A Seller’s Guide to the Trade Market: Baltimore Orioles
A Seller’s Guide to the Trade Market: Baltimore Orioles
Over the course of the next month, there will constant chatter about big new additions for some of the leagues best, or at least most hopeful teams. However, what about the (many) teams stuck in mediocrity? Who sheds a tear, or at least a few hundred words, for the,? Leading up to the trade deadline, Off the Bench will be taking a look at the clubs in need of a rebuild, and analyze the wisest course of action for teams looking towards the future. We start with the Baltimore Orioles.
When thinking of two words to describe the 2018 Orioles, “unmitigated’ and ‘disaster” come to mind.
The team, as of July 5th, had the worst record in the sport, accompanied by the looming free agency of star shortstop Manny Machado (151 wRC+). While many thought the wisest course of action for General Manager Dan Duquette this offseason was to begin a roster teardown, the front office opted to make one final playoff push. The squad went out and acquired pitchers Alex Cobb (four years, $57 million) and Andrew Cashner (two years, $16 million) to bolster a suspect pitching staff.
In addition, an offense considered to be one of the best in the game retained most of their key contributors. The bullpen was expected to receive a boost from the return of All Star closer Zach Britton, who suffered a ruptured Achilles that kept him sidelined for most of 2017.
Safe to say, things haven’t gone as planned. The rotation has been even worse than usual, not helped by Cobb, who has pitched to an ERA of 6.53. The bullpen has shown cracks, and Britton has been injured for most of the season. As for the offense, they have a league-worst .227 batting average- which looks even worse when you consider that Machado has accounted for about one-fifth of all run production. Although it is painful for many O’s fans, the run of success enjoyed by manager Buck Showalter’s teams have clearly come to an end, and July 31st can’t come soon enough.
MOST LIKELY SUITORS: DIAMONDBACKS, INDIANS, DODGERS, PHILLIES
It’s a pretty safe bet that Machado will be wearing a new uniform come August. Although the return may not be as great as it would have been last winter, the Orioles still figure to fetch quite the haul for the talented 25-year old, something they can’t afford to pass up as Machado seems destined to walk this winter anyway.
He has continued to prove he is the best hitting shortstop in the game, hitting 21 homers with an impressive .944 OPS, and he has done this without any form of lineup protection. One notable downside is that Machado has shown poor defense in his first full season at short, compiling a well below average UZR of -7.8. The fact that he demanded to play the position this season is tricky for buyers; infield reshuffling may be needed, even if it leaves the defense in worse shape than before. However, Machado’s game changing bat makes such a sacrifice more than worth it.
TRADE PREDICTION: MACHADO GOES TO ARIZONA IN EXCHANGE FOR RHP JON DUPLANTIER (#60 IN TOP 100, #1 ARI), 1B PAVIN SMITH (#2 ARI), RHP TAYLOR CLARKE (#7 ARI), AND 3B DREW ELLIS (#8 ARI)
To analyze the most likely suitors for Machado, one must assess who is the most desperate. The Arizona Diamondbacks fit that bill. With stars A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt nearing the end of their contracts, their window of contention may be closing. In order to capitalize on both the team’s current state and the openness of the Senior Circuit, selling the farm for a major upgrade in the middle infield may be necessary, where Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte have failed to impress.
The return for the Orioles may not stand out to the casual fan, but there is plenty here for Baltimore to work with. Duplantier, drafted in the 3rd Round of the 2016 Draft, possesses an impressive amount of command, which helps with his slightly above average velocity (92-94 MPH). He has front-line stuff, and could be in the majors as soon as next season. Smith has emerged as one of the most talented bats in minor league baseball, showing an advanced knack for making contact. For an organization that has often relied upon all-or-nothing power hitters, a hitter who bats for average should prove to be a welcome addition to Baltimore’s depleted farm system. Clarke has back-end of the rotation potential, and Ellis projects as a plus-power slugger from the right side.
