Dan Duquette and the Baltimore Orioles were incredibly active before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. Having already dealt All-Star shortstop, Manny Machado, and closer, Zach Britton, the birds made 3 more moves – the rebuild is officially underway. But the rebuild has not only just begun; there is a concerted, legitimate effort being made, that provides a great deal of hope. So, how did the Orioles fare in the first period of their upheaval?
In return for Manny Machado, the Orioles got the current centerpiece of their new beginning: outfielder, Yusniel Diaz. While Diaz may not be a superstar talent, I believe he is the type of player that mirrors former Oriole, Nick Markakis. A solid fielder with a strong arm and an impact bat, Diaz should be able to put together a few All-Star caliber seasons, though he won’t be a piece that puts the O’s over the top. Along with Diaz, the Orioles acquired RHP Dean Kremer, RHP Zach Pop, INF Rylan Bannon, and INF Breyvic Valera. Out of these four, Kremer is the most intriguing to me; I believe that he has the stuff to be a middle of the rotation arm.
For Zach Britton, the New York Yankees sent RHP Dillon Tate, LHP Josh Rogers, and RHP Cody Carroll. Carroll, a hard-throwing reliever, is already up in the Orioles bullpen, where I think he will be impactful in the coming years. However, Tate is the undeniable prize of this deal, as he has the highest ceiling as a number 3 starter. While this trade didn’t bring the certain promise that the Machado deal did, it continued to bolster the pitching depth in the minor leagues.
Next, on July 30th, the Orioles dealt reliever Brad Brach to the Atlanta Braves for $250,000 in international slot money. This move is somewhat disappointing in that Brach seemed poised to return solid prospects following last season, but his performance this year has been dreadful, and Duquette did well to send him packing. And, despite the poor compensation, the acquisition of international slot money suggests that the Orioles are serious about involving themselves in the market. This is a huge step in the right direction.
On deadline day, Duquette continued to reshape the roster, moving RHPs Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to the Braves for four prospects (RHP Evan Phillips, 3B John Carlos Encarnacion, C Brett Cumberland and LHP Bruce Zimmerman) and $2.5 Mil in international bonus money. For me, the international money is once again just as important as the prospects. While the Orioles didn’t necessarily gather a top talent (though Encarnacion may have some upside at the hot corner), they are one step closer to acquiring one internationally. More on that later.
Finally, Duquette sent arguably the O’s best player, 2B Jonathan Schoop, to the Milwaukee Brewers for INF Jonathan Villar, RHP Luis Ortiz, and SS Jean Carmona. Out of all the deals, this is the one I am most skeptical of. In Villar, the Orioles get infield insurance for the next few years, which in reality, isn’t all that valuable. Ortiz and Carmona are the two biggest pieces of the trade, but neither is particularly coveted by any MLB scouts. Ortiz projects to be an average MLB starting pitcher, while Carmona (18), could develop into an everyday shortstop. Sure, they may be starters, but Jonathan Schoop is a former All-Star with a year of control left. I have a hard time believing they couldn’t find a better deal for him in the offseason.
Many fans are frustrated with the lack of top-end talent that the Orioles received for their deadline deals. I felt these sentiments at first, too. But there is one crucial truth that must be remembered, and that is that more will be done in the coming months and years. Dan Duquette stated that more time would be devoted to improving facilities, development, and scouting, and that is the first step towards contention in the next decade. In addition, he suggested that multiple international signings would be announced in a short time. If one of those signings is OF Victor Victor Mesa, the rebuild will immediately look a whole lot better. What’s more, Duquette could work a few moves out in August, as Danny Valencia, Mark Trumbo, and Andrew Cashner may all clear waivers and fetch a few more prospects. All of this would be in an effort to continue bolstering the depth of the farm system, something the Orioles have clearly made their priority early in the rebuild. The Orioles should strive for quantity in their early moves, as a few years of top-5 draft picks should net them the top-tier prospects they will eventually need.
Everyone was sad to see this Orioles core break-up, which, as Kevin Gausman said in his farewell press conference, “brought quality baseball back to Baltimore.” That’s natural and fair. But what many should recognize is the abundance of hope that lives with this team and city. This is a fresh start – one that seems to have real momentum – and we should all get excited to watch it unfold.