When Orioles executive vice president Mike Elias told us again Saturday that he’s going to approach the upcoming trade deadline with a “global perspective,” it’s important to understand that he wasn’t talking about the World Series.
The O’s have been playing some very exciting baseball of late, but the rebuild hasn’t reached the point where it’s realistic to think the front office is suddenly going to fantasize about a late-season playoff run and shift it into a higher gear.
The most likely scenario in early August figures to involve some more short-term pain in Elias’s long game. There has been speculation he could deal several productive players to further enhance his “elite talent pipeline,” but that would almost certainly knock the wind out of the team’s uplifting midseason resurgence.
Elias didn’t reveal much during an early afternoon Q&A session with reporters Saturday that covered the trade deadline and the amateur draft, but what he didn’t say was revealing enough.
He didn’t say that he would keep the roster intact if the Orioles continue to carry their current roll through July. He didn’t say that he might be reluctant to trade away some popular players because of the effect that might have on the strong clubhouse chemistry that has developed over the past few months. He did say, however, that he’s thrilled with the way the team has morphed into a surprisingly competitive unit that has held its own against its tough divisional rivals and could reach the All-Star break with a winning record.
“I’m very happy,’’ he said. “I’m very encouraged by it. I’m very proud of our players and I credit them and the major league coaches with not the results of these games but the style of play and the effort level that I think we’re all seeing. It is hard to do on a night-in, night-out basis at the major league level and I think this group deserves a lot of credit for that.”
“There’s half the season left. We’ll see what happens. I’m sure we’ve got rough patches in store for us, but – globally speaking in my appraisal – I think this organization is in a very healthy spot, and a lot of that is the players and the way that they’re playing up here at the major league level and obviously have an excellent group of prospects behind them. And also, just what I see with how our front office and scouting groups and player development groups are going about things, I think we’re in store for a lot of good stuff here over the next few years. And I’m very happy that it’s kind of reflected right now during this stretch of play so plainly for our fans.”
If you want to try to read between the lines, it seems like Elias is hinting at what any rational observer would have to concede. The Orioles are flying high right now, but seven weeks is not a season and the beasts of the AL East are waiting in the wings. The current homestand ends today and, after a quick two-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, the O’s are scheduled to play 10 straight games against the Yankees and Rays and 23 of their next 33 inside the game’s winningest division.
“All I can say is that we do everything from a very global, very thoughtful perspective about what is the right thing to do for the health of the Orioles franchise,’’ Elias said, “and all that is being taken into consideration for the draft and also for the trade deadline coming up. And I don’t know what’s going to happen. What I’m saying is we’re taking a look at everything as we make these decisions.”
Manager Brandon Hyde has tried to steer clear of the trade deadline and draft stuff, but during his pregame news conference on Friday, he conceded the possibility that his young players might have to deal with some separation anxiety.
“I think everybody’s aware of the business of the game,’’ Hyde said. “Everybody’s aware that players move and organizations make moves to benefit them currently and in the future, and those are decisions we have no control over. So, we’re going to control what we can. I want our guys to show up and get ready to play and whatever happens, happens. I think we do have that mindset in there. I don’t sense any sort of ‘what if,’ but we are all professionals and we understand the nature and the business of the game.
“Right now, we’re in last place in our division, and someday we’ll be in first place in our division. But right now, it’s one foot ahead of the other and we’ll see what happens.”
How that might affect team chemistry and the attitude of a fan following that is just starting to warm up to the idea of a much more competitive team remains to be seen. Elias isn’t dismissive of that impact, but he seems committed to keeping the rebuilding effort on schedule.
“We take everything into account,’’ he said. “There are always tradeoffs with things that you do and you don’t do and I take the supervision of our baseball operations very seriously and very deliberately and we have to ultimately do things or don’t do things and there’s a lot that gets poured into the decisions that we make.”
Elias also shed little light on which way the he’ll go with another first overall pick in the three-day draft, which begins on July 19th, except to say that his staff remains focused on a short list of five highly rated position players.
Fans will have to wait a week to find out if the Orioles pick consensus top prospect Druw Jones or go with one of the other four to save a few million dollars and broaden the array of talent they derive from what they hope will be the last time they draft this high for the foreseeable future.