With Manny Machado now off to Los Angeles, the Orioles are in an official rebuild. It's a word that's been touchy for some, but now it's being used by executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. Wheels are spinning and plans are being made, whether Duquette is around to see it through beyond this season or not.
In a conference call following the Machado trade, Duquette laid out the blueprint for the Orioles to get back to competitiveness by increasing the use of analytics, committing to international scouting and enhancing the front office staff. All of that sounds great, and is important in a wide, overarching look at the organization as a whole. But there are also some specific things that still need to be done to figure out where the team is going. Outside of off-the-field decisions like the futures of Duquette and manager Buck Showalter, the O's face important decisions with specific players. The most crucial is perhaps Machado's former double play partner and good friend, Jonathan Schoop.
The Orioles are likely still going to make more trades before the July 31 non-waiver deadline that could include Zach Britton or perhaps Adam Jones. But figuring out what to do with Schoop going forward is a huge mystery. The 26-year-old's contract expires after next season, and he's virtually untradeable right now due to his struggles this season. After an All-Star campaign last year in which he hit .293/.338/.503 with 32 home runs, the second baseman is hitting just .229/.262/.394 with 11 homers this season. He also missed nearly a month earlier in the season due to an oblique strain.
There are many fans that would love to see the Orioles go out and try to re-sign Schoop right now. Some see locking him in to a long-term deal as a consolation for failing to do the same with Machado. But there's also no motivation for Schoop to sign a new contract when he's having a down season. He's likely to enter a contract year in the same way that Machado did this season. My question, after seeing his performance this season, has become whether he's actually the future for the Orioles in a rebuilding phase.
Whether or not he stays at second base or moves to the left side of the infield in some capacity, I think there should be serious questions about the Orioles moving forward with Schoop at all. I'd start to wonder if he's closer to the player we saw in 2017 as an All-Star, the player we are seeing this season or somewhere in between those two. There's a very real possibility that we've seen Schoop's best season, yet to hear many explain it, he's the unquestioned future for the Orioles and a player they can't part with. I don't see this logic.
The Orioles are locked into just two guaranteed, non-arbitration contracts beyond next season in Chris Davis and Alex Cobb. Players like Schoop, Mark Trumbo and Darren O'Day will be free agents and the O's roster will continue to churn, hopefully in a younger direction. If the Orioles are indeed going in a rebuilding direction, it's going to take time. That's time that may be best spent moving on from a player like Schoop. I also don't want it to seem like I'm targeting Schoop. The Orioles should be looking to deal any player that can provide a return of younger, controllable pieces that may contribute in the future. That's exactly what a rebuild is, and it's how the Orioles have to approach it. If they could trade Trumbo (who has been productive) before the deadline this season, they should do it. If they could get a big return for Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman, they should explore that idea, as well.
Outside of pitching, which is always an area of need and concern, the infield and Schoop's future are my biggest questions with the Orioles going forward into this rebuild. There appears to be plenty of candidates in the minors to fill outfield needs. Whether or not any of them pan out is a different question, but at least there are prospects. But the infield is a different story. There is already a large hole on the left side with the departure of Machado. The Orioles have to figure out if Schoop is going to be part of this franchise beyond this rebuild; if so, they need to figure out how to keep him.
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.