Last season at this time, the Orioles were gearing up to trade the likes of Manny Machado, Zack Britton, Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop.
This year, the question is whether likely All-Star Trey Mancini is next on the list to be traded as the Orioles continue to stockpile prospects in the second year of a rebuild.
“We’re not looking to part with Trey,’’ Orioles general manager Mike Elias says. “That said, we are open to anything. We do have our sights set on the future.
“If we end up making some trade transaction with him or any player, and we feel what we’re getting back is better for the organization, then we are going to listen. But he is an integral part of this team. And we hope he’s around for a while.’‘
This is the time of year when contending teams dispatch scouts to analyze other teams’ players as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
And the way the trade market works, contending teams start the ball rolling by calling non-contenders to see who is available.
Should the Orioles trade Mancini?
Elias says it could go either way.
But he might not have a decision to make.
Assuming no injuries, there won’t be deadline demand for Mancini.
Among contenders, Tampa Bay has the weakest lineup, but the Rays need to add to their bullpen because Diego Castillo and José Alvarado are their two best relievers.
Their corner outfielders are Tommy Pham and Austin Meadows. The Rays could upgrade first baseman Ji-Man Choi, but like other contending teams, pitching is the priority.
That’s why relievers such as Cleveland’s Brad Hand, San Francisco’s Will Smith and Arizona’s Greg Holland will be the hottest targets.
Starters Marcus Stroman (Toronto), Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco) and Noah Syndergaard (New York Mets) are possible trade chips.
In the National League East, the Braves have added starter Dallas Keuchel, but still need to boost a thin bullpen that has inexperienced Luke Jackson as their closer. They have prospects, cash and a need.
And the Braves said they tried to get Kimbrel in addition to Keuchel.
The Phillies’ biggest question is whether they need more help in the rotation or their bullpen, where seven relief pitchers are on the injured list. They’ve already moved two starters - Vince Velasquez and Jared Eichoff - to the bullpen.
Because of the Braves’ and Phillies’ flaws, the Nationals have time. And, in case you haven’t heard, the bullpen is where they need help, although Tanner Rainey is helping stabilize the unit.
The Cubs have picked up Kimbrel to be their closer, and Anthony Rizzo is their first baseman.
The Brewers have Zach Davies leading their rotation, but Jhoulys Chacin is struggling and Gio Gonzalez is hurt. Chase Anderson isn’t the answer and neither are Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta or Jimmy Nelson, who is coming back from a shoulder injury.
As usual, the Dodgers’ biggest question is their bridge from starter to closer Kenley Jansen. Their big-name acquisition, Joe Kelly, hasn’t delivered.
The Yankees have Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton returning from injury and their first baseman, Luke Voit, is hitting, so there’s no fit in New York. Plus, the Yankees rotation is a question at every slot.
The Twins, leaders in the American League Central, are on pace for a single-season record of 300 home runs, so no there’s no need for Mancini in Minnesota.
Minnesota’s bullpen has three reliable relief pitchers in Taylor Rogers, Blake Parker and Trevor May, not enough for a deep October run.
Cleveland could use an outfield bat, but are the Indians contenders?
Houston? Forget it. The Astros are waiting for George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa to be healthy. They aren’t going to need Mancini.
So, with the market the way it is, the prediction is that Mancini stays and the Orioles will be flooded with calls about Mychal Givens and Andrew Cashner.