One of the key trends of the Dan Duquette era has been that the Orioles try to make improvements at the trade deadline. Some of these deals have been insignificant, costing them little and netting them about as much.
Others have been much more frustrating, seeing young pitchers traded who are now in the big league rotation for other teams. This when the Orioles’ own rotation is, outside of Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman, a mess. Eduardo Rodriguez and Zach Davies would be nice players to have in the current picture.
It seems all but certain that the Orioles will make another one of these trades between now and the trade deadline. They need a starting pitcher. They probably need more than one, of course, but one is what they’ll be lucky to get. They might not even get that.
Non-Chris Tillman starters have a combined ERA of 5.53. Something must be done about that and the short-term answer to that problem is not in the O’s organization right now, in part because of those very trades.
Who the Orioles will trade for and whether they will be any good is besides the point, although if you want to ponder that, SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee has an article outlining the bleakness of available starting pitchers. It’s bad. The Orioles are going to trade a prospect you like for one of these guys. Maybe even more than one prospect.
What interests me more is which prospects the Orioles might trade to try to get some help. Duquette has established a pattern of sorts. He seems like he labels four or five players as untouchable and is willing to deal basically anyone else for pretty much anyone.
He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. No, that's a different version of The Untouchables. I'm talking about the latest incarnation of last year’s proclamation that even Mychal Givens was untouchable in a trade.
You’re not going to get much when even a player like Givens is untouchable - and they didn’t get much. Givens will probably be untouchable once again, as well just about anyone who’s good on the big league team, or who the Orioles can still tell themselves may be good later.
They’re trying to compete at the big league level, so they can’t deplete the talent on the big club while trying to improve it.
That leaves the farm system. Duquette does not hesitate to use it to chase marginal upgrades that maybe will turn out horribly. A few guys are just plain off the table. The rest are fair game. So who’s off the table at the 2016 deadline?
Duquette could always surprise me, and in this case a surprise would probably not be a good thing. But given that weak crop on the market, discussed above, I think we'll be hearing about these players being “untouchable” or “deal breakers” or however they want to phrase it:
- Hunter Harvey - the unfortunate injury-prone pitching prospect’s value will be so low, with his not having pitched in almost two years now
- Chance Sisco - Matt Wieters is going to be a free agent again. Sisco is a catcher with a good BA/OBP in the high minors. Not a guy they can spare.
- Ryan Mountcastle - drafted with the Cruz comp. pick last year, doing well for Delmarva at 19 and still expected to add some more power
- Chris Lee - the best and possibly only left-handed starting pitching prospect in the O’s minors. Hardly striking anybody out, which is kind of weird and maybe concerning.
In general, first round picks still in the minors seem to be off the table. The Orioles didn't seem too keen on trading Kevin Gausman or Dylan Bundy when teams were regularly asking about them. Sisco is almost like a first round pick. Lee just seems like someone they’ll cling to. If I’m wrong about that, it won't be the last time.
The rest of the potential trading stock
There's not much down there, which is why they settled for Gerardo Parra last year - and even that trade was a horrible idea from start to finish. Expect another similar trade, a prospect you kinda like for a player who's so obviously been overachieving and will disappoint the second he arrives in Camden Yards.
The kinds of players Duquette seems to trade are the ones who are either very far down in the minors, or who are close to the big leagues but deemed “expendable” because of other depth in the system. Sometimes they’re wrong about who is expendable. Sorry for sounding like a broken record, but the Davies trade was awful.
Jomar Reyes - The #2 O’s prospect on MLB.com - but then, Davies was #3 last year. The 19-year-old third baseman is one of those high upside power bats, which may make him enticing. He’s expected to grow out of third base and for Frederick this year is only batting .231/.380/.335.
Trey Mancini - I like Mancini, but he’s 24, just hit Triple-A this year, and his primary position is blocked by Chris Davis. Probably not worth a lot in a trade on his own, but maybe he’d help fetch one of these bottom of the barrel “upgrades.” He has hit 13 homers between Double-A and Triple-A this year, after all.
Tanner Scott - Lefty who throws 100. Wow! But also he has walked 34 batters in 34 innings, another “Wow!” except this one is the bad kind. Could see him exciting some team that thinks it can get him to throw strikes. As we know, all pitchers are better once they leave the Orioles system.
David Hess - Hess is the high minors pitcher I think some other team might actually ask for and the Orioles might actually trade. His ceiling is seen as a #4 starter, so the O’s might think to themselves, “Well, we can find another back-end starter” even though they’ve proven they’re wrong when they think that.
Ofelky Peralta - Pitching prospect in the category of “young and far away.” Peralta, one of the O's few international amateur signings, has a 2.89 ERA for Delmarva this year, with 55 strikeouts in 56 innings - but also 35 walks. Seems like another kind of guy teams might ask for who the O’s could tell themselves, “Well, he won’t help us for a while and we need to win now...”
2017 competitive balance pick - These haven’t been handed out yet. The Orioles may not get one. Last year they held this lottery on July 22, so presumably we’ll know around then. I'd rather see them trade this pick in a deadline deal than in a salary dump next year, though I’d still rather them not trade it at all.
The good news, such as it is, is that the 2016 incarnation of the Orioles seems like a good team. Any trade they do make will seem less futile the better the team ends up doing.
That's a key difference compared to trades made in 2013 and 2015, when the O’s were desperately chasing contention, rather than genuinely contending - though of course a lot can change between now and the end of July.
Prepare yourself now to lose a prospect you like for a starting pitcher you don't want to be on the Orioles. It’s coming. The only question is who and when.