The Trade Deadline is over, and the Orioles did what I thought they would do: sell but not sell too hard.
While this was frowned upon by media and many fans, the Orioles weren’t going to compete with the top teams in the playoffs. They only sold players with little to no control, keeping most of the team together. I ended up going two for three in my predictions from last week. I thought Trey Mancini, Dillon Tate/Jorge Lopez, and Anthony Santander would get traded, and Trey and Lopez were moved.
At the end of the day, while it would have been cool to see the Orioles buy, it just isn’t smart. Look, this team isn’t close to the other teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race, and as much as fans don’t want to hear this, chasing Wild Cards isn’t what Mike Elias intends to do. This is what got the Orioles in trouble in the past, and I am glad Elias didn’t get ahead of himself and buy and hurt the farm system.
Elias didn’t sell that much. He traded a rental first baseman and a closer who had two years of control and had an ERA above six before this year. Fans lose track of how much these players are valued around the league, so it makes sense why the deals don’t look as good. So let’s look and see what the Orioles got and I’ll explain why I thought Elias did fine.
The Orioles finally did it: they traded the heart and soul of this team. Look, I understand what Mancini means to the clubhouse and fanbase, but Elias isn’t going to let that get in the way of the fact that Mancini only had nine weeks left of control, and he wasn’t lighting the world on fire. It hurts, but Elias made the right decision, as much as the fans and media don’t want to hear it.
It makes a ton more sense when you consider the return. Elias must have heard the fans complaining about the pitching depth because that is all he acquired at the deadline. He did have to get a second team involved in the trade to make the return better, but the haul for a rental is still impressive.
Seth Johnson is the most interesting prospect in this trade. He was a shortstop in Junior College but impressed the Rays enough for them to take him in the Competitive Balance part of the Draft in 2019. He was impressive in 2022, getting his fastball up to 98 mph and showing off a slider with some nasty break. Johnson was seen as a fringe top 100 prospect until the elephant in the room happened. He was available in a trade like this because he needs Tommy John Surgery and won’t pitch until late 2023. We probably won’t see him until 2024, which is deflating, but Johnson was too talented to pass up in a trade like this.
The second piece is Chayce McDermont. McDermont was a late riser in the 2020 Draft and showed some glimpses in the shortened season. He was slowly improving in 2022, but he struggled with control and played in a hitter’s environment. The Orioles probably liked him because of his strikeouts, and he does have the features that the Birds look for in pitchers. The ERA might be high, but I think the Orioles can help him perform better than what his ERA is showing. If they can get his pitches under control, they might have something.
The Orioles got a talented pitcher that won’t throw until 2024 and a talented yet inconsistent pitcher for a DH who wasn’t performing up to standards. It was always going to be tough to get a good return for Trey due to his positino and contract, but the Orioles did well. It stinks about Johnson’s injury, but the O’s probably can’t get him without it. Elias did what he had to do, and he got a decent return.
This one doesn’t have the flash as the Mancini trade. Lopez was an excellent story for the Orioles, ging from a waiver claim in 2020, to struggling as a starter in 2021, and becoming a good closer in 2022. I say good instead of lockdown for Lopez because he had moments of melting down. He still managed to show that he could be a great closer moving forward, but Elias sold high now instead of later. The return might not be as much as some wanted, but it is better to get something now rather than waiting. Waiting to trade relievers always blows up in the team’s face, and look no further than last year’s trade deadline. Tanner Scott and Paul Fry ended up taking nosedives, and the Orioles had to sell low on them. It is better to trade Lopez now when his value may never be higher instead of waiting to see if it keeps rising. Also, keep in mind Lopez has no track record of being a good reliever outside of this year, and he had some bad moments and wasn’t perfect. I think some fans overrated Lopez’s value, so the return might seem weak, but it isn’t bad for a reliever with little to no track record of success and only two years of control.
Cade Povich is the best prospect in this return right now. He has a fastball that sits in the low-90s and tops at 95, and he has been adding velocity. His slider works more like a cutter, and I would not be surprised to see the Orioles make the pitch a pure cutter. He also features a change-up that has some fade to it. He reminds me of Drew Rom and is probably the mid-to-back-end starter type that Elias is targeting right now. The other pieces are more depth than anything. Cano is a 28-year-old reliever who throws hard and seems more like a throw-in. The other pitchers are young starters who pitched in the Florida Complex league and have great strikeout rates and numbers the Orioles are looking at. This might not seem like a big return the fans wanted, but Lopez’s years of control hurt his return, and if this is the best return the Orioles could get, it is better to trade him now rather than later.
I didn’t talk about the Brett Phillips trade because I didn’t think it was important enough. He is a fantastic defender and personality that can’t hit, so we will see how this goes. If they want to call up Kyle Stowers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Phillips cut loose in a couple of weeks.
In the end, the Orioles improved their pitching depth and the best farm system in baseball by trading a DH who wasn’t hitting up to standards and a reliever who only had a limited sample size of success that showed he could be inconsistent.
Interestingly, I don’t think the Orioles sold as much as they could have. They only traded two players who don’t have a ton of team control left that didn’t hurt the team. Trading Trey opens up the DH so Brandon Hyde can be versatile and not have someone who needs it. As for Lopez, the bullpen still has a ton of pitchers performing well, and Felix Bautista will fit in nicely as the closer. Like it or not, Trey and Lopez were expendable, and the Orioles did what was best for the organization, not the fans. That stinks for us, but if you are upset that they traded Trey or Lopez, just understand that we have pieces that can replace them, and teams that make decisions based upon feelings wind up regretting it.
I will miss Trey and Lopez, but the return for Trey was probably too high to pass up and the Orioles had to trade Lopez when his value was, perhaps, peaking and couldn’t afford to wait – though time will tell.
The Orioles got a ton of pitching depth which they needed and the team didn’t move everything that breathed. A true Win-Win.