MOST LIKELY SUITORS: BRAVES, PHILLIES, ASTROS, CARDINALS, INDIANS, YANKEES
Britton is one of the most interesting pieces for sale this trade season, though not the only pitcher likely to be moved. At his best, he can recapture the form that allowed him to post one of the greatest relief seasons of all time in 2016- pitching to a miniscule 0.54 ERA. However, injuries have made pitching consistently a struggle for the left-hander. Even when Britton has managed to come into games this year, he has looked pretty bad, posting a 5.59 ERA in ten appearances. Even more troubling is the fact that he is averaging over 6 walks per nine. Despite this, Britton’s hasn’t allowed much hard contact so it seems likely that if he can fix his control problems, he may be able to become a dominant force once again. While fellow reliever Darren O’Day may prove to be a more reliable reliever, Britton’s potential is sure to entice more than a few contenders in need of relief help.
TRADE PREDICTION: BRITTON GOES TO ST. LOUIS IN EXCHANGE FOR RHP JUNIOR FERNANDEZ (#10 STL) AND RHP CONNER GREENE (#16 STL)
This may come as a surprise to some, given that Britton is a big name and relievers are in need for just about every major contender. However, the Cardinals are in the middle of a wide open NL Wildcard race. Taking a chance on a talented closer may be the difference between the postseason and going home. The back end of the St. Louis bullpen is solid, with breakout fireballer Jordan Hicks pairing with Bud Norris to form a potent duo. However, the team lacks a solid lefty reliever.
In Britton, the Cardinals would be getting someone who can step in and match up against hitters situationally ,immediately becoming the most talented lefty specialist in baseball. Instead of the heavy burden placed upon him in Baltimore, Britton can be monitored in order to keep his arm fresh for the stretch run. At best, the Cards have a suddenly elite bullpen capable of shortening games. At the worst, they won’t sacrifice much from a deep farm system.
Not to say that the Orioles are getting nothing back. Fernandez’s fastball is already the stuff of legend. He has the capability to be a high octane arm out of the back of the pen. Greene is fairly similar, although he has significant problems with command that he needs to refine in Triple A.
MOST LIKELY SUITORS: INDIANS, MARINERS, GIANTS
Adam Jones is the longest tenured Oriole, spending his entire thirteen-year career manning center field at Camden Yards. Although he is older now at 32, Jones is one of the few Orioles not to show significant signs of regression at the plate this year, batting over .280 with ten homers sprinkled in. However, his on base and slugging percentages have both gone down, making it clear that Jones is aging. It also happens to be the final year of his contract this season. If the centerfielder is motivated to chase a ring, he may soon find himself playing a significant role for a contender going into August, ideally at a corner outfield spot instead of center, where his progressively worse footspeed is becoming a problem.
A return to Baltimore next season seems unlikely, as the veteran is too old to wait around for a complete teardown in order to make his first World Series appearance. While painful to deal a franchise mainstay, it makes no sense for the O’s to simply let Jones walk for nothing.
TRADE PREDICTION: JONES GOES TO CLEVELAND IN EXCHANGE FOR OF CONNER CAPEL (#11 CLE) AND RHP LUIS OVIEDO (#19 CLE)
The Indians are in a unique position. As the only contender not in the midst of a tightly contested divisional race, there is time for the team to start clicking and get healthy before October. However, as it stands right now their talent looks to be a notch below Houston, Boston, and New York in the American League. In order to be more well balanced, the team needs to stop relying completely on both their starting rotation and the left side of their infield, where Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez continue to rake.
Cleveland stands to make a significant upgrade in the outfield, where currently rookie Greg Allen and struggling vet Brandon Guyer have created two significant holes in their lineup. Add Jones into the mix, and suddenly this becomes a battle tested lineup with six former All Stars. In addition, the Indians have plenty of players to spell Jones in the lineup during a September poised to have minimal drama for the AL Central leaders.
By adding veteran experience and moxie, the Indians would be creating an attack that won’t fold under the pressure of the postseason.
Baltimore’s return won’t be much for an aging veteran at one of the easier positions to find in the trade market. However, a deep Cleveland farm system should be able to net some decent prospects for an organization starving for talent. Capel has shown an advanced power tool in Single A, and his left handed bat would be a plus for the O’s. While this has led to an increased strikeout rate, Capel is now making hard contact on almost every pitch he hits. Oviedo is a long way from the Majors, but if he is brought up slowly, the potential for a mid-rotation starter is there.