It’s all about the rebuild now in Baltimore, but did the Orioles do enough at the deadline to revamp their farm system?
The last two weeks have been a wild time for the Baltimore Orioles as their rebuilding effort officially kicked into overdrive. All-Star shortstop Manny Machado was the piece that needed to be moved first before the floodgates could be opened. Between the All-Star Game and the trade deadline, closer Zach Britton, setup man Brad Brach, injured reliever Darren O’Day, starter Kevin Gausman and All-Star second baseman Jonathan Schoop saw their time with the O’s come to an end.
After seven years spent trying to win it all, the Orioles have officially waved the white flag. The focus for the near future is rebuilding a crumbling roster and farm system.
After the Machado trade, it was not clear just how deep the Orioles rebuild would be this summer. Britton and Brach were obvious trade candidates, but no one knew whether or not ownership would approve of trading Gausman and Schoop with a few years of team control left. In the end, we got our answer, as the pitcher and second baseman ended up with the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers, respectively.
For now, the Orioles are done with the most important part of their rebuild. They have accepted their fate and moved quickly to make the necessary trades. More moves could follow this winter, as reliever Mychal Givens and starter Dylan Bundy remain under contract.
It could take years to fully grade out this summer’s trades, but at first glance, the Orioles have done as well as could have been imagined. Outfielder Yusniel Diaz headlined the Machado trade and has all the tools to make it as a star. In exchange for Britton, the Orioles landed a top-10 pitcher from the New York Yankees in Dillon Tate, a former first-round pick. The Brewers also sent a top-10 prospect in Luis Ortiz and established MLB infielder Jonathan Villar. The Orioles also landed multiple lower level prospects with plenty of upside.
More importantly, however, the Orioles have finally come to the realization that they cannot continue to ignore the international market. These trades have pushed their pool of international bonus money to over $8 million — more than any other team in the league. To that end, the Orioles are already viewed as the number one landing spot for outfielder Victor Victor Mesa. If they are able to land him, the front office will still have a few million to spend on prospects. That’s enough to do some serious damage.
All told, the Orioles added 10 prospects who now rank in their organizational top 30. That is a huge haul, and there is plenty of quality there even though they clearly went for quantity instead of taking fewer but better prospects. In the blink of an eye, the system went from one of the worst in the league to squarely in the middle of the pack with a chance to move even higher.
As well as the start of the rebuild has gone for the Orioles, the fact that they could have gotten even more cannot be overlooked. The return for Gausman and Schoop pales in comparison to what the Chicago White Sox got for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. Chris Archer was traded heading into the deadline for two top-100 prospects, much more than what the Orioles received for Gausman. The reason, of course, is that the White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays were able to lock up their young players to team-friendly deals. The Orioles never even tried, and it did come back to bite them in the end.
Hindsight being 20-20, of course, the Orioles would do things differently if given a chance. They would have started their rebuild last July when their starting rotation first showed signs of being historically awful. They would not have sunk $80 million into Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner, and their farm system would feature five or six top-100 prospects. Alas, what’s done is done, and the Orioles can only start anew from this point.
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Orioles have gotten the green light from ownership to invest in the international market. Identifying, signing and developing the best talent is another beast entirely, but the intent is what matters. As painful as it will be for Orioles fans to watch six players from their postseason squads play for someone else in October, this had to be done. Schoop and Gausman didn’t have to be traded this summer, but doing so shows clearly that a total rebuild is in the works. One-hundred loss seasons will follow for the foreseeable future, but the next great wave of Orioles superstars has been acquired and is waiting for its chance in the minor leagues.