Who Else Should The Orioles Look To Trade?
Depending on the day, the 2018 Orioles are either picking first in the June 2019 draft or somewhere else in the top 5. To say that this season has been a disappointment would a gross understatement. Even if you were like me and didn’t believe this team would make the playoffs, you didn’t envision them struggling to win 1/3 of their games. That is where we are at though and the reality of the 2018 Baltimore Orioles.
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Orioles Executive VP and person with no decision-making power, Dan Duquette, has talked about seeing where the team is at on Memorial Day. Once you get to Memorial Day, you have played 1/3 of your season. At that point, you basically know what team you have. You have a good understanding of the strengths and the weaknesses of your team. Unfortunately for the Os, their season is over and it’s time to look towards the future. Part of looking towards the future is by trading players who won’t be a part of that future.
We have talked a lot about the obvious trade targets. Machado, Jones, Brach and Britton. Those are the four that represent your impending free agents. At this point, there is no reason to believe extensions will be signed by any of them, so trading them makes a lot of sense. To me, the bigger question is do you look to trade anyone else? Obviously, we would all like to see Davis and his contract gone but we know that isn’t happening. Trumbo likely falls into that same category. With the recent news about his arthritic knee, that could give teams even further reasoning to not go after him. O’Day is another guy who you may want to see dealt because of salary but between his inconsistent performance and injuries, I am not sure if he will have a market. If he shows that he is healthy and comes back and pitches well, that may be a different story. I think it’s far more likely that O’Day is an Oriole in 2019 and traded at the deadline next year. There are a few other guys that could bring back a lot of talent and those are the players to really focus on.
The first player I want to discuss is Kevin Gausman. Now, I know what some of you are thinking. He is pitching well and may have finally turned the corner, so why would you trade him now? There is certainly a lot of validity to that opinion. His K rate is good, he is missing bats at a very high rate, the walks are way down, his ERA is under 3.5 and he is averaging 6 IP per start. In prior years, he has struggled in the first half and been really good in the second half. If he continues to be solid over the next month or so and then really turns it on, as he has in the second half in years past, he could be a sub 3 ERA pitcher this year. That all sounds great and it’s all very true. The problem is, what is the long-term status of Gausman? He still has 2 full years of service time left. My question is, will the Orioles offer him a deal that keeps him here past 2020? If they do, will it be a realistic offer for him to say yes? You figure that he will be making roughly 25 million the next twi years. Once that time is up, he will be 30 years old entering the 2021 season.
That certainly isn’t old but it also means that he is likely only going to get one major contract. Is he going to sign an extension in the range of 4/65-6/110? He certainly could, or he could bet on himself to be really good the next two years, gets his 25ishM and then sign a long term deal for a lot more money.
If I had to guess on what he would do, I would guess he would wait and bet on himself. While injuries are always an issue for pitchers, Gausman has been pretty durable since he became a full-time starter in 2016. Since injuries are always a factor for a pitcher, maybe he would take the security of a contract and then get to age 31-32 and hope that he can sign another good deal. That’s possible and maybe the O’s could convince him to do just that. The question I have is, should they want to convince him?
Gasuman has shown a lot of inconsistency in the past and while I have advocated extending him several times, I am not sure that I would do it now. Even if he will sign an extension, it will be very costly. I was in favor of it over the last few years, when the cost would have been down. The cost certainly won’t be down now. It’s very possible that this deadline will represent his highest value. It’s also possible that if he has his normal big second half, that his highest value will be the off-season. I can go with that theory. That being said, with all the risk of injuries for pitchers (even someone who has so far proven to be pretty durable) and the idea that he could struggle in the second half, I would look to deal him. I am not dealing him unless I get a big offer, but I certainly feel they should be shopping him. We all know what he can be and could become. We all know that he could be dealt and really blow up and be a stud. We also know that this organization is also not likely to sign him to a long term deal. We also know that it’s likely the team won’t be any good in 2019 and that contention in 2020, while possible, isn’t a likely scenario either. In other words, the odds are that Kevin Gausman will not be a part of the next really good O’s teams. If that is the case and if you aren’t going to extend him, why would you keep him (provided that you get a good enough offer)?
The next player to discuss is Jonathan Schoop. Schoop is coming off his best season as a MLer. He was a 4ish WAR player, had an 840 OPS, hit 293, had the best BB rate of his career and hit 32 homers. This season, which was slowed by an oblique injury early on, has seen a lot of the old Schoop. His BB rate is back down below 3%, his K rate is back up and the OBP is below 30%. While I think we, all go overboard on the trade value of an established player after a small sampling of at bats, teams are still going to want to deal for guys that are going to help them and right now, Schoop is struggling. You would expect to see his bat get going and if it does, he could definitely be a trade candidate. Schoop is a little different than Gausman. He is a position player and while he has had a few injuries, there is obviously less concern about him than you would have for a pitcher. He is also a little younger than Gausman. Schoop doesn’t turn 27 until October. He becomes a FA after next year. To me, you either sign him or trade him between now and the off-season. I would be open to signing him to an extension but I am not sure he will be open to signing here. I figure he gets somewhere in the neighborhood of 12M for next year. How many years would you want to buy of his free agency? If we could get him to sign a deal that buys out 3-4 of FA years at around 17-20M per year (plus the 10-12M for next year), I would be okay with that.
It’s not super exciting to me because I don’t know how he can handle third base (the position I think he should move to) and I don’t know if I trust he will age well but we can get out of a deal with him no later than 31 years old, so I am okay with that risk. That being said, if he doesn’t show he wants to sign here and the value is there, you have to trade him between now and Spring Training 2019. He really should have been signed or traded after last season. His value is likely never going to be higher than it was this past off-season. The Orioles talked about extending him but obviously didn’t get it done and judging by the way Fanfest went, Schoop wasn’t happy about his contract situation either.
Dylan Bundy is another interesting option. You only trade him if the value is very high and, perhaps more importantly, you feel his arm/shoulder is a ticking time bomb and you want to get value for him now. No matter how well he is pitching between now and the deadline, he definitely can achieve higher value over the next year or two, so I am not so worried about that. However, you do always have the worry of his injury history in the back of your mind and if that is something you are legitimately concerned about, you should look to move him now.
In the past, we have heard a lot of teams asking about Givens. At one point, before we knew how good he could be, we even heard the Orioles labeled him as untouchable. I place a lot of value in having a very good bullpen and he is very good and has a lot of service time still to go. However, as good as he is, he isn’t an elite reliever. He can certainly be your third guy but so far, he hasn’t shown enough consistency to be one of your top two arms. I believe he can become that guy and he is already valuable even if he never gets better than he is. That being said, if someone wants to give you very good value for him, I would move him. Like Bundy, you have a lot of time for him to increase his trade value, so its not something I feel they have to jump on but if some team is offering you a package of players that you feel is too good to turn down, you have to make the deal.
Other guys like Cashner, who could have some value, should be traded without much thought. You get what you can get and move on. You can sign guys like Cashner any time you want, so getting cost-controlled assets for him is always something you should do. Richard Bleier is another guy who could draw interest from teams. He is having a good year(and had a good year last year) but he isn’t the type of talent you hesitate to trade.
I don’t expect the Orioles to trade any of these guys. They aren’t the “fire sale’ type team. They prefer to wait until guys see decreased value before they trade them. It’s part of the reason they are such a poor organization. That being said, they SHOULD look into moving these guys. If you decide to hold onto them for various reasons, so be it but you need to shop them and see what is out there. It is your obligation as an organization to do what is best for you over the long term when you are in the midst of a poor season and have several key players set to become free agents over the next 1-2 years.