Tap-In Question: Should the Orioles be sellers no matter how they fare against the Astros? - BaltimoreBaseball.com
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Tap-In Question: Should the Orioles be sellers no matter how they fare against the Astros?

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

I always try to take each baseball season for what it is: A marathon and not a sprint.

So, when the Orioles are doing well early, I try not to make too much of it. And when they struggle, I tell Orioles’ fans that are on the ledge to relax and let the season play out.

To quote the esteemed baseball philosopher William Nathaniel Showalter, every team will seek its level during the season.

I’ll be honest, though. I was firmly in the “Orioles need to sell” camp after the first three games of the second half – all losses to the Chicago Cubs at home. That series dropped the Orioles to 42-49 for the season and put five teams in between them and the second Wild Card spot. And even though there were more than 70 games left to play, my mind was made up: The Orioles needed to be sellers in 2017.

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It’s not that the Orioles lost their first three games after the break, but how they lost them. In each game, the club’s beleaguered rotation dug a deep hole before the offense had a chance to breathe. The Orioles were down 8-0, 7-0 and 6-0 in those three games against the Cubs.

And the lesson of that series – and most of the first half – is that this rotation simply isn’t good enough for the Orioles to make the postseason or go deep into it if the offense and bullpen somehow could again make up for the rotation’s deficiencies. The second lesson of 2017 is that the farm system is devoid of providing any significant rotation help in the next year or so, and that needs to be changed.

So, by last Sunday, I was ready to make a call on a season not quite half over: Become sellers.

Honestly, I’m still there. But this game has a way of making you second guess yourself.

After the Cubs left town, another supposedly struggling club with plenty of talent came in: The Texas Rangers, whom the Orioles promptly swept in four games.

Now, the Orioles are 46-49 and have narrowed the gap and reduced the teams in front of them for the second Wild Card. They would get back to .500 if they could somehow sweep another team from Texas this week, the AL-best Houston Astros.

I don’t see a sweep, even with the Astros at partial strength due to injuries. It’ll be difficult to win two of three against such a talented squad.

However, let’s assume the Orioles do. Let’s assume the Orioles at least win the series with the Astros, go 6-4 on the homestand and advance to 48-50 before they embark on a road trip to Tampa Bay and Texas that finishes right before July 31’s nonwaiver trade deadline.

At two games under .500 and winners of six of their last seven, do you still think the Orioles should be sellers?

I’m sticking with yes, simply because I don’t trust this rotation to suddenly – and consistently — flourish. It had a full half to do that and demonstrated few encouraging signs.

But I do get the argument that the goal of a season is to get into the playoffs. And if the Orioles capture a Wild Card spot, the slate is wiped clean again, with a chance for a hot club to emerge. And, because they started this season 22-10, we know the Orioles have the ability to catch fire quickly.

This is where I’m the curmudgeon bartender, though.

Given the lack of starting pitching depth in the system, and the Orioles’ possession of quality, coveted relievers, I still feel the need to build for the future now. And you can’t really do that by selling off minor pieces such as Seth Smith only. A Zach Britton, Brad Brach or Manny Machado – or, really, all three – must be moved in order to receive top quality prospects.

I jumped the gun after the Cubs’ series, an unusual move for me. But I’m sticking with it, no matter what the Orioles do against the Astros this weekend. Are you with me?

Tap-In Question: Should the Orioles be sellers no matter how they fare against the Astros?

46 Comments

46 Comments

  1. Winger

    July 21, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Sell, sell, sell.
    Why is the goal to get to the playoffs. Shouldn’t the goal be to win WS? I have never started anything and said ok let’s be 7th best.

    We have to face facts. Four 20 game winners are not walking thru the door. Move the pitchers & Manny while we can get something for them

    PS: Dan I love reading your stuff. You keep me from jumping off ledge. Cheers!

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      Thanks Winger. We appreciate your comments. This is directed to you and some of the others later in the forum: The goal has to be make the playoffs. 2 teams make the World Series every year. So if you don’t get there, was it a failure? NO. Ultimately disappointing, sure. Besides you have to make the playoffs to get to the World Series. And no one cares how you punch the dance card. 12 wild card teams have made the World Series in 22 seasons. 6 have won. Now, the bigger question, of course, is whether this team is good enough to go further if it somehow gets to the playoffs? And my answer is no. But, again, you never know. 12 of 44 World Series teams as Wild Cards shows anything can happen.

