Is the wild card race really all that’s left for the Orioles, who executed moves over the past two days that on paper reduced their chances of making the playoffs for the first time since 2016?
Trey Mancini and Jorge López are gone. That won’t help. And it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone.
The Orioles were sellers, unless acquiring outfielder Brett Phillips from the Rays for cash also made them buyers. The slim distance between them and the last wild card spot didn’t hold much weight.
They weren’t going to stand pat. To do so would have required 29 other teams to ignore them.
The postseason odds still didn’t favor them. They weren’t tearing up the rebuild blueprint. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias wasn’t letting the GPS recalculate. These deals would be made with no regard for the standings.
Mancini was the most likely to go based on his contract status, age, position and salary. Didn’t make it any easier for teammates to watch him leave. This one really hurt.
Elias indicated that the sides could reconnect via talks over the winter, but where would Mancini fit in 2023? Not at first base, his natural position. Not in right field. Not as an everyday designated hitter. And rotating among them seems less desirable for both parties.
No attempts were made to sign Mancini to a long-term contract extension. The process of reaching agreement on a 2022 contract to avoid arbitration wasn’t exactly smooth.
He loves Baltimore and everything about the organization, but he’s going to test the market. Why wouldn’t he?
It just seems unlikely that Mancini will follow the Mike Bordick and Sidney Ponson paths of being traded at the deadline and returning the following season.
The two sentimental favorites are gone, with López making a less emotional farewell because his trade to the Twins happened yesterday morning. He hoped to catch some guys in the hotel lobby before leaving. He didn’t meet with local media.
López also wanted to stay, which says a lot about the chemistry on the team and the direction it’s headed. Going to a contender isn’t the same carrot that past veterans lunged for during my time on the beat.
Yes, there’s more to do with the 2022 Orioles than track the wild card race, though that’s plenty fun after five straight losing seasons.
More prospects are expected to debut before October.
There aren’t as many openings in the rotation with Jordan Lyles staying. Acquiring a controllable veteran starter was a possibility, but it didn’t materialize.
The outfield is intact. López was the only reliever traded. Rougned Odor remains at second base. But we can monitor how the Orioles choose to integrate the younger players into the clubhouse. If there are certain veterans who will head to the bench or leave the organization.
Kyle Stowers figured to be on deck, as it were, if the Orioles traded Anthony Santander or Cedric Mullins. Instead, they traded for Phillips.
Now we can monitor how the Orioles choose to make room for Phillips on the active roster. I’m easily entertained.
It isn’t redundant to keep Phillips on the team with Ryan McKenna, who bats from the right side, but do the Orioles actually want to take a look at Yusniel Diaz? They haven’t said much about him.
Diaz pinch-hit in the ninth inning last night with a seven-run lead and struck out. Just giving him a little taste, like Jimmy Conway to Henry Hill with the wad of cash in "Goodfellas."
DL Hall struggled again last night at Triple-A Norfolk, with six runs and five walks in four innings, and with three home runs surrendered. But he’s expected to pitch in the majors later this summer. The watch continues.
Elias will be asked about Gunnar Henderson. About Matt Harvey, too, if you prefer veterans seeking another chance. This isn’t a set roster.
No more trades, but lots of ways to alter it while also pursuing that wild card.