With family and friends gathering soon for the Thanksgiving holiday, the baseball business could slow but won’t necessarily halt. The screeching sound isn’t brakes. More likely talk radio.
Mike Elias could turn off his phone or charge it in another room while the turkey’s carved. He might be traveling and temporarily unavailable. But he’s aware of a fast-developing market after his time at the general managers meetings in Arizona. How pitching could fly off the board – unlike turkeys, who can’t fly – with so many teams searching for it.
The expanded playoffs increase the aggressiveness of executives, especially after the second-place, 84-win Diamondbacks reached the World Series. Snoozing brings the risk of losing.
Elias is known to prefer club control beyond one year if listening to trade offers, but the quest for a starter who slots high in the rotation might now allow it. Some of the biggest names assumed to be available are approaching free agency, most notably Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes, Cleveland’s Shane Bieber and Tampa Bay’s Tyler Glasnow. The White Sox’s Dylan Cease has two years left on his contract.
The rentals can command less in return, but higher demand and desperation also can plant the sellers more firmly in the driver’s seat. Bidding wars aren’t confined to free agency.
The Athletic’s Jim Bowden, a former executive, led his five-team trade fits for Burnes with the Orioles. He wrote that a package consisting of left-hander DL Hall, right-hander Chayce McDermott, corner infielder Coby Mayo and outfielder Dylan Beavers “would probably be close to what it would take to land Burnes.”
So the Orioles would need to surrender more than that.
“A steep price for a one-year rental,” Bowden added, “but probably worth it for a strong shot to win it all.”
Let’s pause here to point out the popular industry perception that the Orioles fell at least one starter short of winning a championship. That a Nathan Eovaldi or Jordan Montgomery could have swung the American League Division Series in their favor and kept them marching toward the World Series. They had the offense, though it cooled down the stretch, and the bullpen to piece together the last few innings, though losing closer Félix Bautista was a gut punch.
Mayo is the No. 4 prospect in the organization and No. 27 in baseball, with raw power that causes jaws to drop as baseballs fall beyond fences. The contact is loud, the kind that halts conversations during his batting practice sessions. A sound that distinguishes him from other batters in the cage.
He also had a plus arm at third base but a path to it that isn’t cleared. The Orioles moved him across the diamond to first base, where he made 19 starts with Triple-A Norfolk and nine with Double-A Bowie.
Mayo led Orioles minor leaguers with 45 doubles, 29 home runs and 99 RBIs. His .973 OPS also was first among hitters with more than 99 plate appearances. He would have been an easy choice for the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year before Elias and his staff created the talent pipeline that raised the farm system to No. 1 status and brought Jackson Holliday.
Perhaps the Orioles view Mayo as the first baseman of the future, though Ryan Mountcastle doesn’t reach free agency until after the 2026 season. Mayo is expected to make his major league debut this summer.
Will it be with the Orioles?
McDermott, a former fourth-round pick of the Astros who was part of the 2022 three-team trade that saw the Orioles surrender first baseman Trey Mancini, is the No. 10 prospect in the system. He’s also the highest-ranked pitcher. And he’s also the reigning Minor League Pitcher of the Year in the organization.
Beavers, the 33rd-overall selection in 2022, is ranked ninth. He appeared in 119 games between High-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie and slashed .288/.383/.467 with 35 doubles, six triples, 11 home runs, 60 RBIs, 70 walks and 27 stolen bases.
I sought an opinion of Beavers from a scout with another organization who’s tracked Orioles minor leaguers.
“I like him a lot,” the scout said. “There’s some things he’s got to get cleaned up with his swing, but I like him a lot.”
Hall graduated from prospect status but can’t get past injuries that prevent him from becoming an established starter, or to keep developing in that role. But the arm is so special that the Orioles go back on their plans and put him in the bullpen to aid their push to the playoffs.
Parting with him would be painful because he’s such a weapon. But it also might be necessary in certain talks.
I’m not very good at thrusting my opinion in imaginary trades because I tend to want to hold onto the prospects, and especially for rentals. Actual prospects and not the over-hyped kind that past regimes force-fed us. The four players proposed by Bowden, like a starting point for further talks that might required a fifth to complete a deal, really seems steep. But Elias indicated that he’s more likely to dip into his stash after getting through the 2023 trade deadline with minimal losses.
It also makes sense if guys like Mayo and Beavers are blocked or at least finding it harder to break through. An active pipeline can’t wash everyone onto the Orioles’ shore.
So here is today’s question:
Do you make that trade for Burnes? And let’s take it further. Would you sweeten the pot with another prospect?