1. They prioritized the present over the future.
The Orioles, though they might not admit it openly, had to know this day could eventually come. Maybe they didn’t expect the club’s collapse to be quite so dramatic, but a downturn was inevitable. After all, the Orioles have been in win-now mode since 2012, focused on keeping the big league club competitive even when it came at the expense of the club’s long-term growth.
That’s not necessarily a terrible thing. Most Orioles’ fans can attest that the club’s 2012-2016 run, when Baltimore racked up three postseason appearances, was a lot of fun — especially compared to the club’s 14 straight losing seasons beforehand.
Still, as the Orioles concentrated on building their major league roster, they let their minor league system become stagnant — or, in some cases, depleted it. Among the prospects the Orioles traded away were Josh Hader, now a 24-year-old All-Star with Milwaukee, and Eduardo Rodriguez, a regular in the Boston rotation. Granted, they got Bud Norris and Andrew Miller in exchange, two contributors to the outstanding 2014 Orioles. But other trades during that span, such as Zach Davies for Gerardo Parra in 2015, are less defensible.
It wasn’t just trading prospects for veterans that weakened the Orioles’ system. It’s that they didn’t trade their own veterans to help replenish the farm, even in non-winning seasons like 2015 and 2017. An argument can be made that the Orioles should have dealt Zach Britton after his perfect 2016 season as a closer, or at least setup man Brad Brach, an All-Star that season. It’s understandable why the Orioles chose not to. But they’re paying the price in 2018.
The Orioles, with the trade of Machado for five prospects — and other trades of veterans expected over the next week and a half — are finally adding some much-needed depth to their minors. It will probably be another couple of seasons, however, before the club starts to reap the rewards of those deals. Their rebuilding process has gotten off to a late start.