Orioles: Don’t Call This A Rebuild….yet
Late last night, we received word that the Orioles had dealt Zach Britton to the rival New York Yankees for a package of 3 minor league pitchers. This was another signal of the Orioles waiving the white flag on what could go down as the worst season in their history, at least record wise. IMO, the Orioles received a fair, albeit uninspiring deal, for Britton. All 3 players stand a good chance at being productive ML pieces but none represent a high ceiling and all are “old” for their leagues. I would have preferred a deal with younger, lower level guy with higher upsides but I also can admit that I have no idea if that deal was actually there. Britton still needs to improve his command and up until about 3 weeks ago, we were all wondering if we could get anything at all for him. Everyone from Keith Law to Ken Rosenthal and other media outlets have mentioned that the Orioles did well in this trade and that we did better than KC did for Herrera and what the Mets got for Familia. Those 2 have pitched all year and had very good seasons, so for the Orioles to get more for Britton is pretty good. Whether these guys work out remains to be seen but I like the chances of getting some level of solid production from at least 2 of these guys.
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After the Machado trade, the Orioles came out talking about a rebuild. That word has been used a lot by the local and national media describing the Orioles and what they are doing and will do. The talk is that Brach and Jones could be next. My issue though is that this isn’t a rebuild if you trade those guys. I get that how people define that is different but to me, just trading guys that you are going to lose via Free Agency in a few months isn’t rebuilding. That is just getting rid of assets you are going to lose. That’s you getting something instead of nothing. For me, if you are actually dedicated to a rebuild, you have to trade more than the guys you are losing anyway.
Realistically, the Orioles are going to stink next year. The hope is that you get the #1 pick this year and, if things stay the same, you end up with Bobby Witt Jr. If you stink next year, you likely end up with another Top 5 pick. Putting together at least 2 drafts with high picks plus what you already have, can really set you up. 2020 is the first year where there is some level of it being realistic that they could contend. The reality is that they likely won’t though. For the time being, you aren’t paying for or attracting any big time free agents. You also aren’t likely dealing young, controllable assets (unless you get a lot of depth) for pieces that are better equipped to help you win now. The likely scenario is you are going to do what the White Sox are doing. You are going to do what Houston did, what the Cubs did, etc…You are going to tear it down and build it up from the bottom. To me, that is a true rebuild.
For the Orioles to accomplish a true rebuild, they need to deal several other guys. You need to trade guys that won’t be here the next time you win. Yes, extensions could be given out but the reality is, you are going to be hard pressed to get some of these guys to sign deals to stay here unless you really overpay and that doesn’t make a lot of sense either. Add to that the idea that we don’t know if any of these guys even want to sign long term here and the idea that the Orioles haven’t tried and I think it’s just time to really start cutting bait.
The one luxury the Orioles have with their tradeable assets, outside of the impending FAs, is that they don’t have to trade them right now. These guys still have some time to increase their value. The potential and obvious exception to that is Jonathan Schoop. Schoop is having a huge month of July, after having a disappointing season up until that point. His OPS is over 1000 this month and his batting average has increased around 40 points this month. It’s very possible, especially with a team like the Brewers out there, that his value will be higher now than it will be in the off-season. The Orioles have to shop him (sounds like they are at least talking about moving him) and see what they can get for him. If you don’t get a good deal for him now, I am okay with holding onto him and seeing what happens in the off-season. I would also be okay with a reasonable extension but after the whole FanFest debacle and the idea that they Orioles haven’t even started negotiations with him, I just find the idea of an extension to be very far-fetched right now.
Going into the 2019 season with Schoop essentially on a 1-year deal is totally unacceptable. As well as the Orioles did in the Machado and Britton deals, had they acted sooner, the returns would have been far greater. I said this past off-season that you had to deal Schoop for that exact reason and because they didn’t, they will likely get less for him now. Still, you can likely get a good deal for him and make him worth dealing. The Orioles have to be looking into that now and I believe they are.
