As we approach July 31, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. For a complete listing of our previews, click here.
Baltimore Orioles: 37-38, 4th in AL East
At the beginning of the year, O’s manager Buck Showalter was receiving more praise after a strong start to the 2017 season. The O’s were right in the thick of the AL East race for the first two months of the season and seemed poised to once again exceed expectations in inexplicable ways. However, a 13-26 stretch which saw horrible pitching and multiple injuries resulted in questions of a potential rebuild in Baltimore.
The Orioles are still hovering around the .500 mark and are in the thick of the Wild Card race, and you have to imagine that Manny Machado will begin to bring his average up at some point. Chris Davis also needs to get going. Not to mention the mess that is their bullpen with Zach Britton not expected back until next month.
With so much going wrong for the Orioles right now, is it best to unload and retool for the future, or let their injured mend and see what their originally planned roster can do down the stretch?
What moves have they made so far?
Aside from a whole bunch of DL shuffles with key pieces like Britton, Machado and Darren O’Day, the Orioles have been relatively quiet. They claimed infielder Luis Sardinas off waivers in May, but he hasn’t seen much big league action (although with J.J. Hardy out, that could change).
Another infielder that could see some action with Hardy out is Ruben Tejada, who was brought over from the Yankees for cash considerations and optioned to Triple-A. Neither move will have much of an impact for the O’s aside from plugging holes that are appearing relentlessly in their roster.
Are they buyers or sellers?
That depends on who you ask. If you ask owner Peter Angelos, he’ll say they are looking to add pieces come the end of July. If you ask most other baseball minds, they think it’s time to wave the white flag.
It’s important to remember that the Orioles have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. They have a starting rotation that needs to be blown up and a star third baseman that will demand huge money in 2018, likely an amount that the Orioles aren’t willing to spend and are incapable of spending.
There is a problem for the majority crowd that thinks the O’s should sell at the deadline. Their biggest trade chips would be stars like Machado and Britton, but Machado is in the midst of a lengthy slump and Britton’s health is a current concern. It may be wise to wait for Britton to come back and remind everyone of how good he is and for Machado to turn things around to assure a maximum return package. The only problem is that might not happen until the deadline passes. Regardless, despite their current trends, both players would bring back a lot of help to a depleted farm system.
Who could they trade?
Britton and Machado would be as groundbreaking as they are unlikely. To keep things more realistic, you could look to the outfield at guys like Seth Smith and Hyun-soo Kim, who have been solid for Baltimore. Smith has played in just over 50 games with a decent bat, and Kim has seen less action than Smith, though he had a solid 2016 campaign.
They could also look to move Wellington Castillo, a catcher with an OPS+ above 100 who could be a valuable addition to a contending team as long as his injuries are behind him. Castillo holds a player option next year, so a trade does make sense.
It’s hard to imagine anyone flocking to take some starting pitching off the Orioles’ hands, but Wade Miley isn’t a terrible option. He holds a 4.29 ERA and is under control via an option after this season. The O’s have plenty of bullpen assets when they are all healthy, and plenty of contending teams would need bullpen help (look no further than down the road at the Nationals). Britton, O’Day and Brad Brach are all great bullpen arms that can help spark a rebuild. They might not be bad off to follow the Yankees’ model from last year in which they dumped two top tier bullpen arms (Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller) to immediately load up what was a below-average farm system.
Despite the way the team seems to be trending, it will be hard for Angelos and the O’s to break their old habits. Next season seems like the more likely time to deal Machado, and the Orioles really hang their hat on their bullpen (and as a result, might hang on too tightly to what they have). A team that should probably be sellers will more than likely look to add pieces in an attempt to stay in contention, though no drastic moves should be expected.
The problem with that philosophy is that the cost of adding pieces at the deadline almost always requires prospects, which the Orioles just don’t have right now. They could trade big-leaguer for big-leaguer, but that would hardly result in much of an upgrade.
Perhaps general manager Dan Duquette could convince Angelos to look to the future rather than trying to patch up a sinking ship. This team was not likely to make a deep playoff run even with all their pieces in good health. It will be hard to shy away from familiarity, but it is likely the best move for the franchise.
And if someone calls about Manny Machado? They better listen.