The trade deadline is a week away. By July 31 at 4 p.m., we’ll have a better idea of what the Orioles will look like for the rest of 2019, and for 2020.
While some fans were disappointed that the Orioles didn’t get players closer to major-league ready when they traded Andrew Cashner to the Boston Red Sox on July 13, the deal did address a need.
The Orioles acquired two 17-year-olds for their Dominican Summer League teams. While they signed 27 teenagers from Latin America on July 2, none of them will play this summer.
General manager Mike Elias and international scouting director Koby Perez acknowledge that it will take time for the Orioles to be on equal footing with other teams.
Adding to their talent base is necessary, and while infielder Noelberth Romero and outfielder Elio Prado are hardly sure things to play in the majors, the Orioles must acquire international players by the dozens to be competitive.
Cashner, Dylan Bundy and John Means are major league starters, and Elias acknowledged upon dealing Cashner that other pitchers would get an opportunity to establish themselves as major league starters.
No one expected a rotation of Bundy, Means, Aaron Brooks, Tom Eshelman and Asher Wojciechowski. And, if the Orioles trade Bundy, which I don’t think they will, it would make that rotation even harder to fill.
The pitcher most likely to be dealt is reliever Mychal Givens, who is still drawing interest despite his struggles this season. While the Cashner deal came together quickly, a Givens deal, which seems likely, is being examined more methodically.
Cashner is a potential free agent, and the market for rental players wasn’t huge, Elias said. Givens still has two more years under club control and could bring back more mature prospects than Cashner did.
Givens thrived as a secondary bullpen piece for the Orioles. With Zack Britton, Brad Brach and Darren O’Day ahead of him, Givens was comfortable and produced well.
In the year since Givens assumed the closer’s role, he’s produced well at times, but seems more suited to being a set-up man.
If Givens is dealt, manager Brandon Hyde would have to decide whether he’d like a closer to take Givens’ place, or mix-and-match. The guess here is that Hyde wouldn’t designate a closer. Shawn Armstrong, Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro and Paul Fry each have saves this season.
Last year, it was just assumed that Givens would close in the absence of Britton, Brach and O’Day. This year, no assumptions will be made.
Branden Kline and Evan Phillips each has had multiple stints with the club this season, but both are back with Triple-A Norfolk and don’t seem to have the experience, or effectiveness, to fit into the closer’s role.
Hunter Harvey, the team’s top draft choice in 2013, is finally healthy. Harvey was moved to the bullpen at Double-A Bowie and excelled in that role. Since he was promoted to Norfolk, Harvey hasn’t been as good.
It will be interesting to see whether the Orioles give him a chance in their bullpen this season or focus instead on him making it through an entire season without injury for the first time in his professional career.
Another interesting option is Dillon Tate. At the time of the Britton trade last season, Tate was considered the best pitcher acquired from the New York Yankees.
The other two pitchers in the deal, Josh Rogers and Cody Carroll, have had injury issues. Rogers recently underwent Tommy John surgery, and Carroll hasn’t pitched this season because of a back injury.
Tate didn’t do well as a starter late last season with Double-A Bowie. He returned to the Baysox this season, and since moving to the bullpen, Tate has been outstanding.
Another trade candidate is Jonathan Villar, who’s played both second base and shortstop this season. Villar has another season before he can become a free agent, but Elias might balk at paying him $6-$7 million next season.
The four players Hyde is using to cover second, third and short — Villar, Hanser Alberto, Richie Martin and Rio Ruiz — have shown durability; none has missed time for injuries.
Because of that, Jace Peterson and several other infielders with major league experience have been stuck in Norfolk. Peterson was named the International League’s Batter of the Week on July 15. Later that day, he invoked his opt-out clause, was released by the Orioles and re-signed later in the week.
Peterson could be Villar’s replacement if he’s traded.
Elias has said he would listen to offers on any player, but it would be a surprise if the Orioles traded Trey Mancini. With three more years of club control, it seems unlikely that another club could entice the Orioles with a package strong enough to tempt them to deal Mancini.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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