No one thought the Orioles would be over .500 a quarter of the way through the season. But as weird as it may sound, time is fast approaching to think about potential moves for the trade deadline.
The Orioles will never admit to tanking, but it is fair to state the Orioles traded two of their best players from a season ago (Dylan Bundy and Jonathan Villar), lost Trey Mancini for the season while he recovers from cancer and only brought in Jose Iglesias and a handful of under-the-radar pitchers. The plan was clearly to focus on the long-term aspects of a rebuild and place the value of future seasons ahead of 2020.
They then traded Richard Bleier at the beginning of the season despite having a winning record. Later, general manager Mike Elias said he didn’t think the trade gave the message that the Orioles weren’t trying to win.
Now after an 8-7 start to the season, with the team in a playoff spot, it’s fair to question when the right time to think about the trade deadline is.
The simple answer is not yet. The complicated answer is that it’s far more nuanced than that.
The Orioles, as of Wednesday, still have 20 games left to play in August — a third of the season. Once the Orioles get to the trade deadline on Aug. 31, they’ll have played 35 games (after the Blue Jays game that day). By that point, it’s unclear where the Orioles could be. They could hang around contention, or they could completely fall off.
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In either case, with a little under three weeks to the deadline, the Orioles are firmly in wait-and-see mode as it relates to potential moves.
Elias said before the season began that the team could reevaluate if they’ve got a shot to make a playoff run. And while that might be true, buying at the deadline might be impossible. Selling could prove difficult, too.
Only players on a team’s 60-man roster are eligible to be traded, but since most teams have their best players and prospects on a team’s player pool, it could make buying and selling difficult.
If the Orioles were to look into moving pitcher Alex Cobb, for example, the only pieces they could likely bring back are players in another team’s system that are Major League players, near-Major League players, or top prospects.
The same is true for buying, as opposing teams would certainly ask for some of the Orioles’ talented prospects in return for a deadline arm or bat.
But with so many teams figuring to be in, somewhat, of contention at the trade deadline, it might make sense for the Orioles to think about standing pat.
The next few weeks will tell a lot about the rest of the season for the Orioles, as a rough 20-game stretch could mean trades of veteran players. A positive stretch could mean the acquisition of a player or two. Either way, the Orioles shouldn’t, and won’t, sell out to make the playoffs in 2020. That’s just not in the cards right now.
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