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Orioles approaching unique trade deadline still focused on ‘broader picture’ of building for future

Even as a hot start has regressed toward preseason expectations, the Orioles entered Saturday’s game against the Boston Red Sox only two games out of playoff position.

But the organization will approach the Aug. 31 trade deadline in the same manner it has almost every move since Mike Elias became Baltimore’s executive vice president and general manager 21 months ago: with a focus on the future.

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“I really don’t know what’s going to happen,” Elias said Saturday. “There’s so many dynamics and variables this year. It’s hard to list them all. It could be that nothing happens. It could be that we make three or four trades. I don’t know yet. We’re certainly talking and working on it.

“Despite the fact that our club is playing well and has a good record and is in the mix, we’re still listening on players that are on our major league roster if it makes sense for our future and for next year and the broader picture. But we’re not extra motivated to do anything, and we’re listening to baseball trades as they come along.”

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A six-game losing streak before Saturday’s contest spoiled a surprising 12-8 start, one that represented one-third of the regular season’s schedule with the coronavirus pandemic shortening the campaign to 60 games.

It also pushed the trade deadline back a month from its usual point, with extra stipulations at play. Teams are able to trade only those players who are on their 60-man pools, though the Orioles circumvented that rule by getting a player to be named later as the return for trading reliever Richard Bleier to the Miami Marlins earlier this month.

Although who that player ends up being remains unknown until the season ends and the limitations are removed, Elias’ trade history as Baltimore’s GM suggests a low-minors prospect. Only one of the seven players he acquired in trading away Andrew Cashner, Jonathan Villar and Dylan Bundy having played above High-A.

More such moves could come over the next week-plus, with reliever Mychal Givens and Saturday starter Alex Cobb being prime candidates even if the Orioles rebound from a poor homestand.

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“We’re looking at it from both angles,” Elias said. “We’re not going to just sell just to sell and get more prospects. But we’re not going to hold onto every single person on the team just because we’re close to a .500 club right now. We’re going to look at everything on a case-by-case basis. I still maintain from a strategic standpoint, from where we started from, with this being a 100-loss team now two years in a row and starting from that point and the total lack of international pipeline that everyone else has, we’ve got some catching up to do on a pipeline front, filling in the farm system. We’ve made a lot of progress, but we’re still keeping a broad eye on that.

“I think we’re going to continue to battle every night, but we’re going to be thinking about more than this season when we go into the trade deadline.”

Smith designated to add Williams

With Opening Day center fielder Austin Hays likely to miss at least another week with a broken rib, the Orioles added another center-field option to their roster by selecting the contract of Mason Williams. They also designated outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. for assignment to open a 40-man roster spot.

Both Elias and Hyde expressed hope that Smith, the Orioles’ Opening Day left fielder in 2019, will clear waivers and remain in the organization. After being acquired in a trade from the Toronto Blue Jays last spring, Smith, 27, hit .238/.298/.405 in two seasons with Baltimore.

He missed the majority of the Orioles’ preseason summer camp after testing positive for COVID-19.

“He got off to a weird start this year, coming in, tested positive for the virus and then basically having no summer camp and starting right onto the major league roster,” Elias said. “If we do end up keeping him, our hopes would be to get his feet underneath him at our site and get him back here on the club, but we’re going to have to see what happens.”

Williams, 29, hit .308/.371/.477 with Triple-A Norfolk last year before batting .267/.324/.300 in a September callup with the Orioles.

Around the horn

Both Hyde and Elias said the hope remains for right-hander Hunter Harvey, who started the season on the injured list with a right forearm strain, to rejoin the Orioles before the end of the month. … Ramón Urías got his first major-league start Saturday, batting eighth and playing second base. … Elias said the left knee injury that landed first baseman Chris Davis on the injured list Friday is likely not one that will end his season.

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