The Orioles are about to come out of the All-Star break four games under .500 at 42-46, sitting four games back of the final AL wild-card spot. While a wild-card birth seems within reach on paper, anyone who has witnessed the Birds’ last 56 games of .357 baseball can attest that this team does not look like a playoff contender.
The other five teams sitting above the Orioles in the wild-card standings, not including the leading Yankees and Rays, further complicate the Orioles’ path to the playoffs.
If the Orioles don’t see a major uptick in performance over the next few weeks, they should be selling to any teams willing to listen. With a farm system in desperate need of an uplift, it’s the smart play if the team can get significant value in return.
While talk radio callers and internet message board enthusiasts love to propose wild returns for middling Orioles players on terrible contracts, in real life there are two sides to every trade. The Orioles need a trade partner. And that’s where things may get tricky for Peter Angelos.
Who on the Orioles has any trade value?
While the Orioles certainly have more quality players on their roster, they only have four players that could bring back significant enough prospects to actually overhaul the farm system- Schoop, Machado, Brach, and Britton. They may get some offers for guys like Wellington Castillo or Seth Smith, but neither would bring back the kinds of prospects in return that could change the overall state of the farm system with a single deal.
Of the four players listed, Schoop is under contract the longest, and with his performance this season, I think the Orioles would be wise to keep him around and start exploring a long-term deal as soon as his agent is willing to listen. He’s not untouchable, in reality nobody should be if the offer is worth it, but the Orioles would probably need to be blown away.
Machado is still one of the best players in the league and would certainly command a huge return, but he’s also hitting just .230 in what has been his worst statistical season to date. Smart teams trade players at peak value, not at all-time lows. His batted ball statistics show he’s been a victim of some bad luck in the first half and the Orioles would be wise to wait for his 2017 stats to correct themselves somewhat over the rest of the season before exploring any deals.
That leaves Brad Brach and Zach Britton as the Orioles most likely opportunities to give the Orioles’ farm system a boost in the next month. The front office just needs to find the right team with a farm system full of high-ceiling prospects, and a dire need at the back end of their bullpen.
There is one team in particular that fits this profile and makes more sense as a trade partner than any other. Unfortunately for Orioles fans, they happen to play 35 miles south of Baltimore.
Is it worth trading with the other local team?
For all the fans out there that have a serious distaste for the Washington Nationals, rest assured. Peter Angelos hates them even more. It’s hard to blame him when you look at what’s happened to the Orioles fanbase and attendance numbers over the last decade plus, but the Orioles have never dealt with the Walgreens affiliate. Not a single deal for cash considerations or a player to be named later.
In 2015, the Washington Post reported that back when Arrieta was on the block two years prior, the Orioles refused to even begin exchanging names. We were looking to give him away to any team that would take him, but wouldn’t even have a conversation with the Nationals.
The Nationals have perhaps the best lineup and the best rotation in the National League. Unfortunately (or fortunately for Orioles fans/ownership) they have one horrendous bullpen. And it’s not the kind of bullpen that’s good enough to hide in the postseason, it’s the kind of bullpen that loses games in the playoffs. We all remember the Tigers’ bullpen against the O’s in 2014 behind an all-star staff. That’s what we are talking about. Their best reliever is former Oriole, Matt Albers. That should say enough.
Consider the fact that the Orioles drew over 3 million fans to Camden Yards to see a 98-loss team play in 2001. In 2004, the last year of only one team in the DMV area, the Birds drew over 2.7 million fans. Since the Nationals came to town in 2005, the Orioles have never once matched the total attendance of their 2004 season. The same team that never once finished outside of the top-5 in AL attendance at Camden Yards before 2005, has never finished in the top-5 since.
If you’re Peter Angelos, would you be willing to give the Nationals the final piece to their World Series puzzle? Obviously there are no guarantees, but with Brach and Britton in the fold, at least the towns first championship series in any sport since 1998 becomes very likely. And the Nationals have the kind of prospects to turn the Orioles’ farm system’s reputation around in a hurry too. But if the Nationals win a World Series, is it worth it? Pop in the comments and let us know.