There’s been little doubt in my head for about the last month, but while I was preparing for my weekly 12:20 spot on Bob and Vinnie’s show on 105.7 today, it finally hit me, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Orioles MUST be sellers over the next two and half weeks before the trade deadline.
That might be hard to swallow for an organization that coming into the season felt they were contenders and had won the most games in the American League since the start of 2012. But the reality is, this organization is not in good shape and barring a miraculous second half, this team is not going to be in the playoffs this year.
Coming into the second half the Orioles are 42-46 and are closer to having the worst record in the American League than the wild card. They may only be four games behind Tampa Bay and New York for the wild card, but there are six teams ahead of the Orioles and that doesn’t include the Mariners with whom they are tied. Fangraphs give the Orioles a 5% chance of winning a wildcard spot with only the Whitesox and A’s having worse of chance among the non Division leaders.
If it take 88 wins to get a wild card spot, the Orioles would need to go 46-28 (.622) the rest of the way. Only the Astros and Dodgers have a better winning percentage over the first half of the season. Does anyone really think this Orioles team has that kind of run in them?
If you do, let’s take a look at this starting rotation, which is the worst in baseball. Over their last six starts, here are the ERA for the starters:
Kevin Gausman – 5.81
Ubaldo Jimenez – 6.68
Dylan Bundy – 7.76
Wade Miley – 9.69
Chris Tillman – 9.69
Let’s face it, this team is not a starter or two from turning things around, and even if they were, who do they have to offer from the farm system? Although the Orioles have a couple of nicely regarded prospects in Chance Sisco, Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle, none of them are consensus top 100 prospects. Some, some of them show up in different lists, but none are regarded as can’t miss impact players. In other words, they aren’t getting you a difference maker even if that difference maker would actually make a difference. Which they won’t.
So what about next year you may ask? We still have a good core in Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop and Trey Mancini looks like a keeper. If we aren’t sellers we’ll have another year of Zach Britton and we can hope Gausman and Bundy can finally break out, right? Who is going to pitch in the other three spots? Jimenez and Tillman will thankfully be free agents and it’s doubtful the Orioles are going to pick up Miley’s option.
Well, we’ll just pull some starters out of the minors some my say. Like who? The first legitimate starting pitcher prospect is Keegan Akin, and he’s only in his first full professional season and a scout from an AL team told me last week that he liked him, but as a reliever. So I guess that leaves free agency and considering that Dan Duquette’s free agency starting pitcher signings have been Jimenez and Yovanni Gallardo, I’m pretty sure that’s not a smart way to go.
So let’s face it, the window has closed on this particular group of players and it’s time to rebuild with good young talent, the kind of talent that doesn’t exists in the Orioles system that’s one of the worst in baseball.
Who should be available? Everyone, bar none. I wouldn’t make this a firesale and get pennies on the dollar, but teams should know that for the right price, anyone is available.
Clearly, the Orioles biggest chip is Machado even though he’s having a down year this season. This is where the Orioles need to make a decision, try and resign Manny to the richest contract in the organization’s history or do you make him the player that fetches you the biggest haul? The rub is, the teams in contention that could use a third baseman are the Yankees and Red Sox. Does anyone want to face Manny 19 times a year after trading him to a Division rival? Now I guess you can look at as he’s going to be a free agent in 2019 anyways so it’s only a year and half, and after that he could be playing with one of them anyway and all the Orioles would have for it is an extra first round pick.
As much as it hurts to think of him playing for either one of those team, if the Orioles could get SS Gleyber Torres, Of Clint Frazier and LHP Justus Sheffield for him I’ll tie a bow on him and drive him up myself.
If the Red Sox want him, then I’d be looking for 3B Rafael Devers, SS C.J. Chatham, and a couple of arms like LHP Brian Johnson and RHP Mike Shawaryn.
The next biggest chip and the best bet to bring back a nice haul is Zach Britton. If Britton can show he’s back to 100 percent the next few weeks, he becomes real attractive for a team like the Nationals who may be a closer away from a World Series bid. I know RHP Erick Fedde, SS Carter Kieboom, and LHP Tyler Watson would be a good haul.
If the Orioles do move Machado and Britton, I think they then move to sure up their future by signing Jonathan Schoop to a long term extension and seeing if they can move Chris Davis’ contract, even if they have to eat some of his salary.
Other players who could net a decent minor league player or two could be catcher Welington Castillo, right fielder Seth Smith and relievers Brad Brach and Darren O’Day.
Regardless, if the Orioles choose to do nothing or worse, trade what few chips they have for players that don’t move the needle, they are just delaying the rebuild that needs to occur. That would mean Orioles fans are looking at least to a four or five year gap of non contending baseball.
Peter Angelos needs to decide if he thinks Dan Duquette is the man to oversee this rebuild. If he is, then he should give him an extension of at least four years and set him loose. Maybe even let him invest in the International market, but that’s for another article.
If not, it’s time for him to get in the guys he thinks can turn this organization around because right now, it’s not in good shape and it’s not going to contend in the near future without major changes to personnel.