Calls for Orioles to tear down lose sight of fact that assets could prove irreplaceable

Even without needing to acknowledge that it's Thanksgiving, a time to take stock of life's blessings, there's a large chunk of reality being ignored as the Orioles embark on their annual offseason plan to add enough starting pitching to become a contender.

Shouldn't all of their best players be a part of this conversation?


After a four-month break, the Orioles are back to being browbeaten by the national media and fans alike to strip their club for parts in favor of their future, which regardless of whether they trade them might not include the likes of Manny Machado, Zach Britton or Adam Jones beyond 2018.

The complexion of the whole club will change this time next year, but until then, isn't it better to have such players than not? The time to use them to build a substantial future has passed. It's time to just enjoy what's left of them.

Even with a down 2017, Machado is still one of the game's brightest stars, and as he showed in August this year and for most of 2016, is capable of carrying a team all on his own. Only one third baseman — 2015 Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson — has produced more than the 24.7 wins above replacement Machado has since 2013, according to FanGraphs. A trade for one year of him probably won't net that, and there's no one who could stand in for him at even a replacement level in the short term.

Britton, too, is one year removed from one of the best seasons in relief history, though his 2017 was marred by injuries. The team has a long-term closer option in Mychal Givens and possibly even Tanner Scott, and with Brad Brach and Darren O'Day still in the fold, they could survive without him.

But that same thought existed in 2017, and the whole pitching staff spent most of the year off balance without Britton. Brach wouldn’t fetch nearly what Britton would, at least not for one season of him.

And as for Jones, an above-average center fielder whose steady contributions over the past few years might not be at the All-Star level of seasons past, the fact that he still has a season left on his contract and his future is unresolved doesn't have much impact on how 2018 plays out.

His pending free agency could be used to give Cedric Mullins or Austin Hays more time in center field. But shifting Jones off center field on even a part-time basis in 2018 could only go to show how much more valuable he could be in the next phase of his career.

Undoubtedly, the Orioles have one year left before things might change drastically. Their odds of contention have also dropped dramatically because of the recent progress of the likes of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

But the time to change course in a major way passed with the most recent July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. Adding a few starting pitchers and running it back for the last year of the Orioles' original plan looks like the most likely option, even if an admitted player-development proponent like myself would want to have more going on in their already-improved farm system.

In the meantime, the Orioles might keep some players that fans should be grateful to have around.