ARLINGTON — The Orioles’ surge in June and July, placing them around the .500 mark and within striking distance of a postseason spot, had the baseball world wondering what identity they would take come Tuesday’s 6 p.m. ET Trade Deadline.
It appears their spate of winning did not change their intentions to sell.
Baltimore executed its second Deadline deal on Tuesday, moving All-Star closer Jorge López and cash to Minnesota in exchange for four pitchers. The move comes a day after the Orioles traded Trey Mancini, the face of their franchise, to the Astros in a three-team deal also including the Rays.
That was all the selling Baltimore did, however, standing pat with other trade candidates such as Jordan Lyles, Dillon Tate and Anthony Santander. The Orioles also acquired outfielder Brett Phillips from the Rays in exchange for cash considerations.
“This is the game we’re in. We’ve got to be up at the Deadline,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Hopefully, we’re adding soon. Hopefully, someday soon, we’re adding at the Deadline significantly.”
Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias, speaking about the Mancini trade on Monday, said, “I have to tether my decisions to the outlook and the probabilities of this year,” outlining that while the Orioles have a chance at an American League Wild Card berth, “it is not a probability that we’re going to win a Wild Card.”
Elias wasn’t made available to comment on Tuesday, but he is scheduled to speak with the media on Wednesday in Texas.
But Elias’ remarks on Monday made the moves of López and Mancini almost expected in retrospect — the former a revelatory reliever and the latter in the final guaranteed year of his contract. The Orioles showed they aren’t shy about remaking their bullpen, trading high-leverage relievers Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott to the Marlins on the eve of the regular season. Now, 27-year-old rookie Félix Bautista appears primed for the closer role.
“I think we have some guys that have that mentality. I think Bautista, when he’s out in there in the eighth inning or ninth inning at times, he has shown that. I think he’s going to get a shot,” Hyde said, also alluding to Cionel Pérez as an option should lefties loom in the ninth.
The left-handed Povich projects as a mid-rotation starter, with his Orioles tenure set to begin at High-A Aberdeen. The 28-year-old Cano — the only player with big league experience acquired by Baltimore in its two major deals — was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, while Nunez and Rojas will report to the Florida Complex League.
Still, the moves served the Orioles’ clubhouse tough pills to swallow. The club subtracted two of its biggest presences, veteran leaders who were widely respected for their off-the-field perseverance as much as their success on it. López went from being a struggling starter to one of the more dominant closers in baseball.
As Mancini’s comeback from cancer took hold of the sporting world, López had a keen sensitivity. His 9-year-old son, Mikael, has battled severe chronic illnesses for the entirety of his childhood. Mikael was a constant presence around the club this season, finally healthy enough to travel and watch his father pitch in person.
“I feel like it’s close to what I’ve been through, not only me, my son,” López said of Mancini on Monday. “… He will be, in our mind, an inspiration.”
Entering Tuesday, the Orioles were 38-27 since May 19, two days before they called up top prospect Adley Rutschman.
“This team, it was a little different than the last two, and I mean it a lot,” López told the Minnesota media on Tuesday. “… It’s just a family. It became more than family. It’s a lot of tears, because we worked so hard to get to this point.”