Pitchers and catchers don’t report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex until Feb. 13. There’s plenty of time for the Orioles to straighten out their offseason and no longer feel like victims.
Plenty of time for the lucky rabbit’s foot to stop kicking them below the belt.
They kept insisting that they weren’t shopping third baseman Manny Machado, that they were just open to listening as teams made their pitches. They delivered a clear signal that Machado could be moved for the right offer, but it hasn’t come to them.
Two starting pitchers are a necessity and not just rentals. They haven’t convinced the White Sox and Cardinals to part with top prospects. Machado’s desire to enter the free agent market in 2018 has caused suitors to be less generous.
I’ve heard that the Cubs’ discussions with the Orioles included shortstop Addison Russell, center fielder Albert Almora Jr. and left-hander Mike Montgomery. The Orioles aren’t going to come away from a trade with the only pitcher being Montgomery, though they’d gladly take him as a needed southpaw.
What else you got?
Executive vice president Dan Duquette indicated yesterday in our phone conversation that the expiration date on trade talks regarding Machado could come this week.
“I’m not sure we’re going to focus on that much more after tomorrow,” he said.
I’m still convinced that the Orioles would bite later if a team dangled the right combination of players, but it’s understandable why they need to continue conducting their offseason business as if Machado will be on the roster. Decide whether he’s playing shortstop or third base and act accordingly.
If Machado goes to his original position, continue to check on free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas and whether his market shrinks to the point where the Orioles can work him into their budget. Take the left-handed bat, a priority this winter, and learn to live with the low on-base percentage. He won’t exactly stand out in that lineup.
The Cardinals are reported to have interest in Moustakas, so my idea likely will fly out the window.
Duquette’s comment to me yesterday shows that reports of teams improving their offers might have been a tad exaggerated. The aggression of certain executives had its limits. The elite names on prospect lists weren’t available - again because Machado’s side won’t negotiate an extension.
Can’t blame Machado for wanting to become a free agent and cash in big. Can’t blame teams for passing on him or draining the pool of available players because of it.
I got a lot of pushback from fans for tweeting that Brad Brach is off the table due to Zach Britton’s ruptured right Achilles tendon and today’s surgery. Never say never, but it seems unlikely that the Orioles would enter the season without Britton and Brach and severely weaken a bullpen that they must lean on heavily to compensate for their rotation.
This may seem bizarre to some folks, but the Orioles are still trying to contend in 2018. The goal didn’t change with Machado made available. It was the best path to improving the rotation and pitching depth. They wouldn’t have checked on Gerrit Cole and Danny Duffy if they were in a full rebuild. They wouldn’t be in the market for another left-handed bat. They’d just go with the kids and take their lumps.
Britton’s injury has a domino effect. He can’t be traded now and probably not at the non-waiver deadline. Brach is likely to stay, which prevents the Orioles from using him this winter to fill other needs.
They already wanted another left-handed reliever, preferably with plus velocity to pair with Richard Bleier, and Britton’s loss intensifies their need.
Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes could work in a relief role if he doesn’t earn the fifth spot in the rotation and if the Orioles keep him, but he’s not a power arm.
As for whether the Orioles release Britton, in his final year of arbitration eligibility, it would be an unusual move for ownership and it doesn’t hurt that the left-hander is close to vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson.
Another team could view Britton as a wise pickup because it wouldn’t have to surrender any players for him. Just pay whatever is coming to him.
Britton will keep his arm in good shape following the procedure on his Achilles.
“I can continue to throw after surgery,” he said. “Just have to be, obviously not putting weight on it, but there’s ways that I can keep my throwing going. If I just kneel on the ground or something, keep my arm action going. There are things I can do to continue to be ready so that I don’t lose any time from a throwing standpoint. I can keep my arm action.”
This was the only time that any hint of enthusiasm entered Britton’s voice during our 11-minute phone conversation. The injury is devastating to him. It was a painful exchange.
“It just sucks,” he said. “I feel for everybody. I have a good relationship with Dan and everybody. If this is the way my ... I wouldn’t say my career. I could come back to the Orioles eventually. But I’m just saying for now, the immediate future, looking at it, it would suck because I’ve had some really good memories there with the team. A lot of good memories.”