  2. Creatively_19

    July 21, 2017 at 7:32 am

    My brain says sell, my heart says don’t. Perhaps if you could get a 3,4, or 5 pitcher (or two) for one or more of Brach, Seth Smith, Kim, and Castillo. Could be a AAA guy on some team who’s ready to go but not a top prospect. I say try to add to this season, but with controllable guys who might be better than their rankings. Duquette has been somewhat successful about those kinds of trades. I gave up on so many 2000s O’s teams, I’m not ready to give up on this one.

    • Creatively_19

      July 21, 2017 at 7:40 am

      I guess my problem is that we play the AL East 30/67 remaining games. Also, approximately half of those games are against teams that are at or below .500 and many of those teams (LAA, OAK, DET, TEX, TOR) are sellers too. It’s not unrealistic to think that with 3/5 good starters the rest of the way we could end up with the WC. Bundy, Gausman and Tillman all look like they’re turning a corner, and I’m just not ready for football either.

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 12:38 pm

      That’s the rub here. The talent is there. The performance isn’t. What do you bet on? Given the situation I take big picture. But I understand the Oriole bird in the hand philosophy too.

  3. general81

    July 21, 2017 at 7:51 am

    I’m with Winger. Making the playoffs is not the goal – going to, and winning, the World Series is. Can we make a late run and win a wild card spot? Sure. Could we get hot and make noise in the post-season? Possibly. Could we win the World Series? I’m sorry, but no. See what we can get for Britton – last night was a mere hiccup; he’s still an elite arm, and a team could have him for two pennant runs. Pry a few top prospects from a contender, make Brach the closer, slot in someone for bullpen duty, and let’s see what kind of noise we make the rest of the way.

    If we crater and fall out of the race, stand pat, then shop Brach in the off-season, and seriously re-tool the bullpen. Heck, listen to offers for Machado, Trumbo, and anyone else.

    It’s time … beyond time … to rebuild.

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 12:39 pm

      I’m not in disagreement General. But, again, once you get to the playoffs anything can happen. We’ve seen it in these 22 seasons.

  4. LowcountryOs

    July 21, 2017 at 8:02 am

    Unless we think the trade chips will degrade in a year, I don’t see the point in selling this year. I feel like there’s a marginal difference in return trading this year vs next year. Recent history has shown that teams are willing to pay big for even a “rental” big time closer (chapman and miller recently come to mind). The Os will have a lot of money freed up this year with players hitting free agency so 2018 will be the make or break season. Ever since the Weiters walk off, the Os have been in a funk but maybe the break and trade rumors were enough to spark that talent that once had the best record in baseball in May. If we sell, I would only look into Seth Smith and O’Day (more salary dump). Next year would be the year to sell.

    • mike3764

      July 21, 2017 at 8:59 am

      I thought that way but the problem is, the Orioles won’t pay Machado or Britton market value when they are free agents after next season. If we could trade one or both now, when the trading partner will be getting about a season and a half out of them, our return will be much higher than next year at this time. Should we wait until the offseason to trade Manny? Maybe….just to show other teams that his bat is fine, but also because there aren’t that many teams out there that need a 3B (other than Boston and we are not trading him there). However, I think Britton needs to go now. Everyone watched how valuable good bullpen arms are in the playoffs last year. They are looking for that now. Britton and Brach could pay huge right now.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      July 21, 2017 at 10:24 am

      A voice of reason.

    • LowcountryOs

      July 21, 2017 at 10:32 am

      1) Prospects are just that: prospects. There’s no guarantee to their success. This team has proven successful over the last 5 seasons. Not too long ago the Os had a plethora of pitching prospects and what happened there…?

      2a) we don’t know what Angelos is willing to put up for Machado. Machado sells jerseys, tickets, and increases viewership and Angelos knows that.

      2b) we don’t know what manny wants. Simply saying the Os can’t afford him is nonsense. The Os will have a lot of money freed up after this season (hardy and UJ are $27.5M together; add Miley and there’s $36M).

      3) you can sit there and say “SELL SELL SELL!!!” But there needs to be suitable buyers. I ant think of any suitable buyers.

      I’m standing with this team because I KNOW they can be successful under the leadership of Buck.

