Before the Orioles decided to add talent at the nonwaiver trade deadline in July instead of subtracting it by dealing top relievers such as Zach Britton or Brad Brach, they had precedent on their side.
Twelve months earlier, the New York Yankees received a ransom of prospects from the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians for Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, respectively, which ended up supplementing what was already a tremendous young core.
The Miller trade in particular, which brought back outfielder Clint Frazier and left-hander Justus Sheffield, was comparable for the quality and versatility they could have expected to receive.
But, as has been well-worn, the Orioles didn't trade any pieces away, they fell apart in September and they are now a year away from facing life without potential free agents Britton, Brach, third baseman Manny Machado and center fielder Adam Jones. And four months later, according to FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman, they're back to talking about trading Britton.
The problem is they've lost the advantage of precedent.
Miller and Chapman weren't the only big relievers dealt in 2017 — after the 2016 season ended, the Chicago Cubs acquired Kansas City Royals closer Wade Davis. Davis, like Britton, was a year away from free agency and coming off a year in which he was still effective but battled a forearm injury.
Davis had a 0.94 ERA in 69 appearances during the Royals' 2015 World Series season but made just 45 appearances in 2016. Britton famously converted all 47 save opportunities presented to him in 2016 with a 0.54 ERA but made just 38 appearances in a challenging 2017.
The return for one year of Davis coming off a forearm injury was Jorge Soler, a Cuban slugger who had plenty of potential but failed to hold down a regular role in Chicago's crowded outfield. This year, he hit 24 home runs in 74 Triple-A games but had a .503 OPS in the majors.
Kansas City might need Soler with the pending free agency of Lorenzo Cain this offseason, and he'll be under club control through 2021. But what the Orioles will require if they're really going to start looking for the future isn't the one possible impact player the Royals got, but packages with a pair of headliners and a few fliers like the Yankees got from the Cubs and Indians.
Whether the Orioles have missed their window for that — or were ever interested in trying to make a deal to begin with — is tough to say. And the ones who know aren't very likely to share it.