Is a trade inevitable for the Orioles?

If you look at the Orioles' possible Opening Day roster as 2024 approaches, we can see that it’s crowded between Triple-A and the majors. Once again this year, it is not easy to find playing time for all that might be good enough to make that roster.

It’s been said many times, but having too much talent doesn’t seem to be a problem except for getting all those players on the field.

The Orioles have rebuilt their major league roster while building an elite talent pipeline and the No. 1 farm system in baseball. They are good, deep and talented, and it’s getting harder for some kids to break in.

Just a few years ago, the rebuilding Orioles were giving playing time to players whose resumes now would maybe not stand much of a chance of gaining playing time. These are different times in Birdland.

If the Orioles carried two catchers and just four outfielders to begin the year (yes, five seems more likely) they could carry seven infielders. They currently have seven infielders on their 40-man roster with Gunnar Henderson, Jorge Mateo, Ryan Mountcastle, Ryan O’Hearn, Joey Ortiz, Ramón Urías and Jordan Westburg.

So those seven don’t include Jackson Holliday. They don’t include Connor Norby or Coby Mayo. They don’t include Terrin Vavra. And that is not to mention the outfield and how young players like Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad might get more time on the roster.

Infield prospect Westburg finally arrived, likely for good, in the big leagues last season. He had 714 plate appearances over the 2022 and 2023 seasons at Triple-A Norfolk.

Yep, that was a lot. But there was a time in O’s history when it seemed even harder to break through. That was during those glory days of 1969-1971, when the team won 100 or more games for three straight years and played in the World Series all three seasons.

In 1970, future O’s Hall of Famer Bobby Grich played 63 games at Triple-A Rochester, batting .383 with an OPS of 1.074. His OPS was .563 in 30 games with Baltimore. The next year he was back at Triple-A, batting .336 with an OPS of 1.071 in 130 more games on the farm and he went 9-for-30 with Baltimore.

In 1970, Don Baylor played in 140 games at Rochester, batting .327/1.011 and he played eight games with the Orioles. The next season, he was back at Triple-A, batting .313/.961 in 136 games and played just one game in Baltimore.

Over those two years, Grich took 864 plate appearances in the minors and Baylor had 1,202 plate appearances at Rochester.

Talk about having a hard time getting to the bigs! We thought Westburg had a long wait.

The infield depth seems to be leading to one conclusion – a trade is coming. Because it has not so far doesn’t mean it won’t. But the Orioles don’t have to make a trade, which puts them in good bargaining position. Mike Elias stated during the Winter Meetings that they can trade with just about any club in the majors in terms of their strong minor league depth and strong prospects list.

Teams often look to make trades from their depth – trade that of which you have a surplus.

The O’s prospects lists with infielders and outfielders shows plenty of depth. Less so probably among the arms.

To me, considering the depth of talent here, a deal seems likely, almost inevitable.

There will be a segment of Birdland that will want to hoard every good prospect and is fearful of trading any of them. And you never win all trades. But moving young talent is part of the game for winning clubs and it is one reason the best organizations can stay on top year after year. And yes, higher payrolls clearly factors in as well for the big market boys. But producing that talent pipeline is a huge reason the O’s got back to the top of the American League East and keeping the pipeline flowing is how they can stay on top.

Players like Norby and Mayo do not need to be protected from the Rule 5 draft until November 2024, so the club could keep them on the farm again this coming year as they keep pushing closer to the majors. There are a lot of ways the organization can go here.

They have an abundance of young talent. Yes, it’s a good problem, but it’s still a bit of a problem that has to work itself out eventually.

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