With one trade down and several more likely coming, the Orioles begin the post-All-Star game portion of their schedule tonight in Toronto. It’s the start of a three-game series that leads into a seven-game homestand that starts Monday night.
As expected Manny Machado played his last Orioles game on Sunday when the Orioles beat Texas 6-5, their second straight win. As the season resumes tonight the Orioles are looking for three-game win streak. They have won more than two in a row just one time all year - that was a season-high four-game win streak from May 9-12.
It will be interesting to hear clubhouse reaction tonight to the Machado trade. No one should be surprised Machado was dealt, of course, but for the first time since they drafted him in 2010, he is no longer part of the organization. The Orioles have to add a player to the roster tonight, which currently sits at 24 and we will find out if Tim Beckham is moved to shortstop and who winds up at third base.
MLBPipeline.com has added four of the new Orioles players to their current O’s top 30. They rate Ryan Mountcastle as the No. 1 prospect but outfielder Yusniel Díaz is now No. 2 with right-handed pitcher Dean Kremer No. 13, infielder Rylan Bannon No. 17 and right-handed reliever Zach Pop No. 29.
The Orioles have three players ranked in the mid-season Baseball America top 100 with Diaz No. 47, Austin Hays No. 65 and Mountcastle No. 66. If DL Hall gets on the list over the winter and the club can add another top 100 piece in an upcoming deal, placing four or five in the top 100 should certainly move the Orioles farm system into the top half of organizational rankings and maybe even close to or in the top 10.
When it comes to the rebuilding of the Orioles, I truly hope the team is fully committed to a rebuild. To me that means no longer signing a 32-year-old journeyman starting pitcher with a career 4.60 ERA when you can give those starts to a David Hess or a Yefry Ramirez. Or when they are ready Keegan Akin, Hunter Harvey, Michael Baumann, Zac Lowther, Alex Wells and/or a host of others. Not talking about Alex Cobb or Andrew Cashner here as they both had better numbers than that upon signing, but the days of adding marginal veteran talent should be bypassed to look at younger players already in the organzation.
The Orioles need to get out of the Rule 5 business. That draft can produce needed and productive end of the roster players, but why not give your own players that chance? Then they can be optioned and you don’t have a player on the roster that can’t be sent out.
Two areas of many that this club is desperate for help is on defense and with team speed. There are players than can fill both needs and they should be added. Along with players with better on-base percentages. The O’s got two in the Machado trade. Díaz has an OBP of .428 and Bannon is at .402. Infielder Breyvic Valera’s OBP is .350 in Triple-A this season.
The Orioles need high-energy players and everyday hustle needs to become the rule and not the exception. The Orioles clubhouse leadership has always been strong over the years, but it also got eroded a bit in recent years when they lost leaders like Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. They need to eventually develop new leaders among the younger veteran players.
I hope a proud fanbase is ready for the rebuild. That means supporting struggling young players and in fact, realizing that they will struggle. There is an excitement when a new young player gets on the roster. That excitement can wear off quickly when the player is hitting .150 or has an ERA of 5.50. But sometimes that is part of the growing and learning process and in today’s game some players finish the development process in the majors. Some will make it, many won’t. But in a perfect world the fans and organization will support them all.
To me it feels like the last 24 to 48 hours have pumped some renewed excitement back into the fans, who let’s face it, have been beaten down by all the losing. Nothing hurts interest in a team more than losing. But if the losing is part of a larger process and fans eventually find some players to get excited about, they’ll support this team. Eventually attendance will rise, this club simply has too many fans that love the Orioles, have their entire lives and will stick with them no matter what. Others perhaps will get energized by the club’s new direction.
A team with a 28-69 record will take the field tonight in Toronto. But maybe after the last few days, the fans will look at that team with greater hope tonight.