Thursday night’s start was the kind of stroll that could have eluded Dean Kremer’s 2021 version. Instead, it showed that perhaps the Oriole catch from the 2018 sell-off might not completely elude them.
Against a Chicago White Sox team that was able to start a rebuild thanks to the revenue generated from the star trade, Orioles win 4:0 served as an example that they could still benefit from the demolition of their own franchise nearly four years ago. Kremer and Dillon Tate, two products of Baltimore’s flurry of deals as its recovery began that summer of 2018, combined played seven of Thursday’s nine scoreless innings.
Deals, of course, that sent superstar infielder Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Zach Britton to the New York Yankees, second baseman Jonathan Shoup to the Milwaukee Brewers, and right-handers Kevin Gausman and Darren O’ Day to the Atlanta Braves. brought much more than these two jugs. In all, the Orioles received 15 players from those four deals. Only six people remained in the organization: four played for Baltimore this year and three in the current roster, while Infielder Rylan Bannon joined Kraemer and Tate.
Each of these moves was made by a front office that is unlikely to return in 2019, leaving few major league assets for new general manager Mike Elias to quickly bring the talent he needs into the system. Instead, Baltimore’s process was long and methodical, as all but two of the club’s top 22 prospects according to Baseball America were drafted or signed internationally. The organization is finally starting to make a difference after several consecutive years among the worst teams in the league.
Part of the White Sox’ recent success — they’re two games under .500 after Thursday’s loss but won the Central American League solid last year — can be seen in two trades they made on consecutive days in December 2016. ace Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox for a comeback that featured Michael Kopech, the tough right-hander who will start Friday’s game for Chicago, and infielder Yoan Moncada, who has dealt with injuries and struggles this year but has been productive in past. A day later, dealing center fielder Adam Eaton brought back a trio of right-handers to the Washington Nationals in Lucas Giolito, who had finished in the top 11 of AL Cy Young’s votes in the previous three seasons; Reinaldo Lopez, who has been effective since moving into the bullpen; and Dane Dunning, who was part of the package used to acquire bulldog starter Lance Lynn.
In the long run, Tate, one of the three pitchers acquired in the Britton deal, was the biggest contributor to any of the Orioles’ moves. Thursday’s performance took his ERA down to 1.87 in 30 games.
Kremer and Bannon were both part of the Machado trade, although neither was in the spotlight. Outfielder Yusniel Diaz was once considered the No. 1 Orioles prospect, but a series of lower body injuries prevented him from realizing that potential. He tore Triple-A before he got the right strained hamstring and is currently in High-A Aberdeen Rehab. Called out because the Orioles needed to add another positional player to their roster, Bannon has yet to play in three games since this promotion. In the week before the move, he made a good showing at Triple-A Norfolk.
But Kremer appears in a way that could be a balm. His second straight clean start left him at 1.71. ERA through four outings this year.
“That’s four good starts in a row for him,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I’m really happy and inspired by the way he throws the ball. Thought he’d have a few presentations today. He had confidence. He attacked.”
Confidence was key for Kremer, who faltered last year. He got into the Baltimore Opening Day rotation, but earlier in the year back on Friday, he lasted less than one inning against the Toronto Blue Jays, throwing out five walks to qualify for a Grand Slam, and only played once in the big leagues that season. .
This year, he again made the starting lineup for the Orioles as the main pitcher, receiving a left an oblique deformity as he warmed up before his first appearance. The injury has given him extra time to think and he seems to have gotten a new take on it: “Just being aggressive and not really caring about who’s in the box or what damage they can do.”
“Changing the mentality definitely helped that,” Kremer said. “I just don’t want to say I forgot about the guys on base, but it’s like, ‘OK, my priority is on the plate.’
Even Kremer admitted that these four starts are too small a sample to count as a full turn. Left-hander Bruce Zimmermann, a Baltimore native who joined the organization through a Gausman/O’Day deal, started the Orioles’ first start and scored 2.72. ERA through seven starts but 9.79 with more runs than strikeouts. over the next six prompted a demotion to Triple-A.
But with this organization, optimism is worth accepting when available. On Thursday, Kremer worked with catcher Adly Rutchman, who, as the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, has been the face of this realignment compared to any of the prospects added in the 2018 trades. After working together last year at Norfolk, Rutchman was Kremer’s teammate in each of his four starts, with each of the last two clean sheets.
“It just keeps getting better,” Rutchman said of Kremer.
Other games, like the one on Thursday, could apply the same to the perception of 4-year-old trades.