After a below .500 May, a below .500 June, and a brutal start to July, it seemed like no question that the Orioles would end up being sellers at the trade deadline. How could it go any other way as the team slipped as far as seven games below .500 after getting swept by the Cubs coming out of the All-Star break?
When Monday’s trade deadline finally rolled around, not only did the Orioles not end up as sellers, they were actually small-time buyers. The Friday night trade for Jeremy Hellickson combined with the at-the-wire deal for Tampa Bay’s Tim Beckham turned out to be all that would happen to fortify the franchise for whatever is to come.
It’s not the prospect bonanza that we all might have imagined after seeing the deals that were spun for elite relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller at the trade deadline last season. Most likely, it was concerns, legitimate or otherwise, about the health or performance of Zach Britton that held teams back from offering more.
Some team may deeply regret not having Britton by the time October rolls around, if not sooner. That’s not going to be much consolation if it does happen. The picture of the not-too-distant future remains bleak even if we get to laugh at some sucker’s bullpen melting down on the way to a premature postseason exit.
The clock is still ticking towards the end of the 2018 season when the contracts will run out for many of their best and most beloved players, including Manny Machado, Adam Jones, and Britton himself. Add to that the expected free agent departures following this season and there’s a lot of turnover coming.
The difference is that we probably won’t miss too many of the pending free agents this year, many of whom are those same struggling starting pitchers. There still isn’t much on the farm to replace them, though.
Do the Orioles have much of a chance to do anything good this year? Not really. They’re 4.5 games back of a wild card spot, which doesn’t sound like all that much, but when your starting rotation is in such a shape that adding Hellickson and his 4.73 ERA from the National League seems like a good idea, the 4.3% chance of the postseason on Fangraphs sounds about right.
The Orioles weren’t reckless buyers in chasing that 4.3% chance. They didn’t give up much to get Hellickson and Beckham. The cost for Hellickson was a Double-A reliever and Hyun Soo Kim, who didn’t play much anyway. For Beckham, who the team controls through 2020, it was only a short-season starter.
Either move could end up haunting the Orioles later, as any move can, but at first blush, these don’t seem like they should end up on Duquette’s greatest whiffs list. The price the Orioles paid isn’t so much what they gave up now as what they gave up for the future by not trading Britton and never even entertaining offers about Machado.
The time has come now to sit in judgment. Not the knee-jerk reaction of the immediate post-deadline period, but the sober reflection that can only occur after a walkoff Orioles win and a good night’s sleep.
How do you grade the Orioles trade deadline activity?
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Why did you give the grade you did? And how do you see things going in the near and distant future for the Orioles? Let us know in the comments below.