If there was a case to be made for trading Trey Mancini at the midseason deadline Wednesday, Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias either resisted that temptation or simply wasn’t tempted enough.
Either way, it was the right outcome.
The Orioles are early in a rebuilding process and could have justified dealing their best player to continue pouring the foundation for future contention, but it would have been at the expense of a dwindling fan base that the team can’t afford to see decline much more.
Mancini isn’t Mike Trout, but he’s a popular and productive player who is entering what should be the prime years of his career, and he’s still under team control for the next three years. That leaves the club with multiple opportunities to maximize his value over the next few seasons or go all in with him on a long-term contract extension.
Locking him up would go a long way toward pacifying fans who are trying to hang with the Orioles during the lean years ahead. While they might understand that Elias needs to focus beyond the won-loss records of this year’s and next year’s teams, that doesn’t mean they’ll keep dragging themselves to the ballpark to watch a no-name collection of players who are marking time until the real talent develops.
Orioles fans already have suffered through the worst of the teardown, watching Manny Machado, Zack Britton, Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop disappear at this time last year. Keeping Mancini might seem like a small consolation prize, but it’s an important signal that the organization realizes the patience of the core fan base is not inexhaustible.
Mancini came up through the Orioles system and has made it clear he wants to stay here and help lead the team back to glory. That counts for something in a provincial town that puts a lot of stock in the loyalty of its sports heroes.
It was why there were still O’s fans who couldn’t applaud the recent induction of Mike Mussina into the Baseball Hall of Fame, even though he played here for a decade and was perhaps the second-best pitcher in the history of the franchise.
Loyalty goes both ways, and signing Mancini long-term would be an indication that the team recognizes the importance of maintaining an emotional bond with its fans during this difficult period instead of cutting them loose to fend for themselves until the cavalry arrives.
Of course, none of that is in evidence yet. Keeping Mancini for the remainder of this season was just as likely a sign that the market for his services didn’t justify trading him at this time.
Elias said all along that he’d consider anything that increased the overall level of talent in the organization, so the lack of a significant deal Wednesday — with just about every experienced player on the active major league roster available — was evidence that there wasn’t a lot of interest out there.
Perhaps that already was apparent when the Orioles traded right-hander Andrew Cashner to the Boston Red Sox for a pair of 17-year-old international prospects 2 1/2 weeks ago.
If the Orioles want to move Mancini, they might be in much better position to do that during the offseason, when normal roster attrition throughout the sport could create a broader market.
In the meantime, O’s fans can continue to enjoy Mancini’s breakout season and hope that the team’s late-July upswing was a sign of more entertaining baseball to come.
For reasons largely unknown, the Orioles pulled out of a 6-20 June tailspin to deliver their first .500 month and first month with double-digit wins since August 2017.
That really doesn’t change anything with regard to the rebuilding effort, since there is more future value in having the worst record in the major leagues than finishing a slightly more respectable 27th or 28th overall. But there is something to be said for giving fans a reason to show up.