Whether the Orioles should or will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline is going to be a subject of much angst and debate over the next month-plus until the deadline comes and goes. Are they more like the team that started out 22-10 or are they more like the team that went 13-28 after that?
Even someone who’s feeling morose over the recently-concluded streak of 20 consecutive games allowing 5+ runs must admit that the team is somehow a mere four games out in the division and just 2.5 games out of a wild card spot. If the team plays like that, then sure, they’re toast, but they are, or at least should be, capable of better.
In this article, I’ll be looking at all of the teams who are in the race and what they might be trying to buy at the trade deadline, as well as what kind of top 100 prospects they have in their system, if any. If the Orioles do end up as sellers in that market - an outcome I fear but am not yet certain will happen - it will be good to have an idea of who might be potential trade partners.
This will be a survey of essentially every team that’s currently .500 or better, which is also every team within two games of a playoff spot. I’m excluding all AL East teams as well as the Nationals, operating under the belief that Peter Angelos will not clear a fire sale either within the division or to the team he seems to believe, based on court filings, is conspiring with the league to rob him of tens of millions of dollars.
Each team’s positions of need are my guesses. A fan of these teams may disagree. Mostly, I’m counting only positions where there are struggling players the team isn’t necessarily obligated to keep around.
For instance, the Texas Rangers have a problem with second base offense, as Rougned Odor only has a .631 OPS, but he’s 23 and I know he’s not going anywhere. On the other hand, the Milwaukee Brewers have a struggling reliever, Carlos Torres, who’s 34 and not signed beyond this season.
If you’re someone with a laundry list of players the Orioles should sell off heading towards the trade deadline, think about who actually needs the assets the Orioles might make available. Some more might make room for, say, Manny Machado, than is suggested below. But not everybody needs Welington Castillo, so it’s not so simple to say the Orioles must trade him if they’re out of the race.
Teams are listed from highest current winning percentage to lowest.
Houston Astros - 52-25
- Needs: Starting pitcher (1-2), bullpen lefty
- Number of MLB Pipeline top 100 prospects: 6 (best: #15)
This looks like the superteam you’d expect for that record. Even places where they have struggling players, like Nori Aoki and Carlos Beltran, they seem to have it already solved by bench players who are raking.
Los Angeles Dodgers - 51-26
- Needs: First base, middle bullpen
- Number of top 100 prospects: 5 (best: #41)
They have three amazing starting pitchers and three who aren’t so amazing - but the Orioles don’t have a starting pitcher to anyone, so it doesn’t matter. The back of their bullpen is locked down with Kenley Jansen and Pedro Baez, but they could use improvement in other spots.
Arizona Diamondbacks - 48-28
- Needs: Catcher, closer, outfield bench
- Number of top 100 prospects: 0
In truth, it’s not clear how much these needs are even needs, as a cursory glance at the stat lines suggests they could replace Fernando Rodney with Archie Bradley, play Chris Iannetta more and Jeff Mathis less, and wait for Yasmany Tomas and A.J. Pollock to be healthy.
Colorado Rockies - 47-31
- Needs: Corner outfield
- Number of top 100 prospects: 3 (best: #10)
That’s not to say they have no flaws, but it looks to me like they’re probably stuck with what they’ve got in most of these places. Maybe last year’s first-half darling Trevor Story could get demoted and they could improve at shortstop, but the O’s can’t help there, anyway... unless, well, you know.
Minnesota Twins - 39-34
- Needs: Starting pitcher (2-3), 8th inning, middle bullpen
- Number of top 100 prospects: 3 (best: #42)
Even young guys who are hitting poorly like Byron Buxton are fielding well enough to still provide value. If any of the Orioles free agents-to-be in the rotation were pitching well, the Twins would be an ideal team to trade with - but then, if those guys were pitching well, the O’s wouldn’t be potential sellers. This team feels like a possible Brad Brach destination.
Cleveland Indians - 39-35
- Needs: First base, starting pitcher (2)
- Number of top 100 prospects: 4 (best: #17)
Their offense feels like it should be better than it is, and several players are underperforming, but I don’t see them replacing catcher Yan Gomes or second baseman Jason Kipnis. The idea of Carlos Santana, a career-long Indians player, getting supplanted at first base, is a bit farfetched.
Milwaukee Brewers - 41-37
- Needs: 8th inning, middle bullpen
- Number of top 100 prospects: 5 (best: #13)
Their bullpen outside of their closer has been very bad. Seems like another possible Brach destination. With the Cubs stumbling, the division is theirs for the taking and they’re poised to make moves to try to take advantage of that.
Chicago Cubs - 38-37
- Needs: Starting pitcher (1)
- Number of top 100 prospects: 4 (best: #8)
The Cubs are pretty much invested in their current group of young players, many of whom are underperforming. If they need something, the Orioles aren’t who has what they need.
Texas Rangers - 38-37
- Needs: Starting pitcher (1-2), first base, left field, closer
- Number of top 100 prospects: 2 (best: #47)
Looks like the end of the road for Mike Napoli, and if I was running the Rangers, I’d want a closer with a better WHIP than Matt Bush. Not very clear there’s much of a match with what the O’s might sell here, though.
Kansas City Royals - 37-37
- Needs: Shortstop, designated hitter, starting pitcher (1), closer, middle bullpen
- Number of top 100 prospects: 0
Kind of ridiculous that .500 teams are in the race, but there you have it in both the Central and the wild card. This is a team that looks like it really needs either some major help in talent or the return of the kind of flukiness that propelled it to back-to-back World Series appearances in 2014 and 2015.
Seattle Mariners - 39-39
- Needs: Starting pitcher (1), first base
- Number of top 100 prospects: 2 (best: #22)
Just want to point out that this team traded Seth Smith to the Orioles for Yovani Gallardo five months ago and typing that out still makes me smile.
The Orioles have 10 out of 13 games on the road between now and the All-Star break. They don’t have to make up their mind to sell right now, but if they keep playing like they have been on the road, that decision may be made for them.
Having written all of that, I keep coming back to thinking that if the Orioles most tradeable players were healthy or playing to their potential, there would be no thought at all of selling. It’s not always a perfect world in baseball or anywhere else.