The other guys being talked about are Bundy, Gausman and Givens. There are cases to be made for keeping any of them and cases to be made for trading them. The one thing I will say for all of these guys is that it’s not a big deal to go into the 2019 season with all of them on the roster. The guy I would be looking to deal the most is Gausman. He has had a few rough starts lately but all in all, he had a solid first half and he is a guy that has shown he can really turn it on in the second half. If some team is ready to step up, I am trading Gausman right now. There are a lot of contenders in need of a starter and there are likely no starters out there that represent the pure upside Gausman does. While some fans look at Gausman and see disappointment, I also think a lot of teams see what he has done and know that the Orioles aren’t the best at developing pitchers. They also know he is in a tough division. Gausman could go out to the AL West or go to the NL and really thrive. Since Gausman isn’t a Free Agent until after the 2020 season, it does give the Orioles some time to deal him. I would prefer they not go into the 2019 season with him on the roster but I am also not selling him at 70 cents on the dollar just to ensure that either. He has shown good durability, so I am not overly concerned about an injury with him, at least not more than I would be about any pitcher that hasn’t had a real injury history. I do think the optimal time to deal him is between now and spring training but if you don’t get a good deal now and he has a rough second half, I am not trading him.
Givens is another guy I would deal now but he has struggled with his ERA this year. Most of his peripherals are pretty good and his FIP says he is much better than the ERA says but you still can’t overlook the amount of runs he is giving up. Teams have liked him since the Orioles called him up and the certainly have and will get offers for him. However, I am not trading Givens without something very good coming back. I don’t view Givens as an elite reliever but he is a very good reliever and is controllable for several more years. That isn’t an asset I am just giving away and since you can get a lot for pitching at the trade deadline, I am ok with him being here to start 2019. He’s better than he has shown and when he shows that, that is when I am dealing him. Again, if some team is paying strong for him now, by all means, let him go but I would have to get back a better deal than what they got for Britton for me to trade him.
Dylan Bundy is the interesting one. He is a guy having an overall pretty good year, despite his struggles since coming off the DL a few weeks ago. He has battled arm issues in his career but has been pretty durable the last few years. He has a mentality you love to see, very good stuff and an ability to eat a lot of innings. He can be a solid #2/#3 starter and is under control through 2021. The issue with Bundy is, will he ever be more than he is right now and will he be part of the next really good O’s teams? If you believe the answer to be no for both of those questions and you combine that with his injury history, it makes sense to shop and trade him now. Again, like Gausman and Givens, the package of players has to be good. We have to be getting back something that says, wow, you have to take that deal. If that deal is there, I think you have to pull the trigger.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Orioles truly address a “rebuild”. In a true rebuild, all 4 of these guys will be traded over the next 12 months (assuming health and production). These guys just aren’t likely to be here for the next winner and you aren’t likely to extend any of them except maybe Givens. It appears the Orioles understand where they are as an organization but to me, this is all talk until we see these guys being dealt and until we see them start to do more internationally, improve scouting, development, etc….Without doing those things, you aren’t actually rebuilding. When the Orioles dealt Bedard, they didn’t rebuild. They said they were, fans took it as such but that wasn’t rebuilding. A true rebuild is tearing down the entire foundation and building it back up. Its revamping everything, its changing how you have always operated and its understanding that you will have some lean years but that its necessary to have those lean years if you truly want long term, sustained success. The Orioles have refused to do this under Peter Angelos. Perhaps this isn’t just talk. Perhaps John and Lou Angelos will do things the correct way. We don’t know yet but until we actually see it, all they are doing right now is saving a lot of money and trading guys they are losing anyway. That is a mere starting point to a plan but there is a lot more to a plan than just that. As an Oriole fan, I am anxiously awaiting the next steps and I am looking forward to seeing if they can back up this talk or if it will be the same old, same old from an organization that, despite winning from 2012-2016, has largely been unable to get out of its own way for 20+ years.