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MLB trade rumors: Orioles “yet to decide” on trade deadline approach

The Orioles are below .500 at the break, but they’re also just four games out of a wild card spot, so not having their minds made up yet isn’t a surprise.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The trade deadline is now three weeks away. That’s three weeks where each Orioles loss will feel like an urgent sign from above that the team should sell, with every win and especially winning streak feeling like a sign to play out the string with the existing crop of players. After all, they are “only” four games out of a wild card spot right now.

According to a report by Ken Rosenthal delivered on the weekend’s national Fox pre-game show, the Orioles haven’t yet decided which way they will go at the trade deadline. His source for that information was none other than Dan Duquette.

That’s a different tune than was being sung a few weeks ago, back when Fox still published articles and Rosenthal wrote that the Orioles had told a rival club that they were definitely going to be buyers, leading Rosenthal to label the Orioles “misguided buyers” at that time. The Orioles have gone 8-11 since that article was published.

Perhaps Duquette says different things privately or perhaps something over the last three weeks has pushed him back into the undecided column. Maybe he’s even made some preliminary trade inquiries and has realized that there’s no way the Orioles have sufficient prospects to trade for enough players to make a difference to the team. Trading from their already-thin system to help a lost cause would be a frustrating decision for the O’s to make.

Appearing in the MASN booth during a rain delay in the last homestand, Duquette certainly sounded like a guy who had come to the realization that the only path to staying in contention was the players the Orioles were counting on to play well to play better. His remarks were a litany of, “I know (struggling Oriole) is capable of playing better.” He’s not wrong. Whether we’ll see it happen in 2017 is another story.

There are 16 games for the Orioles to play between now and the trade deadline. How do you think they need to perform over that stretch to realistically believe they’re in the wild card picture?

We are deep enough into the season that .500 isn’t going to cut it if they’re going to stay in the race. It may not take 90 wins to get the Orioles into the postseason. After all, 88 would have been enough last season.

What the Orioles can’t do is just keep coasting along, or worse, stumbling along. The Orioles would need to play 10-6 over that 16 game stretch just to have a .500 record when the sun rises on the day of the deadline. From that point, if they can get to .500 by then, they would need to go 36-22 to hit 88 wins at season’s end. It sure sounds like a tall order.

With the AL Wild Card race being what it is, it’d take some truly dismal baseball over the next couple of weeks to believe that the Orioles have absolutely no chance and must sell. We know these O’s are capable of that brand of awful performance since it’s what we’ve seen over the past two months, but that surely can’t keep going on forever... can it?

The Yankees have tumbled down the standings with Oriole-esque alacrity. There is now a tie between the Yankees and Rays for both wild card spots, with the Yankees ahead by a percentage point. The Orioles are four games back of both of those teams, with five teams to pass to claim at least a share of one of the spots. They aren’t really in it yet, but they aren’t really out of it yet, either.

It’s depressing to spend too long thinking about the idea that the Orioles should or will do something like trade Manny Machado and/or Zach Britton because the team is just so bad. That’s even more true when one has slumped and the other has been hurt, so even if you imagined a prospect bonanza from a sell-off, it’s surely going to be less than it might have seemed six months ago.

Maybe we don’t have to worry too much about the O’s putting their best players on the trade block, whatever their record ends up being. Rosenthal’s near-contractual mention of Orioles owner Peter Angelos in the video report is that Angelos is “philosophically opposed” to selling. Maybe he doesn’t want to see another tearful post-trade interview either.

In Rosenthal’s estimation, trades like that are practically a must for the Orioles because it could represent their best chance to acquire young talent for the future. He notes, as our Alex Conway did last week, the Orioles refusal to spend on international free agents like every other MLB team does, and even goes on to say that the Orioles wasted six draft picks out of their top ten rounds.

He’s not wrong, though, that it’s perplexing that the Orioles saved about half a million dollars towards signing their fourth round pick and then, when there was a physical issue, didn’t use that money on anybody else.

Could the Orioles help reload for the future if they sold off some players? They almost certainly could. Should they? Ask me again after the next homestand.