As the final hours tick down toward the non-waiver trade deadline, the Orioles are in a position they’ve been unfamiliar with in recent years. It’s a full rebuild in Baltimore. From the top on down, the “r-word” has been thrown out frequently in recent weeks. It started with the trade of Manny Machado to the Dodgers. It continued when Zach Britton was dealt to the Yankees. It’s been kept afloat as recently as yesterday when Brad Brach was sent to the Braves. The “r-word” these days isn’t retool or reload. It’s fully rebuild, and it’s completely necessary. But while the Orioles have only started in their efforts to rebuild, a lot of their intent can already be seen.
With yesterday’s trade of Brach to Atlanta, the O’s acquired international bonus slot money. The $250,000 will go toward attempting to bolster the team’s efforts to broaden their talent pool internationally. They’ve already been linked in reports to Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa. The Orioles are the only major league team that hasn’t signed an international free agent since the signing period opened up earlier this month. There’s proof that diving headfirst into the international pool is a good thing for a club looking to increase talent depth. Four of the top five prospects in the game (Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Eloy Jimenez, Victor Robles) were signed during the international signing period. A handful of other young, emerging stars like Gleyber Torres, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Juan Soto were also inked during that time of the year. If the Orioles are finally diving into these waters, it’s a change that will be received well.
Dan Duquette has made it clear, through statements in the media or even his annual session with season ticket holders this past weekend, that he intends to allocate funds to things like scouting, recruiting and player development. He also classified the idea to spend more on the major league roster in years past as an “ownership decision” and one geared to keep the core of the team together to maintain competitiveness. That competitiveness has obviously fallen off this season, and it seems like things are changing. Outside of international spending and scouting, the player development part is something that needs to come a long way for the Birds. Machado is the exception to a group of homegrown players who have not quite met expectations with the Orioles. Britton certainly developed into one of the best closers in the game, but he was also originally supposed to be a starter. The jury is still very much deliberating on players like Jonathan Schoop, Trey Mancini, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and Mychal Givens.
The Orioles have already traded their pending free agents outside of Adam Jones. That’s a situation with thousands of unique tentacles in itself. Jones’ ties to the community and organization make trading him complicated, so let’s just put that aside for a bit. The next question becomes whether or not the Orioles are really digging deep with their rebuild and willing to trade players like Schoop, Mancini, Gausman, Bundy and Givens. Otherwise, aren’t they just retooling or reloading, rather than rebuilding? There’s no clear-cut length for how long this rebuild will take. But trading away players who still have time left on their contracts can provide great value to the other team, therefore bringing back a bigger return. There’s also no rule that states such moves must happen prior to tomorrow’s non-waiver deadline. Those deals can easily be made this offseason, as long as there is a commitment to it like we’ve seen in the past few weeks with other trades.
Of course, this entire rebuild (if in fact that’s what we are still calling it in another six months), still has one large and looming question. Who exactly is running it going forward? Duquette is calling the shots right now. But like Machado, Britton and Brach, his contract is up after this season. The same holds true for the skipper, Buck Showalter. No one knows at this point if either will be back next season or beyond to see this thing through. It’s important for the Orioles to establish their leadership structure at the top. But before that comes, the Orioles do deserve some praise for taking the first few steps in this process. There’s a lot of nervousness throughout the fan base right now. No one knows what’s on the horizon. But things are definitely happening, and it’s definitely worth watching.
Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.