The short-term perception of the Orioles’ deadline deal to send longest-tenured player Trey Mancini to the Houston Astros will likely depend on whether Baltimore manages to make the playoffs in spite of it.
In the long run, the trade will be shaped by the performance of the two young right-handers Baltimore acquired in return. But one of them, Double-A Bowie’s Chayce McDermott, said he won’t let his involvement in that deal impact how he approaches his career now that he’s with the Orioles.
“It’s a huge honor to be traded for somebody like Mancini, just in the sense of you know it means that a team values you, to give up a piece like that that was so valued in the organization,” McDermott said. “But on the other side, I’m not going to try to fill his shoes. I’m not going to try to do anything that I’m not to try to live up to expectations that he had. I’m a pitcher. He’s a hitter. He’s his own person. I’m my own person. I’m just going to try to do my best and hopefully help the organization win a World Series one day.”
The Orioles will get their first look at Mancini in another uniform this weekend, visiting American League West-leading Houston for three games. After hitting 10 home runs in 92 games with Baltimore, Mancini has homered six times in 18 games with the Astros.
Baltimore, meanwhile, injected pitching depth into its system by trading him away. McDermott, 24, ranks as Baltimore’s No. 17 prospect, according to Baseball America, and Seth Johnson, the 23-year-old who came from the Tampa Bay Rays in the three-team swap, comes in 10th, with the pair trailing only first-round picks Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall among the organization’s pitching prospects. Johnson underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery shortly after the trade, with the injury likely allowing the Orioles to get him in the move, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said afterward.
McDermott has made four starts in the Orioles’ system, with two at High-A Aberdeen before moving to Bowie alongside left-hander Cade Povich, the centerpiece among the four minor league pitchers Baltimore received from the Minnesota Twins for All-Star closer Jorge López. McDermott’s pair of outings with Bowie have not gone well, with nine hits, including five home runs, and 10 walks allowed over eight innings, though he’s struck out a solid 26% of batters faced.
That aligns with McDermott saying he has the shapes he wants on his pitches and now needs to begin throwing them for strikes more frequently. He described himself as a pitcher who tries to “spin stuff efficiently,” noting he added a sweeping slider to his repertoire about a week before the trade to try to improve his swing-and-miss capability while still using a shorter one to get ahead in the count and induce contact.
Both he and Povich said the Orioles’ process thus far has focused on allowing them to be themselves rather than supplying immediate changes, though both welcome and expect them. Povich has already backed up Elias’ assertion that Baltimore sees him as “a possible front-of-the-rotation starter,” allowing two runs over his first 22 innings in the system before surrendering five over the final two frames of his start Thursday.
He echoed McDermott in viewing the trade as a reflection of the Orioles’ interest in him.
“I think that builds a little bit of confidence,” Povich said. “It’s a pretty big deal. I got a lot of congratulations from people. Getting traded, especially in your first year is kind of surprising at first, but when you have the bigger picture, it’s a pretty cool thing to happen.”
The 22-year-old said he’s an “aggressive” pitcher, one who avoids walks by attacking the strike zone.
“I just try and mess with the hitter and play games with them a little bit,” Povich said. “I think really just being myself is what’s my best. Not trying to change or do something different or trying to boost the numbers on the analytical scale, and just going out there and throwing with what I have and what I’ve been successful with my whole life, and I think that’s really helped out the last few weeks.”
That focus on personal development will go a long way for Povich, McDermott and the other pitchers acquired for Mancini and López, two keys figures in Baltimore’s breakout campaign after five straight losing seasons. Although the Orioles seemed to hurt their short-term playoff chances by moving on from them, the hope is those pitchers can be part of a long stretch of winning in Baltimore.
“I think we both kind of have the same mindset,” Povich said, “that we’re here trying to get better and continuing helping out whatever team we’re on and make it to the big leagues one day.”