As Orioles finish miserable first half, many players' fates are up in the air - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Orioles

As Orioles finish miserable first half, many players’ fates are up in the air

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

After the Orioles closed out the first half of the season Sunday afternoon, players prepared to scatter to the winds, going their separate ways for the time being.

It could be a good practice run for what’s about to happen over the next two weeks.

The Orioles’ four-day reprieve for the All-Star break won’t quell the trade rumors that continue to fly around many of their veteran players, headlined by shortstop Manny Machado. And with the Orioles on their way to their worst season in franchise history, it’s a good bet that Machado and several others will find themselves in new uniforms by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

It’s the only reasonable course of action for a 2018 Orioles team that’s making history in all the wrong ways.

To call the Orioles’ season nightmarish would be to sell it short. Their level of futility is nearly unprecedented. Despite two wins in a row to close out the half, the club is 41 games under .500, carrying a 28-69 record into the All-Star break. If they remain on their current pace for the rest of the season, their .289 winning percentage would be 15th-worst in modern MLB history. That would give the Orioles a season-ending record of 47-115, making them just one of six teams with 115 or more losses.

A deep dive into their season stats is sobering. The Orioles have had three winless road trips of six games or more, and their road record of 12-36 is the worst in the majors. They aren’t much better at Camden Yards, either, with a 16-33 home record that rates better than only the Kansas City Royals (11-35).

The Orioles have been outscored by 159 runs this year. They’ve had seven losing streaks of five games or longer. They haven’t topped nine wins in any month, and went the entirety of June without beating an American League team. They’ve swept only one series — a two-gamer, at that — and gotten swept 15 times.

The Orioles’ offense entered Sunday with the second-fewest runs scored in the majors at 339 (again, ahead of the Royals, who had 336) as well as the worst batting average (.227) and on-base percentage (.290). Their .669 team OPS was better only than the Royals (.668) and San Diego Padres (.664).The pitching staff hasn’t been much better, carrying a 4.87 ERA into Sunday that ranked ahead of only the Chicago White Sox (4.96) and — you guessed it — the hapless Royals (5.34). Orioles’ pitchers have been victimized by a porous team defense that a recent article in The Ringer called “the worst we’ve ever seen,” based on advanced defensive stats.

So, yes, things have been a little rough.

Perhaps what’s most remarkable is that, to this point, the Orioles have made no significant personnel changes amidst their horrid season. The coaching staff and front office remain intact, and of the 44 players who have made an appearance for the club this year, 42 are still in the organization. The only two exceptions are former Rule 5 lefty Nestor Cortes Jr., who was returned to the New York Yankees in April, and outfielder Colby Rasmus, who left the team July 3 and returned home.

As an interesting contrast, the St. Louis Cardinals fired their manager, Mike Matheny, as well as hitting coach John Mabry and assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller late Saturday night. The Cardinals were a game over .500 at the time of the moves, 21 1/2 games better than the Orioles.

The Orioles’ lack of activity, though, figures to change soon. The Orioles seem committed to trading pending free agent Machado, whom the club has no chance of re-signing in free agency. The fact that the Orioles removed Machado from Sunday’s game after a fourth-inning rain delay, not wanting to risk him getting injured on the wet field, all but proves the Orioles have designs on sending him elsewhere soon.

“That’s part of it,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We’re all adults here, some more than others. We know what’s going on, the potential (trade). Obviously there’s a different situation going on with Manny. You all know that. That had a lot to do with it.”

“I don’t know why he did it or not,” Machado said. “He just told me, ‘I’m going to take you out. You had a good first half, and go represent us well in the All-Star Game.'”

If this was Machado’s last game as an Oriole — or at least his last game in Baltimore, where the Orioles don’t return until July 23 — he went out with a bang. Machado homered in the first inning of the Orioles’ eventual 6-5 win over the Texas Rangers.

“Just looking back at everything that’s happened this year, trade rumors, everything, just overall playing with this team has always been incredible,” Machado said. “I’m going to the All-Star Game as an Oriole and as a shortstop. It’s just always a blessing. I thank God. I thank my family for always supporting me, my teammates, the fans, the organization, I mean it’s just been very incredible.”

Machado isn’t the only Oriole on the trade block. Closer Zach Britton, another impending free agent, figures to be on the move, too. Slowly but surely, he’s been improving his command and velocity — and boosting his trade value — since returning from the DL on June 11 following offseason Achilles’ surgery. He nailed down his fourth save of the year Sunday, getting help from Mark Trumbo, Jonathan Schoop and Caleb Joseph, who combined to cut down the game-tying run at the plate.

Other names bandied about in trade rumors include reliever Brad Brach, infielder Danny Valencia and the face of the Orioles, Adam Jones, all of whom are eligible for free agency after the season.

Expect the rumors to keep swirling for the next 16 days leading up to the deadline.

“Dan (Duquette) and his group are working very hard on a lot of things to make us better today and down the road and the timing of that is always a challenge,” Showalter said. “I just make sure he doesn’t have to worry about anything down here and make the adjustments that need to be made.”

The second half could be a time of upheaval and transition for the Orioles — and that’s as it should be. The current core of the team helped revitalize the franchise and bring winning baseball back to Baltimore, including three postseason appearances since 2012. But as this disastrous 2018 season has made painfully clear, it’s time for the Orioles to rebuild.

By August, don’t be surprised to see some fresh faces on the field, whether they’re current Orioles’ prospects — such as outfielders Cedric Mullins and DJ Stewart — or newcomers acquired in trades.

The end of an era may soon be approaching, and it’ll be an adjustment for many Orioles’ fans, not to mention the players themselves. But it needs to happen, and an infusion of youth could do this team some good.

