A return to Baltimore this week presents a frustrating reminder of what reliever Mychal Givens has endured in his career that has braced him for his tenure with the Cubs.
In 2016, Givens’ first full season in the majors, the Orioles had the same World Series dreams as the Cubs as they reached the playoffs with young superstar Manny Machado, seasoned power hitters Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis and Adam Jones and an experienced manager in Buck Showalter.
But, unlike the Cubs, the Orioles fell short as they lost the American League wild-card game in Toronto and have since regressed into an AL East cellar dweller and embarked on a massive rebuilding program that has yet to show signs of crystallizing.
Givens, 32, pitched in the AL wild-card game, striking out three in 21⁄3 perfect innings.
That’s the only time Givens has pitched in the postseason, as subsequent trades to the Rockies in 2020 and Reds in 2021 didn’t result in trips to the playoffs.
“It sucks because I got traded two times for that reasoning, and I haven’t gotten there since 2016,” Givens said.
Givens has doubled the use of his sweeping slider to 32.9%, according to FanGraphs. That has helped produce a 12.09 strikeout rate per nine innings in addition to a 3.22 ERA in 22 appearances and could make him attractive to a playoff contender seeking bullpen help.
For now, Givens remains an eternal optimist.
“I’m hoping to go to the playoffs here,” Givens said. “I love it here, and we have a very good team. We just need everything to fall into place and get to the playoffs.”
Coincidentally, the Cubs were interested in Givens going back to July 2017 after acquiring left-handed starter Jose Quintana from the White Sox.
But Givens wasn’t arbitration-eligible at the time and was in the midst of one of his best seasons.
At the time, the Orioles weren’t close to tearing down their roster, and a Cubs source said the asking price for Givens was too steep.
“I knew a lot of teams were interested,” Givens recalled. “Our general manager [Dan Duquette] came up to me and said, ‘We’re keeping you.’
“It was a really good, comfortable situation that teams wanted me, but my own team and GM wanted me to stay.”
The Orioles, however, continued to regress. They lost 223 games in their next two seasons, and Givens was stuck in the rebuild until the COVID 19-shortened 2020 season, when he was dealt to the Rockies for three players at the trade deadline.
Meanwhile, the Orioles are 10 games under .500 and are in last place in the formidable AL East. Top prospect Adley Rutschman, the first pick in the 2019 draft, was promoted to the majors last month but is batting .137 and is hitless in his last 17 at-bats.
Pitcher Grayson Rodriguez, their first pick in the 2018 draft and the third-best prospect by Baseball America, was on the verge of a major-league promotion until suffering a lat strain that put the balance of his 2022 season in question.
“A lot of moving pieces over there,” Givens said. “I hope for the best for them. But, at the same time, I like being a Cub and like what they’re doing. Everything has been very established in the big leagues about how they go about their business.”
Givens, who didn’t sign with the Cubs until two weeks before the start of the season, has been unscored upon in 17 of his 22 outings.
“We’re trying to figure it out on the fly now during the season,” Givens said. “It’s not just me; it was for all of us. We’re just trying to bounce back every day, get in a rhythm and do what’s best for the team and win games.”