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No, the Orioles will not and should not trade Chris Davis or Matt Wieters

It's possible but unlikely that the Orioles could become sellers. But their biggest pending free agent hitters still shouldn't be traded.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles are in a bit of a strange position with MLB's non-waiver trade deadline just nine days away.  Hovering on the fringes of both contention and .500 baseball in a tight AL East with no breakaway winner, the team could defensibly decide to buy, sell or stand pat.

Now, in my mind, "sell" is the least likely of the three options -- the Orioles are just too close to a playoff slot, in their "win-now" season -- but let's say the team tanks, or suffers a major injury, before July 31st, and selling starts to make more sense.  A lot of folks who believed that the team was heading in this direction with its pre-All Star Break struggles immediately started advocating that Chris Davis and Matt Wieters should be traded for prospects.

Davis and Wieters, of course, are the team's two most valuable pending free agents.  Many contending teams would love to add them for a playoff run, and would probably put together decent packages to do so.  But what the Orioles have to weigh is not just the value of a partial season of each hitter, but of the draft pick they would reap by simply keeping each player, extending them a qualifying offer and then allowing them to sign elsewhere in 2016.

This entirely changes the trade calculus -- the players' value to the club is suddenly lopsided.  Because a team who received Davis or Wieters couldn't extend them a qualifying offer after 2015, the value proposition with any potential trade partner is more or less automatically not going to work.  They would need to provide the Orioles assets that exceed the value of a compensatory draft pick, even though the receiving team gets no such value back.  This is why the biggest midseason trades of the last few years have been for free agents just below the qualifying offer threshold (like Andrew Miller) or with more than a partial season of team control left, who can still receive a qualifying offer from the receiving club.

So, if the Orioles suddenly find themselves in "sell" mode next week (which, again, I find unlikely), then they should seek suitors for Tommy Hunter, Darren O'Day, Steve Pearce and Bud Norris, all pending free agents.  It's unclear whether or not the team can extend Wei-Yin Chen a qualifying offer (Yoenis Cespedes, a similar international free agent, can't be, due to service time issues and a unique contract stipulation) -- but that should be the determining factor in whether or not to consider trading him as well.

But there's no reason for the team to trade Davis or Wieters.  Keep them around, even if the team is faltering.  Then thank them for their service, make them a token offer for Scott Boras to reject, and collect a draft pick for next year.