After the dust settled from the Orioles’ trade-deadline clubhouse demolition Tuesday, the veterans remaining were left in a state of shock.
They knew the club’s rebuild was underway and dealing pending free agents Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Brad Brach was no surprise. But when the Orioles traded second baseman Jonathan Schoop, starting pitcher Kevin Gausman and reliever Darren O’Day — all of whom were under team control beyond this season — it represented a teardown of a much greater scale than most expected.
An Orioles season that began with uncertainty throughout the organization became much clearer with the five trades the team made over the past two weeks. The Orioles’ showed they’re in full rebuild mode, and it might take a while to return to competitiveness in a rough-and-tumble American League East.
“This one felt a little different than normal,” designated hitter-outfielder Mark Trumbo said. “There was some surprise factor in there, but after [executive vice president] Dan [Duquette] kind of outlined what his intentions were, those things seem to fall in line with what we’re trying to do here.”
For the most part, the Orioles’ recent success — a stretch of three playoff appearances in five seasons — lives only in memory. Ten players on the club’s current roster were on the 2016 team that made the AL wild-card game and lost at the Toronto Blue Jays, and there are just three players remaining from the Orioles’ most recent AL East title team in 2014, a club that advanced to the AL Championship Series.
“You start thinking about all these guys,” said catcher Caleb Joseph, 32. “There’s so many years I’ve gotten sweat equity with these guys and in a matter of weeks you sort of feel like you’re on an island. Of course, you know some of the guys in here, but there might only be three guys left from that 2014 team. It’s odd, for a team that won  games just four years ago, for 22 of the 25 guys from that team to be gone is odd to me.
“You understand how the business works and how it happens, but this happened really quickly. It’s the people you miss. It’s like starting over again. It’s like new classmates on the first day of school. There’s a few kids you had class with before, but there seems to be an entirely different feel to the clubhouse as before, not bad, just different. So now it’s time to start investing in other people, just like you did the ones before when you moved in. it’s odd though, it’s really odd.”
For right-hander Dylan Bundy, 25, it meant saying goodbye to Gausman, a fellow first-round draft pick. Both had been mentioned in trade rumors over the past few weeks, and the Orioles decided to move forward with Bundy, who is under team control for three years beyond this one. Gausman was controllable for the next two seasons after 2018.
“You’re just sitting until 4 [p.m.] waiting to hear, and if you get called in the office or get a phone call, you’re probably getting traded,” Bundy said. “We both [were emotional]. We were able to hang out again [Tuesday] night because I think the [Atlanta] Braves are coming up here to New York. We were able to hang out one more time and say our goodbyes and wish each other luck and we’ll be in touch again this offseason. ... He was one of my better friends here. I could lean on him in 2016 and we have been together for what seems like for five or six years now.”
After watching Machado move on, Orioles third base and infield coach Bobby Dickerson was still reeling Wednesday from losing Schoop. In his previous role as the organization’s roving infield coordinator, Dickerson worked with both players going back to their days in the low minors. And both players lauded Dickerson’s tutelage on their way out the door.
That didn’t offer enough comfort to Dickerson, who fought back tears talking about Schoop, who he worked with since he was a lanky teenager in the Dominican Summer League.
“You dream of those players,” Dickerson said of Schoop. “You really do. You dream of getting them, when you get them, you get close to them. I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve had some really good defensive players. I’ve had some really good offensive [players]. Good defense, great makeup. It’s tough. To get so close to him through the years, the finality of it that he’s gone. Truthfully, potentially, I may never see him again. … There’s a human element here, not just professional. It’s a rough day.”
Dickerson said he was distracted while coaching Tuesday, but must now focus on getting the current infielders to the point that Machado and Schoop were.
“My mind was going all over the place,” Dickerson said. “I just went and told [shortstop] Tim [Beckham] today. I went up to him and said, ‘I apologize. I wasn’t really locked in like I can be.’ We talked about the play he made yesterday, coached him up a little this morning. … [You] definitely have to change gears and do my job right and hopefully get the Baltimore Orioles another Jonathan Schoop, help them develop a player that is an impactful player that also [is] as a human being.”
From 2012 to 2017, the Orioles were buyers at the nonwaiver trade deadline, acquiring pieces with the focus of making the playoffs. And perhaps, they did that for too long, because those trades cost them prospects that could’ve made the current transition smoother. But now, without the Orioles having realized their goal of getting to a World Series – they came within four wins of one in 2014 — they were compelled to proceed with a a full-force rebuild.
“We had a blast,” O’Day said on a conference call with reporters after his seven-year tenure with the team came to a close. “My favorite stop in my baseball career so far has been Baltimore and we put together some pretty good teams there for a while. I think we eventually paid the price that is coming to fruition now just from trying to compete every year. Eventually that’s going to catch up to you and the front office and the ownership did what they thought was right, which I agree with. I think it was the right thing to do. You can’t argue with that. It’s the business aspect of baseball and we as professionals have to accept that.”
Manager Buck Showalter said he hopes normalcy will return in the next few days. And he said he might address the club once the team gets into a new environment on its road trip’s next stop in Texas, where the Orioles open a four-game series Thursday.
“I talk to them all the time, but there’s a little bit of a period where you kind of let is settle in, I think,” Showalter said. “Every player is different and you just keep your eyes open and your ears listening and get a feel for what’s going on. When we get to Texas and get out of this, out of reality, I think we’ll probably sit down as a team or something. But the problem with it is you’re not sure if it’s settled yet. … I just want to do what’s the right thing for the organization in the next few months and make sure we look at the things we need to look at to make good decisions.”
Right-hander Alex Cobb, in his first year with the Orioles after signing a four-year, $57 million deal in March, said veterans will have to practice patience, and there will be more responsibility placed on older players to set the tone inside the clubhouse.
“Seeing it come to a head these last couple of days with the trade deadline, it’s not fun,” Cobb said. “You’re saying goodbye to guys that you’ve become friends with and not only that, you see what the future’s going to have in store for us with a lot of young players. With that, usually you have a lot of losses that come your way, too. I think you have to embrace it and know that we’re going to have to do our part as older players, some of us veteran guys on the team, and go with the lumps along the way and really help the younger guys out.”
While the Orioles were long since buried this season — they’re 42 games under .500 after Wednesday’s win at Yankee Stadium — the veterans who remain will now have to set a different standard for success.
“It’s a process,” said Trumbo, whose contract runs through next season. “It could take awhile. I’m going to do what I can and I think everybody here is of that mindset, especially some of the guys who are a little bit older. We’re very fortunate to have a role, to be on a big league team. Ideally, every team would be a winning team that is accomplishing all the goals you set out for every year.
“We’re going to have to come up with some realistic goals with where we stand, not only moving forward this year, but also next year as well. With a couple teams in our division being as stacked as they are, it’s going to be a tough road, but I think there’s a lot of fight for the guys we have. You just look toward trying to be as consistent as you can be so you can try to stack up with these teams that are pretty loaded.”