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Early thoughts on the Orioles rebuild at the quarter-season mark

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A quarter into the season, what are the biggest causes for concern in the Orioles rebuild?

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Thanks to back-to-back rainouts, the Orioles are still a quarter way through the 2019 season. The quarter mark tends to sneak up on most fans. The weather hasn’t completely broken yet, the NBA and NHL playoffs are still going on, and the kids are still in school. Plus, how can it be a quarter way through the season when Chris Davis only recorded his first hit a month ago?

A quarter-life crisis usually kicks in during a person’s mid-to-late twenties. The individual begins to question the path they are on, how things have gone so far, and what the blue print looks like moving forward. As a current 25-year-old, let’s just say there might be a little merit to the concept...

After the Orioles hired executive vice president Mike Elias, everyone accepted that Baltimore was undertaking a multi-year endeavor. The Birds aren’t a quarter through the rebuild, but they are 25 percent through the first year. We’re just entering the period where we can start to question where the Orioles are at in the process, so let’s overthink some things.

After Dan Duquette parted ways with Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop last season, the Orioles entered 2019 with very few trade assets. Rebuilding 101 states that a team must attempt to convert current, expiring assets into future talent. Many are starting to wonder who the Orioles can attempt to move at the trade deadline.

Trey Mancini, in only his third MLB season, has taken a large step forward. The former bronze medalist in the 2017 Rookie of the Year contest is currently hitting .318/.366/.547. After a slow start a year ago, Mancini came out in mid-season form. Now that we’ve reached the quarter mark, the numbers represent a little more than just a hot start.

Opinion appears to be split on Mancini. Some feel that the Orioles may have a player to build around, while others think Baltimore must sell high on the Notre Dame product this summer. If Mancini truly is peaking, it makes sense to sell at max value. So what’s the right move?

As is the case for most things in the quarter-life crisis, things aren’t as do-or-die as they seem. The Orioles control Mancini until 2023, and he won’t even become arbitration eligible until after this year. Yes, there’s always a chance he fizzles out after this hot start, but the Orioles don’t need to extend or trade the guy this year.

The Orioles will listen to trade offers for anyone on the roster, and they’ll likely shop a few guys come July. That being said, they don’t need to trade the best player on the team just because he may be the most valuable. Players like Andrew Cashner, Mychal Givens and a few other surprises could be on the block this summer.

Entering the season, there were a few players in particular that Baltimore hoped would take a step forward. Dylan Bundy, the former fourth-overall pick in the 2011 draft, has yet to take that step. In eight starts, the righty holds a 1-5 record with a 5.31 ERA. He remains home run happy, surrendering 11 bombs in those eight games.

Cedric Mullins managed only six hits in 64 at bats, and found his way back to Triple-A Norfolk. Richie Martin has struggled at the plate, and fellow Rule-5 pick Drew Jackson couldn’t find a way to stick with the team. Expectations may have been low for Joey Rickard, but the Orioles hoped he could at least break .200.

That being said, if every player panned out for the Orioles, they wouldn’t be in this state to begin with. Even with a roster earmarked for last place in the AL East, there were bound to be a few disappointments. Not every player on the Orioles current roster will take a step forward, just like every prospect the club acquires during this rebuild won’t make it to the next winning club in Baltimore.

Dylan Bundy has struggled, but John Means came out of nowhere to establish a spot in the rotation. Cedric Mullins could not hit, but Dwight Smith Jr. has turned into one of the best stories of the year. Stevie Wilkerson has flashed some potential at the plate, and Pedro Severino has been fun to watch. There’s been about as many pleasant surprises as letdowns.

A quarter-life crisis also includes being apprehensive about the future. With the 2019 MLB draft rapidly approaching, the Orioles are about to have their first opportunity to improve the club outside of waiver wire pickups. There’s certainly a sense that the organization can’t miss with this pick, and a whiff would be difficult to swallow.

But yet again, things aren’t quite as dire as they seem. The Orioles selection will take at least a couple of years to make his way to Baltimore, and he’ll have an opportunity to develop under the new regime.

If the Birds select the projected number one pick, Adley Rutschman out of Oregon State, they’ll be gaining an extremely well-rounded catcher who would enter the system with a much better defensive reputation than Chance Sisco. Rutschman has absolutely raked for the Beavers, and college hitters normally have a lower bust potential than teenagers.

There’s something inherently less stressful about a rebuilding team. When there’s not a lot of expectations, there’s less to get worked up about. We can all take a deep breath, and remind ourselves that better days are ahead. But those better days will only come if the Orioles handle the rebuild properly, which can be a little stressful in and of itself.

A quarter into the season, is there anything that’s stressing you out? What do you think the biggest challenge is for the club this year? Let us know below!