The trade deadline came and went Wednesday afternoon without the Orioles moving a player from the major league roster, a decision executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said was based partly on the organization having no players it felt required to deal.
Outfielder Trey Mancini, reliever Mychal Givens, infielder Jonathan Villar and others remained with the Orioles, with the team’s only major league trade in July being the deal more than two weeks before the deadline that sent right-hander Andrew Cashner to the Boston Red Sox for two 17-year-old prospects. Cashner, though, was due to be a free agent at the end of the season, and the Orioles’ only other pending free agent is the injured Mark Trumbo. Villar is their only player beyond Trumbo whose not under team control after 2020.
“We weren’t really pressured to move anyone right now because these guys who we have on the team are under control,” Elias said Thursday. “We are rebuilding and we’re at the beginning stage of that process, so any time we can take present value and convert it into future value, especially more future value, that’s gonna be attractive to us, and we just never felt like we got to that point in the equation.
“As I’ve said all along this year, our goal is to raise the talent level up and down the organization. That includes players that are on the major league team, and the trades that were available to us, I didn’t feel like they were gonna do that. I thought they might actually lower the talent level.”
Elias, in his first year with the Orioles after being with the Houston Astros since 2012, said the Orioles were active leading up to and around the deadline.
He said the differences in this deadline included the types of players teams pursued based on the elimination of the Aug. 31 deadline. He cited the Orioles’ trade of Triple-A right-hander Dan Straily to the Philadelphia Phillies for cash as an example of a depth trade that might have happened in August in previous years. Nothing beyond that move got too far along.
“I think there were some moments where it looked like something might happen, but we didn’t get close in the sense of exchanging medical files or anything like that,” he said. “I’ve seen closer calls than what we had. We were extremely active both in terms of our preparation but also the levels of communication, but just did not end up pulling the trigger on anything that we felt was the right thing to do.”
The Orioles could revisit those conversations again beginning in the offseason, when there is more time to piece together a deal and more teams can be involved in those discussions.
Villar, then, will have one season of control remaining and could be owed several millions of dollars on a team that still won’t be expected to compete. Givens and right-hander Dylan Bundy are under control through 2021, and Mancini isn’t due to be a free agent until after the 2022 season.
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“With any player, you have to gauge the different junctures where it might make more sense, if you are gonna move a guy, when to do that, and the trade deadline is just one opportunity for that,” Elias said. “Of course, there’s also the option of keeping these players on the team and growing with them and helping us win games.”
In Mancini’s case in particular, that opens the door for an extension, though both Elias and Mancini have reiterated that no such talks have begun. Mancini is more than open to staying with the organization beyond 2022, but he understands the rebuilding organization has other priorities.
“I hope he’s here for a long time,” Elias said. “I’ve said that for a while, and he’s everything that you ask for in the clubhouse. He’s having a terrific season, and he’s our best player, so we like having him here. I still feel like this is my first year, as [manager Brandon Hyde] said, we’re in an inventory-taking stage, and I think we’re at the beginning part of a new era of baseball here. Looking at contract extensions is just not something on the forefront of my plate right now, but certainly he’s an attractive guy to have around for a while.”
With the Orioles years away from contention, adding to their developing farm system is a bigger focus for Elias. Baseball America recently had the Orioles as the eighth best farm system in baseball, with 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick Adley Rutschman leading the way.
Although teams made offers for the Orioles’ major league players, Elias said the offers didn’t include impact talent worth adding to that system at the cost of one of the organization’s major league pieces.
“We like these players,” Elias said. “They’re here. They’re young, too, and having them around is great. I value these guys, and we’re not gonna just trade them to trade them and say we traded guys and got a couple of names if we didn’t really believe in the names, if our scouting department didn’t believe in them. That can be kind of a quick high to get somebody who’s No. 17 on the MLB.com [organizational prospect] list, but if you don’t really believe that it’s for real, it’s not the right move. We’re gonna value these guys properly, and do the right thing by the organization.”