With the MLB trade talks starting to heat up around the web, the Orioles are bound to wind up in the conversation soon enough. As a matter of fact, Camden Chat already began the discussion yesterday prior to Bae Mancini’s heroic performance in last night’s second consecutive extra-innings W.
Plenty of things can change between now and the end of July, but as things stand, the Orioles are 31-26 just 2.5 games back in the AL East and two games up on Cleveland for the second wild-card. In fact, it looks a lot like last year’s team that went on to win 89 games before getting bounced in the wild-card game.
2017 appears to be yet another year where Dan Duquette is going to look to be a buyer. A frugal buyer looking for deals like a yard sale-hopping Dundalkian, but a buyer nonetheless. On the other hand, with the team set to lose several core members over the next few seasons and a farm system devoid of projectable talent, would it make sense to also be opportunistic sellers?
Why sell with a contending team?
I’m going to come out and say it, the fourteen consecutive losing seasons that defined my teenage years still scare the crap out of me. So while all of this may be off the mark, and it’s clear you shouldn’t sell pieces from a winning team, just understand it’s coming from a place of absolute fear that the Orioles will revert back to being a dumpster fire.
All that being said, why can’t a contending team sell some pieces for a great return if the opportunity presents itself? With the Orioles riding the middle ground between the big free agent spenders in New York, LA and Boston and revolving cycle of prospects and trade bait in Tampa, maybe it’s something they need to consider.
If the front office has the chops to pull it off, it could also present an opportunity to acquire multiple prospects and then potentially deal one or more of them to improve the major league team. You’d still have a net gain of prospects, but the O’s would have to lose something too.
Do the Orioles have any expendable players with trade value?
There’s the tricky part when looking at the Orioles current roster. If the team is winning, you can’t expect them to trade away any player that is a significant part of the formula. There’s a delicate balance involved based on how easily players can be replaced. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few players that other teams would possibly be willing to overpay for at the deadline with mitigated effects to the Orioles.
If Zach Britton is set to return in July, Brad Brach may be a guy that teams start asking about. It’s for a good reason too, Brad Brach has been a quality arm in the back end of the Orioles bullpen for several years now. After a short rough patch in late April/early May, the righty has lowered his ERA back down to the low 3’s while sporting a career-best WHIP under 1.
Losing Brach would be a tough blow to the Orioles bullpen, but late-inning arms have been at a serious premium at the deadline in recent years. On one hand, there’s a good reason and it suggests the Orioles shouldn’t let him go, but it also presents an opportunity to get a serious overpay out of a desperate team.
It always hasn’t been the case in 2017, but the Orioles in recent memory have been superb at finding quality bullpen arms seemingly out of nowhere, Brach included. If they are able to find some consistency out of guys like Mike Wright, Miguel Castro, Richard Bleier or even a guy like Lucas Long down in Bowie, maybe the O’s would be willing to roll the dice on a Brach deal. Even after a hypothetical deal, Britton’s inclusion would already represent an improved bullpen compared to its current form.
Another guy that teams may come asking about is Wellington Castillo. With his player option after the season all but certain to be declined, why not try to get something in return before he’s likely lost in free agency? His .317 average has been a pleasant surprise, but with his BAbip well over his career average, the O’s may have an opportunity to be on the opposite end of a Gerardo Parra-esque deal.
Caleb Joseph has performed admirably in Castillo’s absences this season, and maybe the Orioles would be willing to run him out there every day. After all, he was the predominant catcher for the the team’s AL East title in 2014. Hot-hitting catchers are rare in the MLB and something that even contending teams infrequently have. Maybe giving Joseph the opportunity and pairing him with a September Chance Sisco call-up would be worth if at the right price for Castillo.
Is any of this realistic?
None of this is likely, and no one within the Orioles will ever allude to it. It’s one of those things that doesn’t really happen. Then again, the Yankees were over .500 last year when they became sellers and look at them now. They were wise to see the writing on the wall with their aging roster and expiring contracts and now they’re sitting in first place less than a year later. It’s by no means an identical situation, but maybe the Orioles have taken notice.
If I’m the Orioles front office, I’m buying whoever the team can afford and going for it in 2017 if the team is still contending. Flags fly forever and if the team isn’t trying to win the World Series, then what is it doing? But as I said before, the threat of another long stretch of losing seasons absolutely terrifies me. With soon-expiring contracts and a lacking farm system, why not try to bolster the organization before it’s too late. It may be possible while still contending in the short-term.
Have any of you written off this team already, maybe confident that it’s destined to repeat the fate of the 2013 or 2016 squads? Perhaps you are all in on the 2017 Birds and ready to smack this pessimism through the screen. I mean the team has Trey Mancini. Maybe I’m the most paranoid fan here, but the thought of being complete buyers seems to dig the O’s into a deeper hole out of which the team will eventually have to climb.