The Orioles made a small minor league trade on Monday that's more notable for what it allows them to do than what they will get in the trade. Triple-A Norfolk first baseman Brett Wallace was traded to Toronto for cash considerations. You don't get much cash back for a Triple-A first baseman.
At Double-A Bowie, the Orioles have first baseman Christian Walker performing very well. They'll be promoting him to Norfolk now that a space has opened up. That's a well-deserved promotion for Walker, who has batted .300/.368/.518 in 94 games for Bowie. The former fourth round pick out of South Carolina in the 2012 draft has hit 20 home runs for the Baysox this season.
All along, the question about him was whether Walker would hit for enough power to play first base at the MLB level. That's why he was a fourth round pick in the first place. At age 23, he's not young in prospect years, but he's not old either, and it's not out of the question that he's made adjustments needed to succeed.
Wallace was little more than the kind of spare part that many teams have been stocking their Triple-A clubs with. Though he had four years of big league experience, that only consisted of 311 games, time in which he batted a combined .242/.313/.391, which is not going to keep you in favor for long as a first baseman. Back before his big league debut, he was a top 50 prospect according to the likes of Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America. Orioles fans know what that's worth.
The O's stashed Wallace at Norfolk as a minor league free agent because that's what you do with that kind of player, who's really there only in case of a series of catastrophic injuries makes his presence necessary. In the Orioles' case, even when Chris Davis went down with his oblique injury, they preferred to bring back Steve Pearce than call up their Triple-A first baseman Wallace. This was a good decision.
In 90 games for Norfolk, Wallace has batted .265/.329/.389, not the kind of performance you are likely to miss. If the Blue Jays get anything valuable out of him, well, good for them, I guess. He wasn't going to have a future in Baltimore, and Walker just might, so clearing out Wallace to make room for Walker looks like a good idea.
After the 2013 season began, it was looking a lot like Davis was going to slug his way out of the price range the Orioles could afford to pay him once he becomes a free agent. With Davis batting .199 at the All-Star Break in 2014, it could be that he just whiffs his way out of favor.
Either way, with Walker looking like he could be the next Orioles first baseman, the time to challenge him and find out what they've got in him is now. That looks to be exactly what the Orioles are doing. Sometimes it might not look like it, but the Orioles always have a plan. If their plan for Walker keeps working out like they hope, we might just see him in an O's uniform some time next year.