The Rebuild Is On…How Did The Orioles Do And What’s Next?
Last week, I wrote an article saying that just because the Orioles dealt Manny Machado and Zach Britton, that we shouldn’t call this a rebuild, at least not yet. A few days later, the Orioles also traded one of their impending free agents, Brad Brach. Trading another impending free agent didn’t signal a rebuild either; however, the idea that they traded him for international slot bonus money was a sign that maybe this rebuilding talk wasn’t just talk. Maybe they were actually going to be committed to see this thing through and truly start over. Well, as we saw on July 31st, the Orioles did show the fans and the league that this is a new beginning. In the span of a few hours, Orioles fans found out that the Orioles had traded Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to the Braves and then, we found out that Schoop had been dealt to the Brewers. At that point, the Orioles had jumped into the deep end of the rebuilding pool. The question is, did they jump in that pool with everything needed to keep them afloat or did they set themselves up to sink like a stone?
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Most people felt the deals for Machado, Britton and Brach were pretty solid. Some preferred some higher end, likely riskier talent for Britton but we don’t know that anyone was willing to offer that. The Yankees traded some good arms but they also took advantage of the idea that they were going to have some 40-man roster crunch, so getting rid of some depth was good for them. We found out later that Houston wasn’t likely that interested in Britton, at least to the level that was reported. The trades that have some upset were the ones that occurred on July 31st.
The first trade was the Gausman/O’Day deal to the Atlanta Braves. In terms of the players involved, I hate this deal. It’s clear the Orioles valued saving money on the O’Day contract over getting back better young talent. On a team that has very little money committed long term and needs as much upper echelon talent as possible, that is an awful move. Not to mention, O’Day could easily be a trade candidate next year if he is healthy (big if I know) and pitching like he normally does. The players the Orioles received have some value and Encarnacion has some upside but he will likely fizzle out. The Orioles, who were trading with a team with a loaded farm system, had to get more upper echelon talent back for a solid, albeit not great, middle of the rotation starter that is under control for two more seasons. If that deal wasn’t there from anyone, you simply walk away and see if he increases his value in the second half. The one caveat to this trade is the 2.5M dollars in international slot bonus money the Orioles received. That money could be what gets them Victor Victor Mesa and even perhaps, his younger brother. Landing them would be quite the coup for the Orioles. That money is obviously a huge key to this deal and that is part of the long-term value of this trade. Still, my guess is the Orioles could have gotten 2 or 3 better players and still gotten that money had they not included O’Day in the deal. I feel the deal they made would have been there in the off-season, so why value money over talent? They had already saved 25ish million on the other deals. What are you going to do with the O’Day money that you can’t already do? And why do you need his money to spend on anything anyway. The organization (as all MLB organizations are) is flush with cash and trading the other guys that they had, just gave them even more.
The other trade on the 31st was the Schoop deal to Milwaukee. I liked the two prospects the Orioles received in this deal. Ortiz has a chance to be a mid-rotation starter, although he likely needs to be in better physical shape over the long haul and Carmona has the upside to be a legit MI prospect. He isn’t there yet and the chances of him becoming nothing are far greater but getting a high upside guy like that is a smart move. The problem I have with the deal is adding Villar. Why bother? I get that he has had years where his WAR was the same as Schoop. I get that he brings some value to the current team but again, who cares? Why does that matter to you? If you had to take him back to make the deal work, fine but you still should have gotten another prospect as well.
Looking at all these deals as a whole, the Orioles did well in my opinion. They deepened their system tremendously, added some guys that could help them soon and brought in the best prospect in the organization and, arguably, the best prospect dealt at the deadline this year (Yuniel Diaz). Also, with the incoming slot money, they figure to add more guys that will strengthen the organization. In that regards, things are trending in the right direction. It also appears that the overall plan and direction is one we have all hoped to see. They appear to finally have an ownership group that is going to let them do the proper things to win long term. They still need to really go out and prove it but they are off to a good start and the signs that they will do the right things are certainly promising.
After making these moves, there are more questions than answers. That is too be expected when you are drastically changing the way you do business. What will the structure of the front office be? Will Buck and Duquette be back? How will they implement these changes? Will they hire more scouts? Will they go out and try to take coaches and development guys from the top organizations? How will they cultivate the relationships in Latin America? Will the new (and old) prospects develop? So many questions but finding out those answers is going to be a lot of fun.
For the major league team, the immediate future is all about seeing your younger talent and start evaluating their place on this team. Guys like Sisco, DJ Stewart and Cedric Mullins need to be brought up. Let them play every day. Cody Carroll is here and he should be getting high leverage situations to see how he handles those. I wouldn’t call up guys like Mountcastle and Diaz because you don’t need to start their service clock now but the guys I just mentioned are older players that aren’t likely to be the main part of your future core, so bringing them up now doesn’t really hurt you.
Perhaps the most important thing that occurred at the deadline is the idea that you have actual options now. The Orioles obtained several pitchers, all of whom have a chance at being starters or relievers at this level. They have given themselves the potential of having cheap options all over the diamond, a luxury that is important as you continue to go through the process. Whether these guys develop or not is yet to be seen but options are a great thing to have and the Orioles have way more options right now than they have had in several years.
It would be nice to see Bundy have a great ending to the year and potentially put him on the trading block this off-season. He is the one guy who they have left that could really fetch a lot. Givens has a chance too but barring some team paying a lot, I think there’s a good chance he will have more value at the deadline next year than he will have in the off-season. Besides those two, there isn’t much left that will bring much value but just getting guys like Cashner and Trumbo off the team would be great. Getting rid of these guys just gives you more of those options and additional roster flexibility.
Over the next 12 months, the Orioles will hopefully add Victor Victor Mesa, Bobby Witt Jr and whatever they can get in a Bundy deal. To me, that carries significant importance because while the Orioles have improved depth, what they don’t have is elite talent. Sure, you never know how this guy or that guy ends up developing but when you see the Orioles top prospect lists, the thing that stands out is the lack of elite talent and you must have elite talent to win in sports. The Orioles may have a lot of pawns and those pawns are needed but without the queen and the king, there will be lots of checkmates for this organization. That is why that slot money obtained in the Gausman deal is so critical. They have to get Mesa signed. You have to start bringing in the upper echelon talent to mesh with what you have now.
This, of course, is not a 12 month rebuild. This is going to take 3+ years. The fans are going to have to be patient and hope that Lou and John Angelos are the opposites of their father. They are saying the right things but they still need to prove it over a much larger sample. They are off to a great start with what they have done off the field with Brooks Robinson and Eddie Murray. They are doing well by being committed to the Latin American countries and they did well in allowing the team to make these moves. Now, it has to all keep up and in 3-5 years, we all should be reaping the rewards. However, if they don’t develop well, if they become lazy and complacent cashing big checks than this rebuild will have been for nothing.