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 12:50 pm

      Good stuff in this section. Drink chips. The one thing I’ll add here is I’m not convinced values change dramatically from July to the offseason. Maybe from July to July because of contract status. But some players will be worth more in the offseason if they have 2 great months after July. So I’m not buying Machado’s or Britton’s value will never be higher than now or will drop considerably by November. It’s all need and perception.

  5. Cheddar

    July 21, 2017 at 8:09 am

    To me the answer is sell. I am looking at it from this perspective. The Yankees and Red Sox are the most well regarded teams in the AL East, so far this season. Both teams have a ton of youth on their roster. The O’s are getting older and will have some tough decisions coming up. Britton won’t be any more valuable than this season since he has one more year of team control. Machado is going to command a monster deal so if we have a shot at keeping him we will have to shed payroll. Our starting pitching is no where near what we need to compete. So since our main competition seems to be out playing us and is younger the answer is to set ourselves up for the future. We don’t want to end up like the Blue Jays and have a very old roster and not a ton of value.

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 12:52 pm

      Excellent point. Drink chip. Red Sox — and Yankees especially — are trending upward next few years. Orioles aren’t.

  6. karks

    July 21, 2017 at 8:49 am

    I’m with you, Dan. To be fair, it wouldn’t completely shock me to see Bundy, Gausman and Tillman all pitch well enough in the second half (the latter two simply have to get better). And if that happened, they could be in a position to make a serious run at the Wild Card.

    But, as I have whined about a few times, they have no internal options for that rotation once the free agents leave after this season. They’ve got to build up some level of prospects. And the odds of them putting it all together and winning the whole thing seem very slim. A grim future awaits this pitching staff if they don’t bring in some help.

    So they have to sell. The bullpen pieces seem like they would be of most value right now, as teams are trying to solidify. Although I still wonder how much someone is willing to give up for Britton given his DL stint and shakiness (the fastball is back, though).

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      It could be dismissed if Triple-A Norfolk had several rotation possibilities. But the best rotation arms in the system are down pretty low.

  7. Delsym

    July 21, 2017 at 8:53 am

    No, it’s just our typical good talent underperforming, pitching-wise and impatient hitters who tend towards swinging wildly. If we get rid of anyone, unload Manny, always swinging for the fences the whole first half. If we trade a closer, either one of them and get less than a two for one…it will bite us…just saying… NO, unless…it’s a long shot this year, but, we seem to do that well…just saying!

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 12:55 pm

      Manny would get you a boatload. He’s the most valuable trade chip. I just don’t see that happening.

  8. mike3764

    July 21, 2017 at 8:54 am

    The Rangers series didn’t change my mind from the tap question the other day. They should still sell. The Rangers limped into town with a record barely better than the Orioles, and now they are limping out. Even though the Astros are injury plagued at the moment, they will still show that the Orioles are not poised to be a legitimate contender this season. Its all about starting pitching. We went into this season hedging our bets that 3 of the 5 would be good. One of them was hurt, one struggled and one was good. The other 2 (Ustinko and Miley) are what they are. On any legitimate team, they are spot 5th starters at best. Has Gausman turned the corner? I hope so. Is Bundy in the condition to go the rest of the season on that arm? I hope so. Is Tillman really not hurt? I hope so. That’s a lot of hopes. We need to trade for top 20 prospect starting pitching. Something that we can pair with Bundy and Gausman maybe next season. Something that we can control via arbitration for awhile. We will never buy a Price, Sale or Scherzer.

    So long-winded as it is, I still say sell (or listen to offers) on everyone but Jones, Schoop, and Mancini. Davis isn’t going anywhere.

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 12:58 pm

      Solid rationale Mike. Drink chip. I don’t see the Os schooling the Astros. But if the Orioles somehow sweep, and are at .500, it muddies the picture in many minds, I’m sure.

  9. claudecat

    July 21, 2017 at 9:05 am

    I’m firmly on the fence right now. Before the Texas series I was all for selling anything and everything. You want Ryan Wagner? You better have top prospects, bub. On the other hand, I’m leery of Dan Duquette and the current regime’s ability to get max value for the likes of Zach and Manny. Then there’s the question of how much value do these guys lose if you wait until the off-season or later to deal ’em? Maybe not enough to wave the white flag prematurely.

    It all comes down to the right deal(s). If you’re able to swing something that looks to benefit the O’s for years to come, I think you still have to do it. But this latest bout of winning has visions of playoff games cavorting through my alleged mind. I like playoff games. At home especially. So I’m not quite yet in “this season’s over” mode. With a smart deal or two and maybe some other bold personnel moves (bye Ubaldo, possibly Miley) things could still get interesting.

