Trades over the last month have provided Orioles fans a much needed distraction from what could end up being the worst season in the organization’s history. It’s been a refreshing sentiment to focus on the future, instead of the bleak present. But as fans snap back to reality, they’re reminded how quickly things fell apart.
One can only hope that the rebirth of a winning team in Baltimore comes as quickly as the club’s downward spiral. Despite finishing with a losing record last season, the Orioles were competitive for a majority of 2017. The team intended to compete this year, but that plan went out the window by the end of April. Still, there’s a bright side in all of this losing.
Aside from winning 100 games this year, the inflated loss record may be the best thing that could have happened to the Orioles organization. Baltimore needed to hit rock bottom, and they didn’t waste any time doing so.
Even in a perfect world, it’s difficult to imagine the Orioles’ 2018 roster winning the AL East. The Red Sox are the best team in baseball right now. Boston has far and away the best record, and has looked unstoppable at times this year. The Orioles are 2-10 against the Red Sox this season, and that likely doesn’t change much even with better luck in Baltimore.
There’s always the Wild Card, right? Well, another AL East rival appears to have one of those spots locked up. The Yankees, despite their recent woes, are still poised to take the top Wild Card spot. The absolute best case scenario for the Orioles would have been a one-game playoff at Yankee Stadium, and they still would have had to overcome Oakland or Seattle just to get there.
Would a .500 team be more fun to watch this year? Absolutely. But the extremeness of the Orioles’ losing record has inspired changes that may not have happened if the Orioles were in the middle of the pack. The national media attention and daily embarrassment has forced ownership, the front office and the locker room to realize that drastic measures need to be taken.
Would the Orioles have still traded Manny Machado and Zach Britton if they were even remotely close to a Wild Card spot in July? There’s no way of knowing. However, it’s hard to imagine the Orioles parting ways with Kevin Gausman or Jonathan Schoop this year if their struggles had not gotten to this level.
The Orioles needed a reality check. The winning window that lasted from 2012-2016 had closed, and several steps needed to be taken before the Orioles had another shot at success. The Orioles have already began to take a few of those steps.
All of the trades brought in a plethora of prospects that could contribute at the big league level some day. Will all of them? Of course not. But there’s got to be a few success stories in there somewhere. The Orioles have already promoted Cody Carroll to the big club, and players like Yusniel Diaz and Dillon Tate project as legitimate big leaguers down the road.
The losing also fueled an alleged recommitted to the international market and scouting, as well as a larger emphasis place on analytics. While the Orioles had some success early in the decade, clearly things did not turn out how they expected. Some fresh faces in the scouting department and a new perspective on analytics could certainly improve the teams future projections.
Did anyone really foresee the Orioles acquiring international bonus pool money in a trade this year? I can’t imagine. If the O’s manage to snag Victor Victor Mesa, or any other top international prospect, it will likely be due to the drastic changes in the warehouse generated by this dreadful season.
The club has freed up roles for young players to develop at the big league level, and the O’s can use the remainder of the season to evaluate talent. And even though the Royals haven’t made things easy, Baltimore is nearly guaranteed a top two pick in next years draft.
There’s nothing fun about watching a bad team, but the Orioles are fortunate they’re not floating in limbo between competing and coming up short. What could be a record setting season in the loss column has generated changes to the roster and in the warehouse, and has jump started an inevitable rebuild. It has yet to be determined whether Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter will be back next year, but the Orioles already appear to be operating with a new approach towards the future.
Losing: What is it good for? Absolutely something.