It’s only June, but as the summer stretch begins to kick off around Major League Baseball, the trade rumor season is officially upon us. Of course, most deals aren’t done until around the end of July, but the period of June and early July is a crucial time in determining which players might be on the trading block and for what potential cost. The Orioles have as good of a shot as any to make a significant move when the time is right.
The angle that the Orioles might be sellers at the deadline has been well-covered, however it’s more likely than not that the organization will retain the likes of Manny Machado and Zach Britton as long as the team is competitive. And if there is a realistic opportunity for the Birds to make a postseason run, there’s a good chance the team will be in the market for added help — namely another starting pitcher.
Of course, the team’s makeup doesn’t exactly fit the buy now mentality. That’s where this July’s action could be tricky.
The logical options
In terms of available pitching, there are generally three tiers of starting options — the pitchers who aren’t necessarily on the block but could be dealt for a massive return (Yu Darvish, Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer, etc.), the “top deadline names” (think Jose Quintana and Sonny Gray) and those who are flying under the radar with above-average 2017 performances but won’t warrant a massive return in terms of top prospects.
Considering the Orioles’ current situation, names like Cole and Darvish are almost certainly out of the picture. The team simply doesn’t have the organizational depth to compete with other potential offers, and there’s no fit elsewhere that could bring the top talent to Baltimore.
Things begin to get interesting when names like Quintana and Gray’s pop up. The next section will highlight what it’d take to bring in one of those talents — a lot, but it’s not entirely out of the question.
In that tier, you could probably throw in the following names (players rumored to be potentially on the move or those who fit the bill): Jason Vargas (KC), Ervin Santana (MIN), Andrew Cashner (SD), Ivan Nova (PIT) and Jeff Samardzija (SF).
That’s not a nearly complete list, but it gives a good idea for the type of player who would be available in that tier. They aren’t elite talents, but they’re in the mix as players who fit the “deadline starter” stereotype and would warrant a significant return in terms of prospects.
Of course, there are also the pitchers who aren’t necessarily going to be extremely costly, but they’ll also come at a risk of dropping off after above-average starts to the season. And if you think that sounds like the type of arm the Orioles would be seemingly interested in, you’re likely correct.
In that category, think along the lines of Matt Garza (1.25 WHIP in 44.2 innings) Scott Feldman (1.37 WHIP in 65.2 innings), and Trevor Cahill (1.21 WHIP in 41.1 innings).
They aren’t world-beaters nor is there any level of confidence that they’ll continue to pitch productively throughout 2017. However, they won’t require a large return and don’t have lengthy contracts to work around. If the O’s want to add a simple deadline arm to help with a potential run in the later months of this season, that’s the general look of what additional pitching help could look like in July.
Are there prospects to be dealt?
The simple answer to that would be a hard no, and that’s what makes this so difficult.
Because the Orioles system is thin, there are the “untouchable prospects” you’d generally like to see off the table when it comes to deadline discussion. But if help is needed now, the organization might not be able to hold onto every untouchable.
Those prospects would likely be — Cody Sedlock, Ryan Mountcastle, Hunter Harvey and Chance Sisco. For the future of the franchise, a perfect world would consist of the Orioles keeping those players and still adding a top-tier pitching talent. But of course, that’s very unlikely.
Could a Sisco/Mountcastle duo bring Sonny Gray to town? Perhaps Hunter Harvey’s upside could be packaged with another lower-ranked talent to bring a Jason Vargas type to Baltimore. Those questions/ideas don’t come with answers attached. Every pitcher is different, as is every trade scenario.
There’s no real way of knowing how teams around the league value the talent that is currently within the Orioles organization. But, past deals have told us that average starting pitching can be acquired at the deadline for a relatively cheap cost.
Pitchers like Wade Miley and James Shields were dealt at last year’s deadline for prospects who weren’t considered to be world-beating talents at the Minor League level.
On the Baltimore side, names to watch will include familiar prospects — Tanner Scott, Alex Wells, D.J. Stewart all could be tossed into a deal for immediate help.
Ultimately though, two issues will creep up: how much the Orioles are willing to spend, and whether or not there truly is enough firepower in the organization to bring in help that will make enough of an impact in the months of August and September.
It’s all about the unknown
At the end of the day, the MLB trade deadline boils down to differing values of players who are more than numbers on a stat sheet. Deals that involve the Jose Quintana’s of the world aren’t going to be done in the blink of an eye, neither will they consist of anything but a sure-thing involved in the return.
For the Orioles, it’s a matter of taking several factors into consideration.
First, is the current version of the team one that makes an “all-in” mindset worth the risk of trading away prospects? We can focus on 2017 and the team’s chances in the next few months all we’d like, but there is very much a bigger picture that will decide every move the organization makes. It’s up to the decision-makers to determine the direction of both the immediate future and the long term.
Also — if starting pitching is needed to be acquired — how much is too much to sell?
Are there players at the big-league level who could be traded to acquire pitching help?
Is moving Chance Sisco and extending Welington Castillo’s contract a possibility?
The team could go in a number of different directions this July, including the difficult-to-discuss option of going into the mode of selling big-league talent.
But if the club does decide to add pitching, it must agree now on what price will be the right one. The big picture is too significant to ignore, and the AL East isn’t going to stop being competitive any time soon.