It’s not exactly an industry secret that the Orioles will be involved in additional trades over the next week. The front office has firmly declared themselves as sellers and the phone lines are open. Whether or not you wind up liking the total return after the dust finally settles, the organization at the very least is finally being open about an actual plan to rebuild.
Some may argue it’s a year too late, but better late than never. And I think there were many Orioles fans, myself included, that fully expected at this time to be just close enough to .500 to convince the team to shortsightedly hold onto all of their assets through the deadline. For the most pessimistic fans, the O’s hitting 70 losses before 30 wins may have wound up being a blessing in disguise.
By now we all know the plan: deal Manny Machado, deal Zach Britton, cry like a baby if the team says farewell to Adam Jones, listen to offers on Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy in hopes of being blown away, and pray teams are interested in any other players on the team with expiring contracts. It’s been a long and sometimes annoying process, but the front office is roughly halfway home and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the front office has been weirdly functional to this point.
Other teams are saying the Orioles going about their trade business very differently than in the past -- to rival evaluators, they seem much more focused, much more organized, much more aggressive, much more engaged.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 4, 2018
It’s great to see the executives in charge having a plan and sticking to it, but fully shifting into rebuilding mode won’t solely take place on the trade market. The Orioles need to make adjustments to their current roster as well, particularly with players that are not trade assets for the club.
Right now, the Orioles seem to be fine moving forward with an active roster including guys such as Craig Gentry, Danny Valencia, Joey Rickard, and Jace Peterson. I first wrote about this issue in arguing to see Steve Wilkerson get more playing time. Since then, Colby Rasmus has luckily quit the team, but otherwise the same vestigial players still remain. And with Joey Rickard taking Rasmus’s spot on the team, he’s now in the crosshairs of this argument as well.
Out of the four players listed, only Craig Gentry currently has a positive WAR at a whopping 0.4 wins above replacement. But unless Theo Epstein had Gentry in mind when he said he will “probably look in August for someone who can play defense or steal a bag,” Gentry does not appear to be in the Orioles’ future plans, or the future plans of any other team.
Likewise, Valencia can swing the bat against lefties, but it doesn’t seem likely that a competing club will be trying to deal for a below-replacement level player. He operates in too small of a niche to be worthwhile to NL clubs looking for hitters. If no other team wants him, why hang onto him through the rest of his one-year deal?
It’s a harsh truth, but future Orioles teams will not be improved at all because of Danny Valencia’s play this season in the black and orange and this team right now has to be doing everything they can with the future in mind.
Joey Rickard and Jace Peterson may still be on rookie deals through the next few seasons, but by now the Orioles know exactly who they are. Barring any miracles, their combined .381 batting average isn’t indicative of future impact players for contending O’s teams.
Rickard’s curtain call less than one week into his MLB career will always be a great moment, but since then he’s done nothing to disprove exactly why he was originally available in the Rule 5 draft. In regards to Peterson, after a career slash line of .229/.318/.332 over parts of five MLB seasons, I don’t think anyone expects him to suddenly start raking. He’s out of options, but who cares? The Orioles need to look at their other options.
I’m not saying that the Orioles need to go ahead and call up every top prospect they have. In fact, I’d argue just the opposite. There is no need to rush guys like Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, Yusniel Diaz, Hunter Harvey, Keegan Akin, etc. They don’t need to waste months of their service time on the 2018 Orioles, and certainly not at the expense of future O’s teams that may actually compete. But, there is a group of players toiling around Norfolk that are worth taking a look at while the Orioles have nothing to lose.
The aforementioned Steve Wilkerson was one of those guys before hitting the DL with an oblique strain. I would argue that Drew Dosch, DJ Stewart, and Cedric Mullins also deserve a shot in the major leagues as soon as possible. And what do you know? As fate would have it, those three players along with Wilkerson could easily represent 1-for-1 replacements of Peterson, Rickard, Gentry, and Valencia.
After hitting 39 doubles last year in a breakout season for the third baseman, Dosch has been hitting yet again in 2018. While playing mostly third base for the Tides along with some first base, Dosch has slashed .282/.345/.425 for Norfolk this season. He’s worth a look for the Orioles, especially after watching Renato Nunez and Tim Beckham botch Toronto’s game-winner last Friday night. Why can’t we see him get a shot instead of Jace Peterson?
DJ Stewart may only be batting .242 for Norfolk, but his OBP of .349 suggests his batting eye is MLB-ready now. Getting close to that for the Orioles would look exceptional in a lineup that currently doesn’t have a single batter with an on-base percentage over .315. Holy Cal, that is one depressing sentence. Stewart’s ability to take pitches would be a site for sore eyes over a guy like Joey Rickard and his .261 OBP.
Lastly, we’ve written about Cedric Mullins enough on here. He’s gotten by far the most fanfare of any minor league guy being mentioned here. Despite his impressive skills in center field, I don’t think the Orioles are ready to move Jones aside to a corner outfield spot just yet. But, Mullins would be a desperately needed upgrade anywhere in the outfield defensively.
In case you missed it last night, Bogaerts’s fifth inning double that sparked the four-run rally by the Red Sox was given only a 1% chance of being a hit by MLB Statcast. 99% of the time that ball should have been caught by an MLB-caliber defense. And there’s the problem. The Orioles’ outfield is that bad. And it’s not even like this is a new phenomenon. The Orioles have been throwing first basemen next to Jones for years, and now the solution in the minds of the Orioles’ brass seems to be putting third basemen out there.
Mullins could fill in at center field on days when Adam needs a breather, but otherwise let him learn the ropes of the MLB under the tutelage of Jones. Who better to have as a mentor in the big leagues? The playing time is certainly there considering that Craig Gentry has made his way into nearly 60 games this season.
Mullins is red hot at the plate too. After collecting three hits on Sunday, Mullins has now slashed an impressive .322/.385/.496 over the last month to bring his season stat line in Norfolk up to .286/.352/.458. He’s ready to go. Gentry is one of Buck’s guys, but it’s time to make the swap.
It’s three minor moves, four if you count when Wilkerson returns from the disabled list, but these are the things Baltimore has to do if they truly want to rebuild. The organization has to be fully willing to cut underperforming, known commodities to take a chance on the next wave of talent. The Orioles will never know what they have until they actually give these guys a chance. They might as well take advantage of a lost season.