Through the draft and international signing period, the Orioles’ new baseball operations department headed by executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias has already added young talent to a farm system desperate for it at the expense of draft picks and money. The next stage of talent acquisition in Elias’ first season guiding the Orioles’ front office will require expending players.
The July 31 trade deadline is coming up, and with the elimination of the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline, this month marks the last time this season that sellers can sell and buyers can buy. The Orioles, who will wrap up the first half with the worst record in baseball at 25-61, are clearly a seller, so Elias will be offering major league players to add prospects.
“That’s part of the game now and every team kind of goes through that now,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “I’ve been on the other end of it the last few years [with the Chicago Cubs], where we’re hoping for certain people to come our way, and it’s gonna be a little bit different. You never know what’s going to happen. I know Mike’s going to do everything he can to try to get really good players in here from now on. I think anything could happen with the trade deadline.”
This season’s deadline figures to be unlike last year’s purge. The Orioles can’t offer teams pending free agents at the level of Manny Machado, Zack Britton and Adam Jones — whose 10-and-5 rights allowed him to finish the season in Baltimore. They also no longer have a Kevin Gausman or Jonathan Schoop, players whose arbitration years would make them arguably too expensive for a rebuilding team.
This year’s crop of tradable assets features some homegrown Orioles that might prove difficult to part with unless the right deal comes along, as well as pieces that would be logical to move.
Here’s a look at five players who could be facing their final few weeks as Orioles.
Perhaps the most logical trade piece Elias has at his disposal, Cashner is coming off his best month of the season and one of the best of his career. He lasted at least six innings in all four of his June starts, closing the month with seven scoreless innings June 29 to finish the month with a 1.44 ERA.
A blister, illness and some lower body soreness caused him to miss some time. But when he’s been on the mound, he’s been the Orioles starter who has most consistently provided length out of the rotation. Although replacing the 32-year-old Cashner’s innings could prove difficult for a staff that has struggled for much of the season, his status as a pending free agent on a team well below .500 likely supersedes that, should a contender looking for another arm come calling.
This undoubtedly will be the most difficult decision Elias will face this trade deadline. Although Mancini wasn’t named an All-Star, Elias is well aware Mancini is the best player on his team’s roster. Mancini’s first half had him in the top 20 in the American League in numerous stats, including batting average (.300), doubles (19), home runs (17), extra-base hits (38) and OPS (.888).
What makes Mancini, 27, attractive to the Orioles will also make him attractive to contenders, though it’s fair to wonder how many could use a player who is defensively limited to first base or an outfield corner. Elias has said the Orioles are open to anything when it comes to Mancini, their approach ranging from trading him to extending his contract. As it stands, Mancini won’t be a free agent until after the 2022 season, so if the right offer doesn’t come along now, it could conceivably come in the offseason or next July.
The promise Bundy, 26, possessed as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 draft never fully came to fruition, as injuries tamed the blazing fastball that built his status as a top prospect. Still, his off-speed pitches remain effective, and since starting to rely on them more heavily, Bundy has often gotten his job done in the Orioles rotation.
In a run of eight starts from May 4 to June 15, Bundy threw his fastball fewer than half of the time in six of them and posted a 3.09 ERA. Bundy has said he doesn’t go into starts planning to throw a certain percentage of fastballs, but if a buyer believes it can get him to consistently work below that 50% percent benchmark, Elias might be able to turn Bundy’s remaining 2½ years of control into an intriguing prospect or two.
Entering the year as the reliever with the most experience in a bullpen that otherwise lacked it, Givens figured to be the Orioles’ closer, have a strong first half and catch the eye of a handful of contenders. But that hasn’t gone to plan, as Givens too has been plagued by the Orioles’ knack for allowing home runs, with the eight he’s given up in 30 appearances this year matching the number he forfeited in his previous 103 outings entering this season.
It’s possible, though, that a contender will notice that much of his 4.76 ERA is the result of outings in which he has pitched across multiple innings. In appearances that Givens has returned after finishing an inning, he has a 6.16 ERA, compared to a 3.00 ERA in outings where has been limited to one frame. A buyer could try to use Givens, 29, in a more traditional relief role of pitching a clean inning as a setup man rather than the “get the most important outs” role Hyde has needed.
Alberto, 26, is one of the great stories of the Orioles’ season, having been waived or designated for assignment by four organizations — including Baltimore — during the offseason. Now, he’s consistently provided the team energy in the clubhouse and on the field, entering Thursday ranked fifth in the American League in batting average at .316.
The infielder has done the majority of his damage against left-handers, hitting a major league-best .423 against them. He’s also found great success against fastballs, entering Thursday with a .388 average off them. Predominantly a singles hitter whose on-base percentage is carried by his batting average, Alberto, who will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, is unlikely to garner much of a return on his own. But if a team is looking to add a starting pitcher and a bench bat, Elias could pair Alberto with Cashner to possibly increase the worth of package the Orioles might receive if they traded each individually.
Right-handed reliever Miguel Castro, left-handed starter John Means, catcher Pedro Severino, infielder Jonathan Villar