This year's trade deadline came and went and the Orioles made little to no noise. The expectation that Zach Britton and others were going sold off never came to fruition. Deals appeared to be in the works, but apparently the Orioles did not like the deals presented. In particular and most importantly, Peter Angelos apparently did not approve of the trades.
Now we have to wait and see what’s going to happen. The Orioles can still decide to sell off this coming off season. Their players will have marginally less value, but considering the shortcomings of both Britton’s and Manny Machado’s season to date, they could still hold some serious trade value this off season if they finish off the season strong.
On the other hand, the moves yesterday indicate that the Orioles will be going for it in 2018 as well.
Trading for Tim Beckham, a player under team control until 2020, is a clear sign that the Orioles are already prepping for next season. Acquiring Jeremy Hellickson allows Buck Showalter to put the brakes on Dylan Bundy and allow him to be healthy and rested for the 2018 season.
With Adam Jones, Machado, and Britton all due to be free agents after next season, 2018 is the last chance this currently Orioles core has of winning anything. The only thing to answer now is whether or not these moves/non-moves make any sense.
The case for buying/standing pat
Barring a surprise reversal that's not totally out of the question yet, the 2017 season is more or less a lost cause. So, all of this was setting up for 2018.
It makes some sense to go for it all again in 2018. The 2018 free agents being around for one last year is one good reason. Machado and Britton are two of the best players in baseball and Machado could be starting a Hall of Fame-caliber career. Moreover, due to injuries and poor results neither of them have had a stellar 2017 campaign. But, that could turn around in 2018.
In addition, both Kevin Gausman and Bundy have had down years in 2017, but both have shown the ability to be much better. Again, another reason for a possible turnaround in 2018. Even Darren O’Day, who has not been his normal reliable self/healthy in the last couple of seasons could “regress” back to his mean of being a top tier reliever.
With the impending free agencies of some key players and the overall lack of talent in the farm system, 2018 could be one of the last years in the next handful of years that the Orioles have any real hope of contending.
Luckily, they have around $65 million coming off the books after 2017. Arbitration raises and some deferral payments will eat into that number, but, they should have a sizable chunk of money to attempt to solidify the rotation behind Bundy and Gausman.
If things break right for the Orioles in 2018, they could once again be competitive and take their likely last shot with Manny Machado on the team. And, if they are not competitive, they can always sell off whatever is not tied down on July 31st, 2018.
The case against buying/holding
Not only are the Orioles major longshots in 2017, but the state of their starting rotation leaves them starting behind the curve next season as well. Since these talents are basically useless to the Orioles in 2017, they have a lot more value for teams that are in the race this year and want to be in the race next year.
This is the top value that Britton, Machado, and the others will have because they under control for two pennant races.
An underwhelming farm system is also a factor. There is no one who figures to come up and help that rotation out for next season. Trading Britton, Machado, and the others at what is their highest value could do wonders for a depleted minor league system.
Moreover, if the Orioles want to compete in 2018 they will be scraping the bottom of the barrel for the three through five spots in their rotation. The performance of Chance Sisco and outfield prospects like Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins means they could at least try out prospects in some of those spots. Still, that means 2018 is dependent upon two or more rookies being at least average major league players. Again, not a great spot to be in.
They will also be depending on either major league players having career years or bouncing back. This current season is a reminder that sometimes players don't keep up last year's good performance, and sometimes they don't bounce back, no matter what they say about how healthy they are during spring training.
The Orioles should have sold now because selling earlier rather than later will usually yield better results and not get your franchise stuck under contracts it cannot get out from under. *cough Davis, Trumbo, O’Day cough*
The Orioles clearly chose to roll the dice one more time. They will see if they can hit big on some cheap free agents and some rookies and lead themselves back to the playoffs in 2018. And I for one cannot blame them.
Selling earlier probably makes more sense for the long run, but when you have Manny Macahdo and Zach Britton for only one more year going for it does not seem all that dumb to me. They will have to make a lot of correct decisions this off season and it is a long shot considering where other teams in the AL East are at, but I will never put down a team going for it. We do only live once after all.