight saves in 40.2 innings of relief. Phillips also made his major league debut with the Braves earlier this season but struggled in his brief appearances.
Throughout the month of July the Orioles front office has been dead set on just trading the players with expiring contracts. Dan Duquette and company stated that the door was also open for offers on players like Gausman, Jonathan Schoop and Mychal Givens, but until Tuesday afternoon this just felt like a safe media answer. In addition to the Gausman deal, the O’s ended up trading Schoop to the Brewers.
However, with Adam Jones‘s recent decision to not waive his no-trade clause, the Orioles may have felt more pressure to deal Gausman and Schoop, despite having years left on their contracts, to ensure that their farm system gets the overhaul it desperately needs.
Gausman was selected by the Orioles in the first round of the 2012 draft and made his major league debut a year later. By 2014 he was a consistent member of the starting rotation, earning seven wins in 20 starts. The Orioles had seemingly turned the franchise around after 2012 and Gausman was projected to be their No. 1 pitcher as they became perennial contenders.
While the 27-year-old has certainly looked like an ace on many occasions, he has struggled with consistency. Over the past five seasons in Baltimore Gausman has gone 36-46 with a 4.12 ERA.
Gausman will join an Atlanta team right in the middle of a playoff hunt. He will also be greeted by some former teammates like Nick Markakis and Ryan Flaherty. Fellow pitcher Brad Brach was also traded to the Braves this past Sunday.
If Atlanta does end up making the playoffs, Gausman has some experience under his belt that could benefit his new team. During the 2014 playoff run, Gausman never started a game but he did toss eight innings of relief between three games. In those appearances Gausman surrendered just one run and struck out seven.
O’Day is an interesting addition to the trade considering he finds himself out for the rest of the year. It’s not surprising that his name never came up in trade conversations after suffering the injury but with the Orioles moving toward a full rebuild, it makes sense to add him to this deal as a sweetener.
In seven seasons with the Orioles, O’Day accumulated a 28-14 record with a 2.40 ERA as a reliever. His unique pitching motion helped make him a deceptive change of pace coming out of the bullpen. In recent years he performed well pitching in the setup role before Zach Britton would enter for a save opportunity.
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