Don’t worry, this post will be safe for work…
The Orioles have officially played 1/3 of the regular season and they have surprised pretty much every pundit (and if you are honest more than a few of the fans) by being at or near the top of the standings in the AL East since Game 1. Right now Dan Duquette is probably looking for pieces to add but it is quite possible that could change as we head into the dog days of summer, especially if the starting pitching cannot get back on track.
The O’s showed a commitment to keeping their contention window open by re-signing Chris Davis & Darren O’Day, but they have more work to do. Namely, signing Manny Machado long-term and getting some starting pitching. Machado is a transcendent talent, a once-in-a-generation talent. He, along with Mike Trout & Bryce Harper, will be debated as the best player of this generation for years to come. I understand why the front office was reluctant to sign him long term until they saw if his knees could take the rigors of a full season, but now that we have seen that they can it’s time to pony up. I’ve been saying 10 years, $300 million as a starting offer and negotiating from there. It will probably be closer to $400 million, with more per year depending on how long the term is. I can see Machado looking for a 5-6 year deal since Duquette is vehemently anti-opt out clauses so that he could test the open market while still in the prime of his career, but I can also see him taking a longer deal if for no other reason than because of his knees, which after 2 surgeries that cost him the better part of a season & a postseason where this team had a legitimate chance to win it all. It will cost the team a few Brinks trucks worth of cash to keep him but at least there is a concept of how to do it (looking at the Giancarlo Stanton contract as a basis for framework). The starting pitching, however, is another thing completely…
Chris Tillman has looked a lot more like his 2014 self than his 2015 self (the last 2 starts notwithstanding). Kevin Gausman looked really good when he came off the DL but has struggled lately as well, but he still projects as a solid #2 or #3 starter if he straightens out. After that things get really murky. Dylan Bundy is re-learning how to pitch and has to do so in the major leagues because of his contract. Hunter Harvey has been one long injury since 2014. There are no other solid prospects in the minors. Then we get into Tyler Wilson, who probably best case scenario projects as a right-handed Jamie Moyer, which would make him a #4 or #5 starter, and Mike Wright, who has the cannon arm teams covet but no idea how to pitch. I think he’ll wind up in the bullpen, either here or somewhere else. We have no idea what we have in Yovani Gallardo, and the less said about Ubaldo Jimenez these days the happier we’ll all be. So, like pretty much every team we need starting pitching. But how do we get it?
Signing a top line free agent is most likely not going to happen. It’s just not the way this team operates from the ownership through the front office. That leaves the draft and making a trade. No drafted player would conceivably be ready before Machado & Adam Jones are free agents. This leaves us with trading as the only viable option, but in order to make a trade you must have something that another team wants. Baltimore’s farm system has some decent chips but nothing any scout worth a damn would call a blue chip prospect. Nothing in the farm system will get any kind of serious return. The team DOES, however, have some ammunition to make something happen, It just happens to be on the 25 man roster right now.
6 Orioles will be free agents after this season. 3 of them are basically worthless as trade chips (Nolan Reimold, Brian Duensing, and Wandy Rodriguez). Pedro Alvarez’s value is limited to a team that wants a DH/PH so odds are he won’t get much in return either unless he gets white-hot in June & July. Matt Wieters has come on lately, catching back-to-back games and showing a much better eye at the plate. He’s a switch hitter who lacks in pitch framing but is a real deterrent against the run game. He could get something decent, especially if the team agrees to eat some of his remaining salary (whatever the balance of his $15.6 million, 1 year deal is left if/when the trade happens). The big fish, however, is Mark Trumbo.
Please note that I am in no way hoping or calling for Trumbo to be traded. I would hate to see him go. He is however the biggest trade chip we have that I would be willing to part with, he is a pending free agent who is having a monster year while playing for what is in MLB contract world a very team friendly deal ($9.15 million this year), and for the Orioles it would equate to flipping Steve Clevenger for at least one if not two solid prospects with real big league potential within the current “window” of now through 2018.
If the Orioles fall out of contention in the next 2 months (and if you add the way the starting pitching has been performing recently to the fact that the team has played a solid majority of games at home early on to the fact that they have a losing record on the road so far it is a possibility) they should give serious thought to getting maximum value from Trumbo and if possible Wieters in order to free up some salary that they can put towards signing Machado and hopefully get some arms that will make staying in Charm City a little more enticing to him.