When you’re already at rock bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. ATCguy

    July 15, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    By August, expect to see new faces? I’d hope we’d start seeing some (at least) right after the break. I know the expectation & sorta responsibility to put a competitive team on the field, and not just lay down for everyone… but I’d hope the team immediately begins treating the remainder of the season like “September call-up” time. Bring up as many hopeful prospects from the farm as able on a daily basis… sit the ‘regulars’ every other day or so, and let’s see what we got. Completely take all the pressure off everyone (if there’s really any left), and put on an entertaining (if not really competitive) team on the field for the fans until this season mercifully ends. And when the regulars do play, let’s take em out of their comfort zones a bit (cause for most, it ain’t workin anyway), and put on more hit & run plays when the opportunity presents itself. Have the leadoff man attempt the bunt more often if the opposition shifts on ’em. Try a safety squeeze here & there. The classic definition of insanity has been running rampant for the entire first half, and hasn’t worked… so why not try something (ANYTHING!) new?

    Oh well… as for me, I doubt I watch any of the ASG festivities. I’m not really into the HR Derby thing, and the ASG itself has become like the pro bowl… everybody friendly, and let’s not get hurt. Nothing wrong with that, but just not for me. Seeya next weekend! 🙂

    • Ekim

      July 15, 2018 at 7:36 pm

      I follow the 4 top farm teams on a daily basis so I have an idea what’s down there… and it isn’t much. A few legitimate prospects… a bunch of “wanna be’s”… and a whole lot of “never will be’s”. I look at the box scores each and every game for all 4 teams and other than the fact that they have to throw some guys out on the field to meet league commitments, there really isn’t that much talent or ability showing. I started to count the number of pitchers with ERA’s of over five but became totally discouraged. There are a couple who keep getting put into game after game with it 9+. That’s stupid! I was going to count the number of position players with their average below the Mendoza line but, after wasting my time on the pitchers I figured, why bother… which is about where I’m at with all of management. It’s like they’ve become ostriches and buried their heads in manure. Growing up in Brooklyn NY we would call out “Wait ‘till next year” but, for the O’s, next year will be the same

    • Paul Folkemer

      July 16, 2018 at 9:43 am

      The reason I say “by August” is because it might take the rest of July for the Orioles to clear out roster spots through trades. For example, I see Cedric Mullins coming up to play CF as soon as Adam Jones is traded, but that might not be until the last day or two before the deadline. Or if Jones isn’t traded, we might not see Mullins until September call-ups.

      Or when Manny is traded, we might see someone like Drew Dosch come up from Triple-A with Beckham moving to SS, but again, it all depends on when the trade actually goes down. It could drag until late July.

  2. Dblack2508

    July 15, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    The elephant in the room is Chris Davis, unfortunately until they figure out what to do about that albatross contract of his. Personally I am excited about the future prospects , but having Davis for another four years will set back any rebuild.

    • Paul Folkemer

      July 16, 2018 at 9:46 am

      The Davis contract complicates things, for sure, but I don’t think it makes a rebuild impossible. Much of his contract is deferred, so he won’t be crippling the payroll while he’s here. Especially if a lot of other veterans and their salaries are cleared off the books, as it appears they will be.

  3. Churchton

    July 16, 2018 at 1:46 am

    One of the biggest threats to rebuilding is the 23 million dollar man. Until he is gone the O’s really can’t rebuild because there is this real sad member of the line up. Being a nice guy is one thing but does the O’s want a competitive team or what. If you are getting rid of part of a team that makes watching the game enjoyable that Davis has to go because he makes viewing the game painful

  4. Orial

    July 16, 2018 at 8:14 am

    We’re all grown ups here, some more than others. Wow. What the hell did Buck mean by that?

    • Paul Folkemer

      July 16, 2018 at 9:40 am

      I think he was taking a light-hearted dig at the reporters in the room.

      • jimcarter

        July 16, 2018 at 10:42 am

        Dig at reporters? Is Buck channeling Trump now? Gives me another reason to think he should have been gone last October.

        • Paul Folkemer

          July 16, 2018 at 11:32 am

          Nothing like that. Buck respects the media. He just has a (mostly good-natured) give-and-take with them. Busting their chops.

  5. jimcarter

    July 16, 2018 at 10:41 am

    Bravo on that 42 of 44 stat! That’s unique among the number crunching I’ve seen. It just further solidifies my contention that the Orioles have odd relationships with their employees. It’s almost like they are all related and can’t bring themselves to cut anyone loose, regardless of their job performance. In fact; I believe management thrives on being different simply for the sake of being different. The mention of how St. Louis handled their situation was an excellent example of the standards most teams have versus the Orioles.

    • Paul Folkemer

      July 16, 2018 at 11:29 am

      The amazing thing is that it would probably be 43 of 44 still in the organization if Rasmus hadn’t walked away of his own accord. I’m convinced the Orioles would’ve tried to squeeze every penny out of that contract and would still be giving him starts if he hadn’t done them a favor and left on his own.

      For whatever reason, the O’s just seem hesitant to cut ties with their veteran players who have been around a while — especially those who are earning a few million. Just look at how they’re still giving Chris Tillman starts when he hasn’t been effective in the majors or minors in two years. Loyalty can be a good thing, but sometimes you need to know when to part ways.

    • LenSakata

      July 16, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      You guys should do an article on what the team is worth to a potential buyer. With the sorry state the organization is in plus the Davis contract it can’t be worth much

  6. Rusty Trumbo

    July 16, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    It sad how the FO has totally botched the Manny situation, letting Arbitration years play out not even trying to throw 150-200 M at his early. They could have at least traded him in the offseason and gotten a stronger package

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