The Orioles were never going to trade 19-year-old shortstop Jackson Holliday or a few other top-10 prospects to rent two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, but it’s still fair to imagine how Baltimore sports fans would be feeling right now if that happened and the news broke that the latter-day Babe Ruth has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and will not pitch again this season.
For any team that was tempted to put a big dent in their minor league talent base for a two- or three-month rental, this could have been the ultimate be-careful-what-you-wish-for moment. For the Orioles, who have the top-rated farm system in the game, it would have been a disaster.
Obviously, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias knew that and chose to make a more measured deal to deepen his starting rotation, but even the short-term rental of Jack Flaherty for lesser prospects may become second-guessable if his missed start this week turns out to be the result of more than “general soreness.”
It’s not that late-season deals like these don’t help teams get to the playoffs or that teams always end up regretting them, but a team with limited resources such as the Orioles cannot afford to get one of them wrong.
The O’s understand that better than some, because they made a deal a decade ago that both helped them get to the playoffs and has haunted them ever since.
That was the trade that sent highly regarded pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox for top-flight setup reliever Andrew Miller. Miller was a key player in the Orioles’ 2014 AL East title run, but Rodriguez delivered on his promise, helping the Red Sox win the World Series in 2018, winning a career high 19 games in 2019 and generally terrorizing the O’s with a 14-5 record and 2.74 career ERA against them.
Clearly, it’s much better to be a seller in those situations, as the Angels just found out. They pleased their fans by deciding not to trade Ohtani at the deadline and now will have to figure out what to do when the damaged superstar enters the free-agent market in the offseason.
In the meantime, the Orioles will head down the stretch already enjoying a lot of help from the Angels’ organization. Lest anyone forget, it was the Angels who traded them hot starter Kyle Bradish for Dylan Bundy and inexplicably allowed them to pick solid middle reliever Jacob Webb off waivers recently in a move that significantly upgraded their bullpen.
Elias continues to have the magic touch, getting Webb even though the Orioles were at the far end of the waiver priority list.