Orioles trade Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to Braves

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.

Image credit: Evan Habeeb / USA Today Sports

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Three takeaways from Orioles series win over Rays

BALTIMORE — This weekend the Orioles picked up their first series win since the All-Star break by taking three of four from Tampa Bay. After dropping Thursday’s series opener 4-3, the offense exploded and scored 37 runs over the course of the next three games.

We all know wins have been hard to come by all year, so it’s not surprising to hear that this is just the second time that the O’s have won three games in a row this season. I don’t want to get ahead of myself but the Birds longest winning streak is four games and they will have a chance to match that as they head to New York on Tuesday. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the wins while they last. Here are some highlights from the Orioles big weekend.

1. Four quality starts:

The lineup stole the spotlight this weekend with a barrage of home runs and RBI’s but the starting rotation was locked in as well. Four of the five O’s starters got the chance to pitch in this series and each one turned in a quality outing. Alex Cobb got it started on Thursday with six innings of work. The veteran starter surrendered three earned runs and was served his 14th loss of the year but the performance was still a step in the right direction. Cobb finished June with a 6.75 ERA and has been able to slowly lower it down to 6.08 over the course of July. His 2-14 record on the year remains ugly but some of the recent losses can certainly be chalked up to a lack of run support.

Andrew Cashner kept the ball rolling in his start on Friday by going six innings and giving up just a pair of runs. Cashner continues to be one of the more consistent members of the rotation and has given up three runs or less in seven of his last eight starts.

The run support kept coming on Saturday but Kevin Gausman didn’t even need it as he turned in a great bounce-back performance to help the Orioles win 11-2. Gausman tossed seven innings and gave up just two runs which was a much-needed rebound from his previous three starts in which he struggled to go five innings and gave up over four runs per outing.

Dylan Bundy rounded out the weekend by picking up his seventh win of the season. After suffering an injury against Atlanta, Bundy hit the disabled list and lost the momentum he had built in the month of June. His return from the disabled list was very lackluster and consisted of three short outings where he gave up five runs each time. July has not been kind to Bundy throughout his three major league seasons but hopefully Sunday’s rebound start is a sign of a strong finish that is to come.

2. Curtain call for Jones:

The drama of the trade deadline has already hit the Orioles hard this year as Manny Machado was dealt to the Dodgers and then Zach Britton was shipped off to New York. Both trades saw good returns but the departure of those two players was hard to swallow for O’s fans.

As the deadline approaches on Tuesday, Adam Jones is the next name in the trade block. The 13-year veteran is in the final year of his contract which holds a no-trade clause that he must waive if the Orioles are going to deal him. Essentially Jones is in full control of his immediate future. The center-fielder has not been shy about giving his thoughts on the trade speculation and even presented a scenario earlier this month in which the Orioles trade him to a contender but he re-signs with Baltimore in the offseason.

This past weekend Jones reportedly met with the front office to discuss these potential trades. The Phillies, Giants and Indians have all reached out to the O’s and made offers but according to MASN’s Roch Kubatko, Jones has not shown any interest in waiving the no-trade clause and leaving the Orioles.

Things could change before Tuesday’s deadline, but for now it sounds like Jones will still be an Oriole on Wednesday. If things do in fact change, Sunday could mark Jones’ final home game as an Oriole. If that does end up being the case, the longtime Oriole will have left on a high note. Jones went 3-for-4 with a walk and an RBI to help lift the O’s to an 11-5 win over the Rays.

3. Schoop’s streak:

Jonathan Schoop has been on fire all month. Coming into July he was batting just .197 and could not find his groove for any extended period of time. This led Buck Showalter to sit Schoop on the bench for a couple of games in an attempt to clear the second baseman’s head.

As the end of July approaches, Schoop has successfully raised his average to .244 by picking up a hit in 22 of his last 23 starts. The O’s second baseman came into Sunday afternoon with an 11-game hit streak but found himself in danger of losing it after going 0-4 with a pair of strikeouts early in the game. Schoop saw his final at-bat of the afternoon in the seventh inning and he made it count. After taking the first pitch for a ball, Schoop got ahold of a slider and sent it over the center-field wall into the Orioles bullpen to give the O’s a 9-3 lead and extend his hit streak to 12 games.