  10. Steve Cockey

    July 21, 2017 at 9:27 am

    I’d sell no matter what. The O’s need to take a bit of a step back and look beyond just this season after 5+ years of “going for it.” They’re looking at needing at least 3 SPs for next year, and that’s if you count Gausman and Bundy. But I think they’ll reverse course if they win a few more and get within 2 games of the WC. It’s what they do.

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 12:59 pm

      If anyone wants to get Steve going, just mention Gerardo Parra.

  11. Boog Robinson Robinson

    July 21, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Jeepers … I’m late bellying up to the bar. Beertender … I’ve gots some making up to do!

    Again … I feel like I’m on an island in a sea of fools. Play the season out. This team can do it. the players believe … so do I. There is only one player on my trading block … one Manny Machado, but only for reasons stated yesterday.

    And for those of you that stated today that the goal isn’t to make the playoffs, but rather to win the world series … what in the heck kind of logic is that? Kind of hard to win a world series if you don’t make the playoffs isn’t it?

    I’m not thinking wild card … I’m thinking AL East. C’mon people … how’s about some positive vibes? Who’s with me?

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      A drink chip. And then you’re cut off.

  12. Bancells Moustache

    July 21, 2017 at 9:55 am

    The Baltimore Orioles completed 3 game sweep of the Rangers in which they scored a staggering 31 runs. Manny Machado’s contribution? Two 1 for 3 nights and an O-fer.

    You can’t win the World Series this year., which I’m so happy other BB commenters agree should be the only acceptable outcome. So going to the playoffs is only beneficial to front-office guys who can point and say “look, we made the postseason again, can’t fire me now”. Manny Machado isn’t Lebron James. Selling him doesn’t mean the season is over, the O’s instantly suck, and we all need to get drunk, crying and hoping a mediocre Ravens team can save us all from complete self-loathing. YOU CAN MAKE THE TEAM BETTER BY SELLING.

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 1:01 pm

      The Stache has resorted to caps, people. THIS is a good bar blog.

  13. JHHUFF76

    July 21, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Yes move these players. I just wish we had someone better to judge the talent that is offered back.
    An earlier blogger was correct the Angelos people want spend the money for machado.

    They really tied this team up with the signing of Chri$ Davi$. HOF John Smoltz said it best about Davis he is a one plane swing , you pitch above it or below it he doesn”t adjust 30 hr 230 K

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      That’s the whole thing with Manny. If you can’t sign him, and I agree they won’t match or exceed what he’ll get on the open market, then you have to deal him. You can’t be left with memories for a franchise player.

  14. 5brooks5

    July 21, 2017 at 10:22 am

    I’d sell,but only if the target is to help the team long term and near term, not for a stop-gap AAAA starter or a washed up 5th starter.We need to look not for someone at low A, but starters that are close to being major-league ready, especially if Britton is your bait. I just hope a four game streak does not skew the judgement. You can re-tool and improve with the right moves, it doesn’t have to be a fire sale. Great topic, Dan!

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      Thanks Brooks. And, yeah, if they sell it would be for the future. The other scenario is left for desperate buying. I hope they are beyond that.

  15. general81

    July 21, 2017 at 10:57 am

    Adding on to my earlier comment … given our recent semi-surge, my fear is management/ownership will decide to be buyers, and will trade a few of the genuine prospects we have for a third or fourth start whose contract expires at the end of the season. If we miss the playoffs, we have just lost two more possible pieces to a future team with nothing to show for it.

    If we don’t sell, we definitely should not buy – and by selling (as a few have pointed out), we can actually improve the team now, next year, and beyond.

    • Delsym

      July 21, 2017 at 11:25 am

      I am with you, we do well when we’re doubted and have just the rudder for this journey. I am with Boog on this one. WHY….NOT!!! But…don’t buy either…BELIEVE

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      Make that 3 of us.

  16. HOF19

    July 21, 2017 at 11:15 am

    No one knows what the right answer is……..Since we do not make the decisions my number one thought all the time now is to just hope whatever they do makes the franchise better….GO O’s !!!!

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 1:06 pm

      That’s a leap of faith. Drink chip for being more of a believer than cynic. If imagine I’m squarely the latter.

