As a result of their play so far this season, the Orioles are effectively obligated to trade their best player, Manny Machado, before July 31. There is no way to get around this. In May, Dan Duquette deflected with his “see where we’re at on Memorial Day” line. Two weeks beyond that, although he’s not coming out and saying Machado is guaranteed to be traded, he finally has discussed the obvious publicly.
Duquette held court with Orioles reporters, including MASN’s Roch Kubatko and MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli, on Tuesday afternoon, apparently at the same time that other Orioles reporters were attending the introductory press conference of first round pick Grayson Rodriguez. Tricky.
Two points of interest from Duquette’s mini-availability:
Os haven’t gotten close enough in Machado trade talks for specific names, Duquette said.— Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) June 12, 2018
It’s quite the piece of news for the GM to be acknowledging that there are any Machado trade talks at all. He described the interest as significant, and greater than it was over the winter. Whether other teams would agree with this assessment is another story, of course.
Perhaps one reason that specific names aren’t being discussed yet is that the Orioles have to spend time doing the due diligence to figure out who they might actually want. It’s not so easy as just pointing at a prospect list and getting some names.
The O’s need to figure out who is going to be good. Not every prospect is a star waiting to happen. Some are busts waiting to happen. We can only hope that the people evaluating these prospects are not the people who evaluated, say, Ubaldo Jimenez and Yovani Gallardo before the Orioles signed those guys.
Though Machado is the biggest trade chip the O’s possess, he’s not the only one, and some players who might be interesting to other teams have more time remaining until they are free agents. Not so fast, Duquette said:
Duquette also said focus on pending free agents and not guys still under team control beyond 2018 #orioles— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) June 12, 2018
This would seem to rule out any trade involving players such as Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, and Dylan Bundy, whose names are bandied about as possible trade pieces depending on how long the particular person talking wants to see the O’s punt their future down the road.
It’s worth noting that in the actual Duquette answer that seems to have generated that tweet as a summary, Duquette said, “People are looking at our pending free agents. That’s generally how the market works this time of the year.”
Having traded for Bud Norris and Wade Miley, each of whom had team control beyond the season where the O’s acquired them, Duquette knows the obfuscating work done by the word “generally” in his reply about trading those whose free agency comes later than the end of this season. He could trade Bundy later and still have been telling the truth. Not that I actually expect the O’s to do any such thing.
There probably won’t be much being offered for Schoop at all with as much as he has struggled this season, batting .213/.247/.356 up to this point. One reason why the Orioles are in the toilet is because so many of their players who are under control for next year and beyond are struggling.
You can add Mychal Givens to this category, as well as Mark Trumbo and Trey Mancini. Gausman has an underwhelming 4.58 ERA to date. Andrew Cashner is also struggling and now headed for what the O’s currently say will be a short disabled list trip for a lower back strain - presumably more real than Chris Tillman’s lower back strain.
Who are the O’s talking to about Machado? Kubatko reported interest from the Cardinals, Cubs, and Phillies. Just from considering who among the contenders needs a better third baseman or shortstop for the remainder of the season, it does seem like a National League team might be a better fit.
As over the winter, Kubatko added that the O’s “seem intent on acquiring multiple young pitching prospects,” with the extra consideration that an infielder to replace Machado is also on their wish list. Good luck to Duquette with that. The Orioles of the future are going to need the help.