There’s a certain type of relief that will accompany this season coming to an end. As we all know by now, it can be difficult following a team that has played poorly all year long. Baltimore was out of contention by the end of April, all but guaranteed a losing season by May, and out of Major League level starting pitchers by the fourth game of the season.
So with only four games to play, some of you may be asking the question... now what? Don’t worry, Camden Chat will keep you busy with prospect reviews, commentary and plenty more. But how will you spend those extra hours during game time?
Personally, I’m looking forward to watching more winning teams during the 2019 postseason. Rooting for “insert team playing against the Yankees here” may be a bit more enjoyable than 15-inning losses to the Blue Jays. Nevertheless, like many of you, I’ll still have the Orioles on my mind.
How can the Birds improve their future this offseason? With the 2020 draft not until June, there’s really only two options— free agency and trades. No one expects Baltimore to be overly active in the free agency market, so trades will likely be the Orioles’ best chance at getting better.
Who might be on the trading block? A last place team shouldn’t have many attractive assets. Baltimore could be a bit of an exception after holding on to just about everyone back in July.
Mychal Givens appeared to be the most likely Oriole to be dealt before the trade deadline this season, and he’ll certainly garner a look or two from teams this winter. Givens, who struggled to lock down the back end of the bullpen in Baltimore this season, still holds a 3.42 ERA through 282 career games.
The 29-year-old struggled in multi-inning appearances this past season, but saw a slight uptick after Baltimore confined him to just one inning per outing. After a blown save on August 11, Givens did not pitch more than one frame for the remainder of the season.
Givens rattled off nine straight scoreless appearances, and has been rather dominant with the exception of two three-run outings in the last week. The two outliers could be chalked up to fatigue, and shouldn’t take too much away from how Givens has pitched down the stretch.
When teams reflect on why they failed the year prior, a hole or two in the bullpen is an easy flaw to identify. Several teams will be looking to sure up their relief situation, and Givens could prove to be a reasonably priced option. Who knows, a team desperate enough may even want to take a chance on Miguel Castro.
Some speculated on whether the Orioles would deal away their best player, but the club elected to keep Trey Mancini back in July. Mancini, who recently admitted he plans to take on more of a vocal role in the locker room next season, likely holds more value to Baltimore than he would to any other team. Because of that, the club may listen to offers, but should keep Mancini on the roster.
The most likely position player to be on the trading block should be Jonathan Villar. Villar turned some heads this season and posted a solid four wins above replacement. He’ll be a free agent in 2021, and likely doesn’t have a place on the next winning team in Baltimore. But Villar has produced with very little protection in the lineup. He could finish the season with as many as 25 home runs and 40 steals (he’s at 24 and 38 right now). Those numbers don’t lie.
Villar can play adequate defense at either shortstop or second base, and he’s made the most of the opportunity to play every day. He can help a contender next season, and the Orioles will be forced to deal him if the price is right.
Hanser Alberto may not be actively shopped, but teams could call and ask to see if the 26-year-old is available. If Baltimore thinks his .308 batting average (and .399 average against lefties) is just a fluke, it would be wise to sell high. However, there’s obviously no doubt that the guy can hit lefties. Even as a platoon player, Alberto helps a lot of teams.
I’m not going to lie, I want to see Alberto play in Baltimore next year. We’re going to find out if the guy can keep this going over multiple seasons, and what better place to watch things play out than at Camden Yards.
Of course, several other players could be in the mix. Richard Bleier could generate a call, and Pedro Severino might be interesting to a team that needs a backup backstop.
As we saw in July, the Birds will only part ways with a player if they feel the deal benefits the Baltimore Orioles. That seems obvious, but it is refreshing that the front office will not make a trade simply to make a trade. All of these guys could be back in Baltimore on Opening Day, and that would be okay. There’s always the July deadline in 2020. Still, don’t be surprised if you see one or more of these players on the move.