  17. santiagotj

    July 21, 2017 at 11:56 am

    I’d say the orioles need to sell. There are too many questions for the FO to make a push for the playoffs. Bundy will likely tire out, Miley and Jimenez are inconsistent, and Tilly and Gausman are questionable. So…you trade Britton to the dodgers and get a package with some near MLB talent and some lotto tickets; something like Willie Calhoun and Yusniel Diaz(both in the back end of the top 100 seeing as how Buehler and Verdugo are “untouchables”) along with a guy like Trevor Oaks and Jacob Rhame or A.J. Alexy. Then you trade Brach for a package similar(hopefully a bit better) to the one the Marlins just got for Phelps. Trade Smith and Castillo for whatever you can get.

    Rotation: This off-season, sign a mid-tier pitcher with all the money coming off the books. If Tillman pitches well in the second half, resign him on a good-faith deal if the price is right. If not, sign another available pitcher on the cheap. The fifth spot can be filled by in-house options(hopefully pieces acquired at trade deadline but could also come from strong second halfs by Chris Lee, David Hess, Alec Asher, Jayson Aquino, etc). Then, hope Bundy continues developing into the star he has the potential to be. Hope Gausman can find his 2016 form.

    In the outfield, Mancini can man left on an everyday basis, Jones isn’t moving off of center, and hopefully Austin Hays can come up early next year to be an everyday right fielder. Previous to Hays call-up, run Rickard, Trumbo, etc out there.

    Infield: Manny is Manny. And Schoop is also a beast. The Davis contract is hot garbage but he plays gold-glove caliber defense and gets on-base more than others. Sisco and Joseph as your catchers. SIgn Eduardo Nunez to play short or third(Has speed, ok fielder, gets on-base).

    Bullpen: Donnie Hart, Miguel Castro, RIchard Bleier, Darren O’day, and Mychal Givens have pitched to a combined ERA of 2.58 this season. Verret has been pitching well, Wright has shown potential, and BP should be easy enough to fill.

    • Dan Connolly

      July 21, 2017 at 1:09 pm

      Good thoughts. Drink chip. My only problem with that rationale is rotation is still filled with ifs. Which is what got Os in trouble this year.

      • santiagotj

        July 21, 2017 at 1:43 pm

        Certainly, but it’d be extremely difficult to make this into a good rotation in a single offseason. Anyways, you always need a bit of luck in baseball and if things go our way….

  18. Ben1

    July 21, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    lets have thia converasation Sunday night. What if Houston wins all 3? Sell. What if Os sweep all 3? Trade for a starter? If we lose 2 of 3 do we wait until series in Tampa is over? Os have ro make room for quality starters….can they afford to so that before November?

  19. Camden Bird

    July 21, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Absolutely yes.

    While a series sweep is always awesome, let’s keep things in perspective and realize that it was against an ice cold Texas team.

    Secondly, even if we do somehow nab a playoff spot, do you honestly think we would go far with this rotation? And if you’re content to simply make the playoffs and call it a success, then I hate to say it, but that sounds an awful lot like Angelos.

    And lastly, the future welfare of this team is more important to me than a team this year that is treading water. I would much rather see us amp up the farm system is a massive way, produce stars on a consistent basis, and be a force to be reckoned with year in and year out. Just look at Houston, Los Angeles (Dodgers), St. Louis, Boston, etc. Those are teams with strong farm systems and are World Series contenders every season.

    Would you rather have that? Or a “Well, at least we played in one playoff game this season”?

    • Camden Bird

      July 21, 2017 at 7:53 pm

      By the way Dan, I wasn’t speaking directly to you. I was using “you” in general. 😉

  20. OrioleEd

    July 21, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    I can not get enough Pepto Bismol when Wade and Ubaldo pitch!… In the toughest division doing nothing at the deadline will not make you a winner. Our farm system does not have “ready now” starting pitching..The time is now to sell and for once add starting pitching that will make an impact and be sustainable….Be careful and cautious to get the right value in return!!

  21. Raymo

    July 21, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    If we did trade both relievers and Manny as well, I’m comfortable with our bullpen, but who would play third?

    Would they move Schoop over and use one of the utility guys at second? I’ve been comfortably satisfied with Tejada so far, and I think he should be batting second even with Manny in the lineup. Your thoughts please.

  22. Spruce59

    July 22, 2017 at 12:31 am

    I totally agree. The Orioles just have to get some starting pitching if they are going to make any difference in the AL beast.

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