Excuse the mess in the bar today. Someone set off fireworks in the men’s bathroom.
At least that’s what we think – or hope – it was.
Anyway, Fourth of July is over, and it’s time to sit quietly in the Tap Room and talk baseball. I’ll type softly.
There’s been a whole lot of talk about whether the Orioles should be sellers at this month’s nonwaiver trade deadline if they continue to struggle. There’s a sense that the Orioles’ competitive window with this current group is closing and they should deal some of their stars before they leave for free agency after the 2018 season.
I don’t foresee a fire sale happening this month, frankly. At least I don’t see the Orioles truly being sellers. They might send away a piece or two of limited value for a younger piece of limited value. We’ve seen that before.
But under the Angelos’ family ownership, the Orioles rarely – like almost never – have an in-season fire sale. Peter Angelos and family have always felt like tearing down a team midseason is disingenuous to a fan base that paid money for tickets in advance to see a certain team/certain players compete.
We all know the story about 1996, when then-general manager Pat Gillick wanted to deal away several veterans for young players, the trades were shot down by Angelos and those Orioles went on to make the playoffs. There’s been just one in-season fire sale since – in 2000 – and it yielded the Orioles an All-Star in Melvin Mora and a bunch of other players that failed miserably.
So, given the fact fire sales don’t always work, combined with the two wild card spots and the organizational philosophy, I just don’t expect the Orioles this month to trade Zach Britton, Manny Machado, Brad Brach or Adam Jones, the four former All-Stars that will be free agents after the 2018 season.
But this is a theoretical bar, so we can debate the hypothetical here.
Here’s my thought today:
Britton will reclaim his closer duties, pushing Brach back to set-up man status. Regardless of the order, they are among the best relievers in the American League and high-quality people. Any team would want either, and either would bring back a solid haul of prospects, I’d imagine.
Down the road a few miles resides a ballclub that is excelling in every part of the game – except its bullpen. For the Washington Nationals to be legitimate World Series contenders, they need to really improve their relief corps.
Despite recent trades, the Nationals still have some really highly touted prospects in their system, such as outfielder Victor Robles and right-hander Erick Fedde. The Orioles have two back-end relievers that made the 2016 All-Star team and will be free agents in a blink.
There’s a match there.
Except the Orioles and Nationals aren’t exactly buddies. There’s the ongoing litigation involving the MASN situation. There’s been ill will for years.
And, frankly, a Brach or Britton could put the Nationals over the top. And that’s the last thing the Orioles’ ownership wants to do: Make the club in its backyard World Champions, potentially further eroding the Orioles’ fan base. That is understandable, of course.
The flip side is that the Orioles need more high-ceiling prospects in the system, especially with the way the organization stays away from large international bonuses to amateurs. And it’s unlikely the Orioles will re-sign both Britton and Brach – maybe not either – when they can seek huge money on the free-agent market.
I guess my question to you – the fans – is whether you’d be OK with trading a top reliever to the Nationals for a stud prospect or two. It might mean the Nats win the World Series, while who knows whether the prospects pan out.
It’s a risk. It could make your regional rival a champion. It could hurt your team’s chances of winning in the short term. Would you do it?
Tap-In Question: Would you trade a top reliever to the Nationals for prospects?