By now we all know the sad but true situation surrounding Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton, and Brad Brach. These four core players are pending free agents and will almost certainly be traded before the July 31 trading deadline. Or at least that’s the competent move to be made by a team that’s over twenty games out of first place before June.
But whoever is making the decisions in the Warehouse needs to decide soon how drastic this selling spree should be. The Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo Encina raised an interesting point about thinking beyond those big four pending free agents. He mentions Jonathan Schoop (free agent after 2019), Kevin Gausman (free agent after 2020), and Mychal Givens (free agent after 2021) as players who may yield larger returns because they are more than a two-three month rental.
If O’s don’t think they will legitimately contend in 2019 or 2020, they should seriously consider moving Gausman and Schoop if the deal is right. (I would hang on to Givens given his contract status and the fact that the bullpen may be depleted of veterans by July 31, but that can change with one phone call.)
In an attempt to gauge what both of these players could potentially bring in a trade, I looked at July 2017 transactions to find comparable players that were moved. No two players or situations are the same and markets constantly change, so this is an inexact science.
I’ve been very impressed with Kevin Gausman this season. Yes, his ERA on the season is a pedestrian 4.31. But the always reliable eye test shows me that he’s grown as a “pitcher” this season; mixing pitches better and getting deeper into games on a more consistent basis. His bottom line has been victimized by three bad outings: allowing six runs twice and seven once. He has held the opposition to three runs or less in the remainder of his starts (gave up three only once.)
The July 2017 market for non-rental starting pitchers:
Gray’s contract situation when traded was identical to what Gausman’s is now: over two seasons of club control remaining. Gray tasted more success in his past than Gausman ever has. He was one of the American League’s better pitchers from 2013-2015 before regressing badly in 2016. He rebounded in 2017 and posted a 3.43 ERA and 1.18 WHIP at the time of his trade to New York. Oakland used this trade to completely revitalize their minor league system. MLB.com’s Prospect Watch ranks Mateo as their #4 prospect in the system, Fowler as #5, and Kaprielian as #9.
Quintana was a very nice pitcher for the White Sox from 2012-2016, finishing each season with an ERA between 3.20 and 3.76 and FIP’s that supported those numbers. When traded to the Cubs, he had one and a half seasons under club control plus two years of club options. But he was in the midst of a disappointing season when shipped to the north side of Chicago. His midseason ERA of 4.49 and WHIP of 1.32 would have been his worst since his rookie season. Despite the down season, the Sox were able to turn Quintana into two prospects that now rank in their organization’s top five. Jimenez is ranked as their top prospect (and #3 overall in MLB) and Cease comes in at #5.
Gausman is not on the level as Gray or Quintana, so do not expect a package like those two players fetched. But it is not unreasonable to say that Gausman is just a tier below those two. His best pitching is in front of him, he is under control for the next two seasons, and he’s avoided major injuries in his career. He should bring back at least a top-10 and top-15 prospect in return.
If the O’s do shop Schoop, they’ll find a way to work his 2017 numbers into conversation as much as possible. .293/.338/.503 with 32 homers, 105 RBI, and 92 runs was good for 12th in American League MVP voting. Those numbers coming from a middle infield position are even more impressive. He got off to a slow start this season and then battled injuries. But he’s only 26 years old and is under club control through next season.
The July 2017 market for infielders:
Yankees acquire 3B Todd Frazier, RP David Robertson and RP Tommy Kahnle from White Sox for RP Tyler Clippard, P Ian Clarkin, CF Blake Rutherford and CF Tito Polo
Schoop and Frazier isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison since the Yankees acquired two relievers to help their postseason push in addition to the power-hitting third baseman. But this trade is useful to look at since the O’s will have very capable relievers available to add to a package. Frazier’s OPS at the time of the trade was .761 and he had hit sixteen home runs, constituting a regression for him. Rutherford is now the #7 prospect and Clarkin #16 in the White Sox’ loaded farm system.
Nunez was a rental player that Boston ended up re-signing this winter. Nunez and Schoop play different games, with Nunez doing a better job of getting on base and providing speed (.334 OBP at time of trade, 131 career steals) whereas Schoop is a free-swinging power hitter. Even though Nunez was a pending free agent that was a 0.3 WAR player when traded, San Francisco turned him into a pitcher that now ranks as the #8 prospect in their system (Anderson).
Despite getting off to an injury-riddled and slow 2018, Schoop is considered one of the top young middle infielders in the game. His youth, potential, and extra year of club control make him more attractive than the two infielders traded at the deadline in 2017. On his own, he will fetch a better package than that than the Giants got for Nunez. If paired with one of the veteran Orioles relievers, we should see a package better than what the White Sox got for Frazier, Robertson, and Kahnle.
As bleak as things look for the Orioles right now, they have some quality assets to trade this summer. Schoop and Gausman could add some top ten caliber prospects to the system. Relievers are always hot commodities at the deadline when contenders seek to solidify their bullpens. And it isn’t everyday that one of the most talented baseball players walking Planet Earth is on the trade block. (Referring to Machado, sorry Adam.) Hitting on those trades could set up the club up for the next five to ten years. Missing on those trades could... let’s not think about that.