Thursday Thoughts: Trying to Digest the Orioles’ Sudden Turn

sun setting over camden yards
As the Sun sets on one era, it will soon dawn upon another. (photo: Tim Anderson)

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. It’s taken me a couple of days to fully wrap my head around what the Orioles did earlier this week. In fact, I still don’t think I’m completely there. But, it’s Thursday, and I’m here to opine.

I actually told our editor Derek Arnold here at Eutaw Street Report that I’d send him over some reaction to Tuesday’s deadline trades the other night when they happened, but I couldn’t actually get anything down that made sense (Ed note: True!). Days later, perhaps it still won’t make sense.

I learned that the Orioles had traded Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day and Jonathan Schoop via an alert from the MLB At-Bat app on my phone. It happened as I was walking out of work Tuesday, just about 30 minutes after the deadline had passed. I wasn’t glued to my phone throughout the day, because frankly I didn’t expect news from the Orioles.

My mouth ended up agape (literally) when I looked down and saw that the O’s had kicked their rebuild into full gear. My initial reaction was actually excitement. I was excited that the Orioles were mashing down the gas and pushing it to fifth gear on this thing. I quickly switched to some sadness when I realized that those three players would no longer be Orioles.

From excitement to sadness, I also felt hope and regret all at the same time. It’s been quite the emotion tornado this week.

2. I think one of the important things to take away from this week, is that no one knows what the next few years will bring for the Orioles. I’ll be the first to openly admit I hadn’t heard of most of the prospects that came back the Birds in trades they made prior to the deadline. I’m going to estimate that at least 95% of the readers of this column hadn’t either.

Experts can have their opinions, and they are informed ones, don’t get me wrong. But projecting MLB farm systems is an inexact science, even for the experts. In the last few days, I’ve already heard a number of opinions from both the experts and the fans that claim the Orioles didn’t get enough in these trades or that they valued quantity over quality. This is all well and good, but it can’t really be evaluated for about another two years at a minimum.

I’ve heard others claim that if the Orioles put their money where their mouth is and go out and sign Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa, then it will have all been worthwhile. That’s insane as well. No fan had heard of Mesa before last week.

The one thing that did puzzle me about these trades is the O’s acquisition of Jonathan Villar from the Brewers. Villar is a 27-year-old major leaguer who is already established. He’s simply a stopgap player in Baltimore. I question why the Orioles couldn’t have used someone else in a stopgap role while they are going to be down, rather than acquiring someone. Perhaps the Brewers weren’t offering another prospect or maybe they wanted the O’s to take back Villar as a condition of the deal. But the Orioles should be getting younger in everything they do right now. Villar doesn’t help them accomplish that.

These moves the Orioles pulled off, more than anything, saved them money. If that money is allocated toward improving scouting and development, then I’m all for it. That’s exactly what Dan Duquette says it’s going toward. But the Orioles need to do two things simultaneously. They need to allocate money toward scouting and development while also knowing when to strike on actual Major League talent in free agency.

It’ll be a while before they need to do that, but that day will come.

Adam Jones bangs his donut off his bat.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

3. One player some people expected to head out the door this week is Adam Jones, but he’s still an Oriole. The veteran center fielder exercised his 10-5 rights and decided to stay in Baltimore – and anyone giving him grief for that can kindly put a sock in it. I

don’t even need to elaborate, because Jones said it all. He earned his rights, and took advantage of them. There’s nothing wrong with it. What many fans failed to even think about is where Jones stands in all of this. If he had agreed to go to a team like the Indians or Phillies, he’d be joining a pennant race. But he’d also potentially be joining a team that wouldn’t play him as much as the Orioles might. As a veteran heading into an offseason where he could be potentially be getting his last contract, that wouldn’t help his value.

There are also Jones’ off-field endeavors to think about. He’s extremely involved in the community, and I’m sure that factored in his decision. Picking up and moving in the middle of a season is not something that would be easy to go through for anyone. Jones may or may not be back next season. I have no real clue what kind of market will be out there for him this winter. There obviously wasn’t much of one in the trade market.

Jones may also face some reduced playing time this year if Cedric Mullins is called up to the O’s. Mullins is viewed as part of the future in Baltimore. For a team with a lack of serious organizational depth, the Birds do have their fair share of outfield prospects. It’s going to be crowded in the future. In addition to Mullins, top prospect Yusniel Diaz (acquired in the Machado deal), Austin Hays, Ryan McKenna and D.J. Stewart could all be knocking down the door in the coming years.

If Jones wants to come back and be a veteran presence next year and beyond, I’m all for it. In fact, there’s very little Jones could do to have my opinion of him change. He’s the most beloved Oriole since Cal Ripken Jr.

That won’t change whether he’s wearing Baltimore across his chest next season or not.

4. There’s one thing coming out of this trade deadline that remains a massive question in the same way that it was before the deadline:

What exactly are the roles of Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter moving forward?

Buck Showalter & others stand around the O's training facility.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Duquette supposedly made all these moves, and you wouldn’t think a franchise that has any kind of organization (insert jokes here) would allow an outgoing GM to do such a thing. Some say this deadline proves Duquette is now more likely to stick around.

But how does that shake out with Showalter, with whom he obviously doesn’t jive? Does Showalter even want to stick around for a rebuilding process? It doesn’t seem like something he’d want to take part in at this point in his career. The thinking had been that next year it would either be one or neither of them coming back.

The only thing that’s been made clear is that no one knows what will happen and no one knows who is making the decisions. But that was clear beforehand as well. My mindset with these types of things has always been that if you don’t think you can get someone better to do the job, you keep the person in place. That goes for both the GM and the manager.

I don’t know who the O’s would go out and get at this point that is better than Duquette or Showalter. But it still seems like they won’t co-exist in Baltimore.

Outside of who will make an appearance on the field the rest of this season by way of prospects, knowing what’s happening off of it remains the organization’s biggest question.

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