The 2020 MLB season was one we have never experienced before, and as fans and players alike, we hope it’s one we never see again. However, baseball was still played, and here at The Baltimore Battery, we have come to give readers an extensive breakdown of the 2020 Baltimore Orioles’ season!
Welcome to Part 3! If you haven’t checked out Parts 1 and 2, you can do so whenever you get the convenience! In this third part of our four-part series, we’re going to discuss all of the interesting moves Mike Elias and the Orioles Front Office made before and during the 2020 season.
Before we start, we want to let you know that every single move cannot be covered, so we will highlight the more impactful ones with some honorable mentions.
So without further ado, let’s get into it!
During the 2019 off-season, we knew the Orioles were not going to be big spenders. However, we did know that Mike Elias would fish around the market to look for veteran presence and young players with potential.
Like the year prior, Elias used the waiver wire to his advantage. In fact, the first move of the off-season was the claim of Cole Sulser. Although his rookie season wasn’t stellar, Sulser stayed on the 28-man roster all season and held a spot in the back end of the O’s bullpen.
In what was a diamond in the rough scenario for Elias and the O’s, Pat Valaika was a solid utility man for the team in 2020. Claimed twice by the O’s, once on October 30, 2019 and again on January 30, 2020, Patty V was a reliable piece of the puzzle. Heck, he played in 52 of the 60 games held this year.
Other names like Travis Lakins Sr., Jorge López, and Andrew Velazquez were claimed by the Orioles either before or during the season. All had impacts on the big league club.
Elias has a history of waiver claims, as Hanser Alberto was possibly the claim of the year a season ago. That is was Elias does. He searches for an opportunity and hopes to find a diamond in the rough.
Like we said earlier, the O’s weren’t going to be huge spenders in free agency as a rebuilding club. However, it was known that the team was shopping for a veteran infielder and a couple of veteran starters. And boy, Mike Elias got what he wanted.
It was announced in January that the O’s had signed shortstop José Iglesias to a one-year deal, with a club option for 2021. Little did baseball fans know that this would be one of the best signings of the off-season.
Iglesias had an up and down year, but a successful one in terms of his stats. He finished the year with a slash line of .373/.400/.556, with three home runs, 17 doubles, and 24 RBI. He would have had a shot at a batting title if it weren’t for multiple injuries dictating his number of at-bats.
Iglesias, when in the field, reaffirmed his reputation, committing just one error in 168 innings played at shortstop. He finished the year with a very impressive .986 fielding percentage.
Mike Elias was a genius for signing Iglesias to a club-friendly deal with an option for 2021. This move definitely had the biggest impact on the club in terms of new additions.
Going into the season, the O’s were looking for veteran starting pitchers to use as placeholders until some of the younger arms came up. Two names we got to see were Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone, who the O’s signed to minor league deals.
Both veteran lefties did their jobs. Tommy Milone was used for half the season and then traded to the Atlanta Braves for two young infielders, AJ Graffanio and Greg Cullen. Unfortunately for Wade LeBlanc, his season ended early due to an elbow injury.
The only negative aspect of these transactions was the fact that the O’s couldn’t flip LeBlanc for a few young prospects due to his injury. Otherwise, the plan went accordingly.
Elias also added to the team’s minor league depth, as he signed catchers Bryan Holaday and Taylor Davis to minor league contracts, as well as signing infielder Dilson Herrera to a minors deal.
The Orioles didn’t need much, but Elias did what he needed to do and filled the holes of the team to perfection.
As many O’s fans know, during a rebuild no one is safe. And that was a case for a few players this season.
Elias was focused on the ultimate future of the club, even though the O’s held a Wild Card spot for a good part of the season. And that meant trading some older and proven players for young prospects.
As mentioned before, Tommy Milone was traded to the Atlanta Braves for two young infielders. Milone only pitched in three games for Atlanta, sporting an ERA of 14.90 and giving up 16 earned runs in 9.2 innings. What an absolute steal for Elias!
In what was perhaps the biggest trade of the year for the O’s, reliever Mychal Givens was sent to the Colorado Rockies for prospects Tyler Nevin, Terrin Vavra, and Mishael Deson.
Vavra and Nevin immediately were added to Baltimore’s top 30 prospects list, ranking at No. 13 and 22 respectively, according to MLB.com. Deson is an 18-year-old outfielder with a lot of time to develop.
Givens, 30, struggled in his time with Colorado. He also has another arbitration eligible season left in 2021. Needless to say that this trade was a win for Elias and the O’s.
Another interesting trade sent reliever Miguel Castro to the New York Mets in exchange for prospect pitcher Kevin Smith and 17-year-old infielder Victor Gonzalez.
Smith, like Vavra and Nevin, was automatically slotted into the O’s top 30 prospects list, coming in at No. 12.
Castro was the most surprising move due to the fact that he is only 25 years old. He has the ability to reach 100 MPH on his fastball, and his slider has a lot of movement. The only problem was that Castro was very inconsistent. He has the stuff, but he has trouble with execution.
Some thought that Alex Cobb was another name that could have been dealt, but the organization thought otherwise. Cobb still has a year left on his contract, so the team still has time to move him if they want to go that route.
Overall, the O’s knocked it out of the park with trades this past season.
Mike Elias and the Orioles front office did a really solid job in this past year’s draft. In fact, MLB Draft expert, Jim Callis, ranked the Orioles’ 2020 draft class as the fourth best in all of baseball.
Headlined by the No. 2 overall pick, the O’s selected solid players and saved a little money along the way. The most notable selection was that of Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad.
Kjerstad possessed the best left-handed power in the draft and starred in college baseball’s best league, the SEC.
Saving money with Kjerstad gave the Orioles enough cash to sign two high schoolers at the end of their draft: Florida third baseman Coby Mayo, who offers a lot of raw power and arm strength, and Iowa right-hander Carter Baumler, who has been labeled as the next Zack Greinke and could have three solid or better pitches once fully developed.
In between, they took three college position players in slugging Mississippi State shortstop Jordan Westburg, potential 20-20 center fielder Hudson Haskin from Tulane, and slick-fielding Mississippi shortstop Anthony Servideo.
Thanks, again, to the money saving, Elias was able to sign all six of the Orioles’ selections, including both high school guys, Mayo and Baumler.
Even though the O’s still finished 10 games below .500 and in fourth place in the A.L. East, it was an important season of growth for year two of this rebuild. Mike Elias did what needed to be done to make this team better. The future is, indeed, bright in Birdland!
Make sure you follow The Baltimore Battery on Twitter and Facebook, as well as keeping an eye out for Part 4 of our Orioles 2020 Season Recap coming out soon!