It was little over a week ago when the Orioles appeared to hold all the cards at the MLB Winter Meetings, with both Manny Machado and Zach Britton being discussed in potential trade talks with multiple teams. Between the two, the Orioles would have thought they could have secured quite the haul of young prospects in return, and a rebuild was certainly an option the organization could have explored.
However, fast forward just over a week, and the Orioles now find themselves in a very different, and very concerning position.
Today’s news of Britton rupturing his Achilles tendon during a workout yesterday, and being expected to miss six months, hurts. It hurts even more coming on the back of news earlier this week that none of the eight teams expressing interest in trading for Machado were willing to give in return what the Orioles wanted – top pitching prospects.
As it currently stands, the likelihood of trading either appears remote, so a rebuild is probably off the table. With that in mind, the next question is, can they compete in 2018?
The difficulty facing the Orioles is the numerous flaws in the current roster – the team needs to upgrade its outfield, add some left-handed bats into the lineup, and most importantly, improve the horrendous rotation. Now, the team also needs bullpen strength to cover the loss of Britton. Can all of these issues be addressed between now and Opening Day? Quite simply, no.
The Orioles’ farm, while improving in recent years, is still one of the worst of all 30 MLB teams, and Dan Duquette would be foolish to trade away any more of the scarce talent it does have – he’s made enough mistakes in that vain over recent years. This makes it difficult to secure top MLB talent via trade.
Further, the Orioles’ payroll has ballooned in recent years and sat at $164 million in 2017 – the ninth highest in MLB and 11% higher than it was the year prior. The Chris Davis deal, among others, has hurt the Orioles, and there’s just not much room to move in Peter Angelos’ chequebook. This makes it difficult to secure top MLB talent via free agency.
After three to four years of poor signings (Jimenez, Gallardo, etc.), missed opportunities (Cruz, Miller, Markakis, etc.), over-spending (Davis, O’Day, Hardy, etc.), and trading away serviceable pitching prospects (Rodriguez, Miranda, Davies, Bridwell, etc.), the Orioles have themselves to blame for the mess they’re in.
The team doesn’t have the talent it needs to compete against the stacked Yankees roster in 2018, and it has waited too long to trade its stars for anything of value to assist with a rebuild. The trigger should have been pulled on both Machado and Britton at last season’s trade deadline. To make matters worse, there is a real risk present that Machado will walk at the end of the 2018 season when he hits free agency and all the Orioles will get in return is a measly draft pick. Adam Jones and Chris Tillman are among other stars who hit free agency at this time.
It’s a worrying time to be an Orioles fan and the 14-straight losing seasons loom large, still fresh in the minds of O’s fans. The last place finish in 2017 was painful, however it appears far more pain awaits.