Image credit: Mitchell Layton / Getty Images

Orioles Split Two Games Against the Division Leading Red Sox

BALTIMORE- Amid the aftermath of the Manny Machado trade and the execution of a trade of closer Zach Britton, the Orioles were able to notch a series split against the AL- East leading Boston Red Sox in Baltimore.

Britton was shipped to the New York Yankees for three prospects during game two on Tuesday night and learned of the trade during a rain delay in the contest. Britton spoke fondly of his time in Baltimore.

Rain played a prominent role in this series with two rain delays in game one of the series and another in game two. Game three was postponed to close out the rain filled set.

Game 1 (5-3 BOS): The series opener followed a familiar pattern for the 2018 Orioles as starter Kevin Gausman, who took the loss to fall to 4-8 on the year, was unable to make it out of the fifth inning and the offense provided no runs until the 8th inning.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox

Image Credit: NESN

Gausman’s trouble started in the second inning when Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland slugged his 12th home run of the season to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. It was the 20th homer allowed by Gausman this season which ranks him in a three way tie for 6th most in the MLB.

Gausman settled down until the fifth inning which proved to be his last.  Xander Bogaerts doubled to right to start the frame. After a Brock Holt ground out Gausman issued three straight walks to Rafael Devers, Sandy Leon, and Jackie Bradley Jr. The third of these walks extended the Red Sox lead to 2-0.

After a Mookie Betts strikeout, Andrew Benintendi delivered the knock-out punch for Gausman when he hit a ground rule double scoring Devers and Leon to extend the lead to 4-0. Miguel Castro relieved Gausman and J.D. Martinez reached on an infield single scoring Bradley Jr. and making it a 5-0 deficit. Moreland grounded out to end the innning, but the damage was done.

Red hot Jonathan Schoop got the offense going with a two-run shot in the bottom of the 8th to cut the lead to 5-2. Caleb Joseph cut the lead to two with a one out RBI double in the bottom of the ninth scoring Renato Nunez. Jace Peterson grounded into a double play to end the game giving the Orioles their fourth straight loss.

Game 2 (7-6 BAL): As the trade rumors swirled regarding Britton, the Orioles were able to grind out a 7-6 victory over the Red Sox. Yefry Ramirez got the start for the Orioles and pitched well, going five innings while giving up three earned runs and striking out six. Ramirez did surrender three solo shots to Martinez, Blake Swihart, and Betts.

The Orioles offense received a spark from Schoop again as he delivered a two-run shot to left in the bottom of the third inning to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead. Tim Beckham continued his own run of strong play as he deposited a two-run shot of his own to left center in the bottom of the fifth inning to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead.

Beckham struck again in the bottom of the sixth with a sac fly extending the Orioles lead to 5-3. Schoop and Adam Jones delivered back-to-back RBI singles to push the lead to 7-3.

Orioles pitching was able to stave off the Red Sox until the top of the 8th when Betts led off with a single off Orioles reliever Paul Fry. Mychal Givens took over for Fry after a Benintendi fielder’s choice and was greeted by Martinez’s second homer of the game to cut the lead to 7-5.

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With Zach Britton gone, the Orioles will turn to Brad Brach in the late innings. Image Credit: USA Today

With the Britton deal all but official, the Orioles could not turn to the often reliable closer in the ninth. Brad Brach came in and made it interesting giving up an infield single to Bradley Jr. to lead off the ninth. Bradley Jr. finished the play at second base due to a throwing error from Beckham. A Holt ground out moved Bradley Jr. to third and he scored on a Devers infield single to make the lead 7-6.

Brach was able to induce a double play off the bat of Betts to end the game and give the Orioles their 29th victory of the season. Brach picked up his 11th save in the process and Ramirez picked up his first major league win.

The Orioles prepare to host the Tampa Rays for a four-game set in Baltimore starting Thursday evening. Alex Cobb will be on the bump looking for his third win of the season.

Image Credit: NBC Sports