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Orioles deadline decisions will provide context to rebuild

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The Orioles have made it perfectly clear that winning is not strategically relevant this season. Baltimore’s deadline decisions will show if they are at all concerned with the product on the field in the near future.

Baltimore Orioles v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

It’s no surprise that Orioles fans have paid a little extra attention to trade rumors this season. As a fan of a rebuilding club, it’s really all we’ve got. That being said, this year’s rumor mill hasn’t produced a lot of action. At least not yet. And the Orioles haven’t showed many indicators that they’ll be making a lot of deals.

The reality is, for the most part, there’s just not a lot of talent to offer. The Orioles sold off several assets last season, and this 36-71 team does not have an abundance of talent. Baltimore only had one All Star this season, and John Means isn’t going anywhere.

You’ve heard the names by now — Mychal Givens, Jonathan Villar, Dylan Bundy and Trey Mancini. Givens still appears likely to be dealt, but the Orioles would be selling relatively low on a guy that won’t be a free agent until 2022. The same goes for Dylan Bundy, and just about anyone in Baltimore that makes a living throwing a baseball.

Our own Nick Cicere broke down the highs and lows of parting ways with Mancini. It would be tough to see the 27-year-old go, but it seems that a majority of fans could stomach a trade if they bought into the return.

One side effect of this afternoon will be a peak behind the curtain of the Orioles front office. Sure, watching Mike Elias attack the MLB draft and international market has been entertaining, but nothing will better demonstrate the Orioles current strategy than their actions today.

Mancini represents the perfect case. Does the Orioles front office care about having a “face of the franchise” type of player during a rebuild? Would Baltimore keep a guy around simply because of his star power and ability to sell tickets? We’re not talking about Mike Trout here, but a fanbase that has recently lost Adam Jones and Manny Machado could use a familiar face or two at the ballpark.

On the contrary, the Orioles are not competing right now, and they’re not going to compete next season. Why would any player be untouchable on a ball club that’s looking multiple years down the road. The Orioles are listening to offers on Mancini, but will they sell high, or hold unless they’re blown away?

A similar sentiment applies to Dylan Bundy. The Orioles would be selling low on the right-hander, but teams have seen what Bundy is capable of from time to time. The Andrew Cashner trade with Boston kind of snuck up on fans, even though the Texas native had to be dealt. Cashner’s absence created a void in the Orioles rotation that has been compounded by injuries. Do the Orioles care at all that a Bundy departure will create another hole in the Baltimore’s Swiss cheese rotation? If they do, should they?

The Orioles starting pitching has been atrocious for a majority of the season, and the depth at Triple-A Norfolk is non existent. The fact that the Orioles started David Hess on short rest the other night is more than just unfortunate circumstances, it’s a cry for help. The loss of Bundy would only compound the issue, but again, winning does not matter right now.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to the offer. Mike Elias, Sig Mejdal and Brandon Hyde all have the support of the fan base right now. If they think dealing away a current player will improve the odds of winning in the future, they’ll make the deal. But what about the coin flip scenarios? Will Mancini’s additional value in Baltimore swing a deal one way or another? Will the lack of pitching depth keep Bundy around if the return is predictably low?

We’ll see.

The most fascinating aspects of the trade deadline rarely make it out from behind closed doors. There are countless “almost” trades, and deals can fall through at the last moment. At 4 p.m, today we’ll know what happened. After evaluating the deals, it may be more clear how Elias and the Orioles front office will handle the rebuild moving forward.