Things just keep getting worse and worse for the Baltimore Orioles.
Friday night the O's lost their fifth straight game (MIN 9, BAL 6) and for the seventh time in their last eight games. They led 6-0 after three innings, but allowed the Twins to score nine unanswered runs in innings 4-8, including five in the fifth inning alone.
The five-game losing streak has the Orioles sitting at 40-46 on the season, tied with the Blue Jays for last place in the AL East. They are five games back of the second wild-card spot with six teams ahead of them. Baltimore is 18-35 dating back to May 9 and they've been outscored by 99 runs. Egads.
Bad seasons happen, and the Orioles are going through one right now. They've exceeded expectations quite a bit the last few seasons and now the pendulum is swinging in the other direction.
Having a bad season on the field is one thing. The O's have also been mortgaging their future these last few weeks in very subtle ways.
Let's start with the draft. Friday was the deadline for teams to sign 2017 draftees, and the O's failed to come to an agreement with fourth-rounder Jack Conlon, a talented right-hander out of a Texas high school. Sometimes the two sides can't reach a deal. It happens.
Three things make this failed signing particularly egregious, however:
- By not signing Conlon, the Orioles forfeited the $409,000 in bonus money assigned to his draft pick. They were not allowed to spend that money on other drafted players.
- Because Conlon was drafted in the fourth round, the O's will not receive a compensation pick next year. Teams receive a compensation pick only when they fail to sign a player selected in the top three rounds.
- According to Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America, the Orioles did not make Conlon the minimum offer (40 percent of his slot, or $163,600), meaning he becomes an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any team.
Ouch! The O's really botched that one. They don't get Conlon, they don't get a compensation pick next year, and they weren't able to spend his bonus money elsewhere. And now Conlon might sign with, say, the Yankees or Red Sox, two deep-pocketed division rivals that are always hyper-aggressive when it comes to amateur talent. Both will be bidding on Conlon. No doubt about it.
But wait! It doesn't stop there. Since July 2, the beginning of the 2017-18 international signing period, the Orioles have been trading away their $5.75 million bonus pool piece by piece. Look at these moves:
Transaction: The Yankees have traded RHP Matt Wotherspoon to the Orioles in exchange for international signing bonus pool money.— Yankees PR Dept. (@YankeesPR) July 2, 2017
Only one of the four players who came over in the international bonus money trades, Milton Ramos from the Mets, ranks among the top 30 Orioles prospects, per MLB.com. He ranks 18th. Matt Wotherspoon is a 25-year-old reliever with a handful of Triple-A innings under his belt. Aaron Myers is a soon-to-be 24-year-old reliever in low Class-A. Jason Wheeler had been designated for assignment prior to the trade and was days away from being placed on waivers.
Point is, the Orioles did not trade all their international bonus money for top or even mid-range prospects. They traded them for potential role players. Depth arms and things like that. And they've been doing this for years, as Alex Conway of Camden Chat recently explained. The team prefers the short-term help to waiting for some 16-year-old amateur player to develop into a big-leaguer. And that's their right. But again, we're talking about fringe prospects here, not impact players.
Ironically, the Orioles have one All-Star representative this year: second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who was originally signed as an international free agent back in 2008. Schoop will be All-Star teammates with several other players who signed as international free agents, including Royals catcher Salvador Perez, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, Twins third baseman Miguel Sano, and several others. Many, many great players signed as international free agents.
And yet, the O's are essentially ignoring the international market and have for years. They prefer to trade their allotted bonus money for depth players. Baltimore also botched their fourth round pick this year, and they're in the middle of an 18-35 free fall that has them sitting in the AL East cellar.
Things are not looking up for the Orioles. Not at all. Not now, and not in the future.