The State of Birdland as the Trade Deadline Approaches

Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette at O's Fan Fest on stage.

This is a guest blog by Dillon Atkinson, formerly of Orioles Uncensored. Follow Dillon on Twitter @DAtkinsonOU.

Things seem to be getting a bit chaotic and emotional in Birdland over the past couple weeks, after seeing two fan-favorite ball players get traded away from the club, and with one of those two heading to a divisional rival. I

n this depressing and frustrating time for the Baltimore Orioles and its fans, I’d like to step in and express my feelings on some key topics.

First of all, where the hell did this front office come from and who is running the show?

I’ve seen many fans criticize the Orioles’ ownership and front office for how they’ve handled things over the past oh, 20-plus years. Have I been participated in this criticism? Yes, I have. And I stand by those criticisms.

But it’s time to put what’s in the past, in the past.

Should the Orioles have been sellers in 2015? You can make that argument (yes, people still talk about it).

Should the Orioles have pushed harder to extend star Manny Machado? Sure.

Should they have tried trading him last offseason or even prior to that to maximize return? Again, sure.

Should the Orioles have pulled the trigger on the Zach Britton deal to Houston last summer that fell through at the last minute? Possibly.

However, what do all of those situations have in common?

This: those decisions cannot be changed now.

The Orioles made some blunders in the past – whether it be from the front office and/or ownership. With those blunders in the past, though, it doesn’t mean they should continue making mistakes. And now, they’re not. They received the best prospect packages available from the Dodgers and Yankees for Machado and Britton, respectively, and the organization has begun the rebuilding process.

I don’t know who’s running the show right now, whether it be Brady Anderson, one or both of the Angelos sons, or if control has been given back to Dan Duquette.

Whoever it is, though, they’ve done a damn good job so far this summer.

Orioles release right-hander Chris Tillman

Chris Tillman winds up to pitch.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

After he pitched very poorly on a recent rehab assignment in the minors, the Orioles decided to designate veteran starting pitcher Chris Tillman for assignment. The organization gave him the opportunity to accept an outright to continue to pitch for Triple-A Norfolk, but he declined, making him a free agent.

Sadly, it’s quite easy to remember the most-recent version of Tillman. Last season, in 93 innings pitched, Tillman posted an abysmal 7.84 ERA, and through 26 2/3 innings this year, his ERA was 10.46. With fans basically begging the Orioles to not let him touch the mound over the past season and a half, I don’t think the fanbase should forget what Tillman brought to the ball club prior to 2017.

From 2012 through 2016, Tillman threw 844 2/3 innings, sporting a very respectable 3.81 ERA over those five seasons. Here is his year-by-year breakdown:

  • 2012: 2.93 ERA over 86 IP
  • 2013: 3.71 ERA over 206 1/3 IP
  • 2014: 3.34 ERA over 207 1/3 IP
  • 2015: 4.99 ERA over 173 IP
  • 2016: 3.77 ERA over 172 IP.

Although his most recent outings over the past year and a half leave fans feeling sick, I believe we do need to recognize him for what he has done for the five years in Birdland of .500-plus baseball: One All-Star nomination, one ALDS Game One start, one ALCS Game One start, and one AL Wild Card Game start.

He deserves some recognition for being a key piece in the Erik Bedard trade. Let’s remember more than just the last version of Tilly that we saw.

Lastly, where does the team go from here?

Adam Jones sunglasses.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

What’s a great storybook ending here? Here’s mine: the Orioles trade Adam Jones to a contender that goes on to win the World Series. Jones gets his ring and then signs back with the Orioles to finish his career as a corner outfielder in Baltimore.

That actually sounds pretty cool. In reality, though, this may be the last week we see Jones in an Orioles uniform. The organization has three highly-touted outfield prospects – Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, and Yusniel Diaz – who could be major-league ready any minute now. So, this could very well mean that all three could be starting in the Orioles outfield by next season, which is already crowded in by first baseman-playing-outfield Trey Mancini. If the Orioles really want to get a look at what might be a talented three-man outfield for years to come, Jones may not be a piece that’s able to fit into that puzzle.

Jones and reliever Brad Brach, both two-month rentals, are next on the Orioles list to move by Tuesday. The Indians and Phillies are reportedly the top suitors to land Jones, and teams are also always looking for bullpen help. It wouldn’t shock me at all if Jones and Brach wind up in the same deal. However, unlike the Machado and Britton deals, I’m not expecting a whole lot of return to the Orioles for these two rentals, as they both are having arguably their worst seasons in their Orioles’ careers. Despite this, the return could still be worth moving these two, as well as another rental like Danny Valencia, in the next week.

If the organization wants to make more prospect splashes, they need to listen on their true chips who have more than just two months of team control remaining: Jonathan Schoop, Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, and Mychal Givens come to mind. The Cubs have reportedly spoken to the Orioles about Bundy and Gausman, and the Rockies and Braves have all also been linked to the two right-handers.

According to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, Gausman has been “checked on” by the Yankees, and he and Schoop have received additional interest from the Braves and Brewers. Remember when I said that maybe the Orioles made a mistake by waiting until now to trade Machado and Britton? Let’s not make that mistake this time around. Listen on offers for those four. If you like one, pull the trigger. If you don’t like the offers, hold off and try again in the offseason.

It’s time to look toward the future, Birdland. Appreciate what the big assets in black and orange have done over the years, sell high on them, and look at the big picture.

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