As trade scenarios both reasonable and ridiculous flood the Internet and the airwaves in advance of the MLB nonwaiver trade deadline, they come with the reminder that the Orioles must give up something to get something.
It has been well documented that the Orioles don't really have the goods to pull off a major trade - according to the incomparable Peter Gammons, one National League general manager said the Orioles farm system was "the worst." And it's true that injuries have removed from the equation some of the top-tier trade pieces like Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey.
But the Orioles make their living on smaller moves, and they have plenty of secondary and tertiary trade pieces to deal in that sense. Today, we'll examine who those trade pieces are in the high minors, and what type of situation might lead to the Orioles being asked to part with them.
First baseman Christian Walker
An impressive June (.337/.411/.480 with 10 extra-base hits and 15 RBIs) has statistically saved a season that pales in comparison to last year's .288/.357/.489 with 26 home runs and 96 RBIs between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk. Walker is batting .259/.318/.393 against experienced pitchers in the International League. Combine the future need at first base for the Orioles — Chris Davis and Steve Pearce might both leave in free agency this winter — and Walker's first-base-only profile mean the Orioles might be loathe to give him up, even if it is as a secondary piece in a big deal.
Outfielder Dariel Alvarez
The 26-year-old Cuban has a lot of marketable tools to teams who are looking at him in a trade — he has a plus arm, can play center field, and has shown legitimate power at every stop in his American career. Teams were split as to whether he was a hitter or pitcher coming out of Cuba, but he has shown he can hit plenty for the Orioles and might be one of their more intriguing prospects in the system.
Outfielder Henry Urrutia
With the defensive profile of Nelson Cruz (left field-designated hitter only) and a history for hitting for average with a little power, Urrutia represents a cost-controlled outfield piece to whoever wants him. Whether anyone values that as much as the Orioles is up for debate, but if a team is in the position the Orioles are — looking to gather cost-controlled assets in or near their prime — Urrutia fits that bill.
Catcher Steve Clevenger
With catcher Matt Wieters potentially on his way out the door, the Orioles might be loathe to give up their best piece of team-controlled catching depth. Clevenger has hit in his brief stays with the Orioles this year, and has hit all season in Norfolk. There's not a lot of projection left, but he could be a useful piece for a team that needs catching depth, as well.
Right-hander Tyler Wilson
Wilson has filled a valuable swing role for the Orioles and been a strong starter for Norfolk, though he doesn't miss many bats and is a bit of a tweener when it comes to starting and relieving. For a team that values that versatility, Wilson might be one of the first names they ask for in a trade. It's unclear if anyone will think more highly of that than the Orioles, though.
Right-hander Mike Wright
Wright's successful big league debut turned sour in his last start for the Orioles, but he has been strong with Norfolk since. It's hard to tell without actually seeing him whether Wright's secondary pitches have improved at all since he went down, but he might be the closest thing the Orioles have to a trade centerpiece as the deadline approaches.
Right-hander Zach Davies
The Orioles' lone participant in the MLB All-Star Futures Game has what Tides pitching coach Mike Griffin calls three above-average pitches, and has been among the most consistent performers in the system this season. The Orioles aren't quite sure what they have in Davies, but might be persuaded to deal him if someone values him highly enough.
Right-hander Oliver Drake
Drake, 28, debuted this year with five appearances for the Orioles, and finds himself on the Tides' disabled list. Still, he has shown he can get major league hitters out with his above-average splitter. He's promising and could be a piece of the Orioles bullpen for years to come, but might be necessary to fetch something of value this month.
First baseman Trey Mancini
The Notre Dame product is probably the best hitter, statistically, in the entire Orioles system this season. After hitting .314/.341/.547 with eight home runs in 52 games for High-A Frederick, Mancini has raked to the tune of .347/.371/.580 with seven home runs in 38 games for the Baysox. He has a first-base-only profile defensively, and still needs work to play the position at the major league level (where manager Buck Showalter really values first-base defense). But Mancini has, at the very least, turned himself into a decent trade chip for the Orioles this year.
Third baseman Drew Dosch
Dosch has struggled since his promotion to Double-A — he's hitting .170 with three extra-base hits in 30 games — but hit at every stop before that, including a standout year with Low-A Delmarva. He's defensively sound and has some hit-tool utility, but might not have the upside to garner more than inclusion as a second or third piece in a big trade.
Outfielder Mike Yastrzemski
The shine is a bit off Yastrzemski after he shot through the Orioles system last year with one of the best statistical seasons in all of the minors, but he's still essentially the same player — a high-motor, low-floor fourth-outfielder type who will probably will himself to the big leagues. What kind of value that might have is up for debate, but he might be more valuable to the Orioles than anyone else.
Right-hander Parker Bridwell
Bridwell continues to strike out nearly a batter per inning thanks to his above-average changeup, and of the four touted starters who began the season in the Bowie rotation, only he remains. He still allows too many base runners, with a 1.40 WHIP this year and a 1.45 career mark, but as a weapon out of the bullpen Bridwell could settle in somewhere in the seventh or eighth inning and carve out quite a career for himself. Bridwell could be the second piece in a larger deal, or carry a smaller one.
Left-hander Tim Berry
An ERA north of 7.00 for most of the season led the Orioles to move Berry to the bullpen, where he has shown better command and allowed three runs in five innings over five outings. His struggles as a starter mean teams might not value him as much, and being on the 40-man roster also might make him harder to deal to a team with a crunch of its own. Still, a left-hander with three developed pitches can be valuable to any organization; it would only be as a secondary piece in a deal.
Right-hander Jason Garcia
Garcia, who is on his way back from a shoulder issue that has kept him off the Orioles roster for nearly three months, would still be under Rule 5 restrictions if he's dealt. But if a selling team can afford to have an inexperienced, high-upside reliever on their 25-man roster for the rest of the year, it could be a good opportunity for the Orioles to extract some value for him.
Left-hander Ashur Tolliver
A fifth-round pick in 2009, Tolliver lost a year to shoulder surgery (2012) and fell off the map a bit, but still has impressive stuff. His fastball, which sat 93-95 mph in a look last month, exploded on left-handed hitters, and he mixed in a slider that flashed plus as well as a changeup. The Orioles might value him more as a future bullpen piece than anyone else might, but his name could come up in the next few weeks.
Right-hander Joe Gunkel
Teams are always more likely to deal guys they traded for — there's much less invested in their development — so if a team comes calling for the right-hander acquired from the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Alejandro De Aza, the Orioles might listen. Gunkel, who has a 3.04 ERA in eight starts with Bowie, is tough on righties and was a piece several teams asked Boston for before they relented and sent him to the Orioles.