Zach Wilt: O’s last blockbuster set franchise up for next decade

On every Orioles road trip this season, I wonder if Manny Machado will return home with the rest of the club. Was Sunday’s 8-2 victory over the Angels the last time Machado played in front of the home crowd at Camden Yards as an Oriole or will we see him suit up again on Monday against the Yankees? We’ll see what happens over the next three days as the Birds take on the Twins in Minnesota. Like many in Birdland, I’ve got my eyes glued to Twitter, waiting for that breaking news about an inevitable big trade.

The latest report on Machado came from Buster Olney of ESPN.com, who cited rival executives detailing the Orioles focused, organized and aggressive approach at the deadline. If your favorite team is going to trade their biggest star, you want the front office to take their time with a methodical approach. The Orioles are in the driver’s seat right now, there’s no need to jump at an offer or rush this process. They need to maximize the return since this trade could impact the club for the next decade.

That might sound a bit extreme - a decade - but if you look back at the last time the Orioles dealt a big star and rebuilt, their return is still making an impact more than 10 years later. The 2007 Orioles finished the season in last place with a 69-93 record. That offseason, they dealt Erik Bedard, their 5 WAR lefty starter who finished the season in fifth place in American League Cy Young Award voting. It was a risky move, but one that ultimately set up the franchise’s turnaround.

For Bedard, the Orioles received Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Tony Butler and Kam Mickolio. That trade worked out pretty well. Bedard followed his five win season with a 0.9 WAR and 1.7 WAR years in Seattle. He ended up playing for the Red Sox, Pirates, Astros and Rays from 2011-2014 before retiring at 35.

Comparing Bedard to Machado, though, isn’t really fair. Machado turns 26 today, while Bedard was in his age-29 season when he was traded. Machado is a free agent after this season, Bedard was under control for two seasons. I think it’s also safe to say that Machado is a bigger star than Bedard was at the time.

Let’s focus instead on the return that Andy MacPhail and the Orioles received after what many would assume was a focused, organized and aggressive approach to the deal. Jones has spent the last decade in center field for the Orioles. He’s a five-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner and, most importantly, has been the leader in the clubhouse during the team’s turnaround. A Bedard-for-Jones trade alone would have been a steal for the Orioles.

Tillman’s struggles the last two seasons have been well documented, but let’s not forget that he was an opening day starter for three seasons, pitched more than 200 innings in 2013 and 2014, and made three postseason starts for the Orioles, including a victory in Game 1 of the AL Division Series in 2014. Even if Tillman never pitches again in Baltimore, the Orioles still received 10 years of starts from him, four of which he had ERAs under 4.00.

Sherrill, Mickolio and Butler are easy to forget. Sherrill was an All-Star with Baltimore in 2008 and was traded to the Dodgers the following season. The Orioles received Josh Bell and Steve Johnson in return. Mickolio appeared in 29 games between 2008-2011 with the Orioles. He finished his tenure in Baltimore with a 4.32 ERA and was traded with David Hernandez to Arizona for Mark Reynolds. Butler played in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, short-season Single-A Aberdeen and Single-A Delmarva for the Birds and was released after 2 1/2 years in the organization.

Moving Bedard, brought the Orioles five players in return. Two of those five have played in Baltimore for the last 10 years. Two more were traded for guys that helped lead the O’s to their first postseason berth in more than a decade. There are so many names and prospects that have been tied to Machado and the Orioles. It’s hard to say who exactly the Orioles will get in return for their star shortstop. As fans, we can only hope that the effects of the trade are as long-lasting as their last major deal.

Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_wilt. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. 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.

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