Hard as it is to believe now as the Orioles are riding a seven game winning streak, just one month ago we were mostly all sitting around with the certainty that not only would closer Zach Britton be traded prior to the July 31 deadline, but that he absolutely must be traded in order to improve the health of the franchise in the long run.
As we know, despite reports of interest in Britton from teams including the Dodgers, Astros, and Indians, no trade was completed. At the time, reports indicated that the Orioles backed out of proposed deals due to medical information that they didn't like, but there has never been a thorough accounting of what the contours of those deals might have been, if they happened... until now.
FanRag's Jon Heyman reported on Thursday afternoon about some more of the details behind the Britton non-trade to the Astros. One big part of that is that a player who is known to have been included in the deal, and who was being offered to other teams as well, is third baseman Colin Moran.
The other big part is the players who are known not to have been included. According to Heyman, the Astros were not offering any of their players who are top 100 prospects in MLB. That's a list that includes outfielders Kyle Tucker and Derek Fisher, 19-year-old righties Forrest Whitley and Franklin Perez, and preseason top 20 pitching prospect Francis Martes.
High-A outfielder Yordan Alvarez, not a top 100 prospect, is also believed to have been off limits. So whoever else was involved with this trade and whoever it was that had the medical issue the Orioles didn't like, they weren't going to be landing someone who was a consensus top 100 prospect.
Moran, 24, happens to be the nephew of former Oriole B.J. Surhoff. That would have been an interesting side plot to the story. Moran has also been on the disabled list since a foul ball ricocheted directly off of his face in a game against the Orioles on July 22.
That injury made Moran one of the medical issues, although Heyman reports that a second player had a separate issue. He notes that while the Astros assumed that owner Peter Angelos killed the deal, Orioles people have contended the deal was never presented to Angelos.
It is interesting to think about what might have been the ripple effects of making this trade. If the O's wanted Moran, that would sure seem to suggest that they were prepared to bump Manny Machado back over to shortstop. Instead, they turned their eyes to plugging the shortstop hole and ended up with Tim Beckham, who has a 1.057 OPS in his first month as an Oriole.
Prospect lists aren't the gospel of who will and won't turn into productive or star major leaguers. Sometimes unheralded guys overcome the odds, as Trey Mancini, the Orioles eighth round pick in 2013, can attest. But for the most part, that pedigree that gets you on a prospect list is worth something.
If the Orioles weren't going to get anybody young and promising with that kind of pedigree, it's tough not to think, even without considering the Orioles 17-11 August record, that not making this trade was the best thing the O's could have done.
That's not to say that there was no risk for the O's in keeping Britton. The mystery knee swelling that we only recently learned about that has secretly been plaguing him on and off since 2014 could be a cause for concern.
A potential recurrence of the forearm issue that put him on the disabled list twice this year is certainly something to worry about as well. In general, it's clear most times that Britton pitches that this is not the unstoppable 2016 version of Britton, which is why it's no surprise his consecutive save streak has finally ended.
Britton has saved five games in August, two of which were one batter saves where he entered with two outs, men on base, and the O's having a 4+ run lead. I don't think you can say he's been indispensable, and there's still a possible $15+ million salary for next season waiting for him.
Those things could be problems for the Orioles in the future. But if they weren't going to get to add a top prospect to their system for trading him, what, really, was the point of it all? With the Orioles now trying to chase down a wild card game spot, I'm happy to still have Britton around.