The Baltimore Orioles probably should have started rebuilding over the winter.
Baltimore didn’t have enough firepower to contend with the Red Sox or Yankees heading into the season, and it showed in April.
Boston and New York have respective records of 21-7 and 18-10. The two heavyweights check in with run differentials of +63 and +46.
Baltimore is 8-20 with a -54 run differential.
Entering play Tuesday, the O’s ranked 29th in the Majors in fWAR among position players. The team’s pitchers weren’t much better.
Overall, Baltimore pitchers are currently 21st in FWAR, a number that is in part buoyed by a not-terrible a bullpen that ranks 13th in the league in fWAR and 19th in FIP.
Already 13 games behind the Red Sox in the division and 8.5 behind the Mariners for the second Wild Card, a rebuild is more than prudent at this point, especially considering some of the Orioles best players/trade chips are free agents this winter.
Here are the best trade fits for the above list of players, as well as a handful of other players the O’s should consider trading sometime between now and August.
Manny Machado: Cleveland or Dodgers
Machado obviously wouldn’t play shortstop with the American League Central franchise, but he’d be an ideal fit at third base. In that situation, Machado would return to third base with Joe Ramirez shifting to second base.
The Baltimore infielder isn’t necessarily a long-term fit in Cleveland given that the organization may not be able to afford his contract, but the reigning division champs need to go for it in 2018.
Even if it means sacrificing top prospect Francisco Meija, Cleveland should heavily consider the move. Minnesota looks ready to overtake them after a strong offseason, while the likes of Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall and Josh Tomlin will be free agents this winter.
With Houston, Boston and New York only getting stronger, this could be Cleveland’s last legitimate shot at making it back to the Fall Classic.
Adding Machado would certainly help them try and level the playing field, even if he’s only a rental.
Adding Machado and moving Ramirez to second base would also allow Cleveland to rely less on Jason Kipnis, who has an abysmal 37 wRC+ and a .230 wOBA in 119 plate appearances this season.
For Baltimore, making a trade with Cleveland for Machado would give the O’s the possibility to net a potentially premier prospect in Meija—even if the player doesn’t stick behind the plate.
Extracting Triston McKenzie as well might be too much in a hypothetical trade, especially considering Machado is a rental.
However, if they can acquire Meija and some combination of Triple-A shortstop Yu Chang, right-hander Shane Bieber and outfielder Greg Allen for Machado and say Tillman, the Baltimore Orioles could have up to four Major League ready, or close to Major-League ready pieces to plug into the origination.
The fit with the Dodgers is certainly intriguing now that Corey Seager will miss the rest of 2018. However, despite the need, Los Angeles has Seager at shortstop and Justin Turner at third base for the long haul.
Overpaying for a Machado rental just doesn’t seem like the most prudent move for the defending National League West champs.
Adam Jones: Giants, Mariners or Twins
It’s hard to judge what kind of market Jones could have this summer.
If last summer was any indication, rental bats—no matter how established—simply don’t hold as much value via trade.
J.D. Martinez, who was sitting on a 160 wRC+, and a sky-high .325 ISO in 232 plate appearances at the time of him being dealt, didn’t exactly net a haul of prospects on par with his overall value.
All that being said, Jones is a much better fielder than Martinez, but his offensive struggles in 2018 haven’t helped his tradability.
The longtime Oriole owns a 72 wRC+ and a .658 OPS in 121 plate appearances this season.
Throw in the fact that he hasn’t eclipsed a 2.0 fWAR in a full season since 2015 and it may be difficult for Baltimore to find significant value in a trade.
A return to the Pacific Northwest with the Mariners, the organization who drafted Jones, also makes sense.
He’d have to shift to left field in Seattle, but the fit remains as the position has yielded little in the way of results this season.
Minnesota would provide the best fit for the Orioles from a trade asset standpoint considering the Twins’ farm system is significantly deeper than either San Francisco’s or Seattle’s.
Chris Tillman: Mariners or Angels
If Jones’ trade value has diminished somewhat, Tillman’s has downright cratered.
A solid bet to turn in an fWAR somewhere in the 1.5-to-2.5 neighborhood in his prime, Tillman struggled to a 5.76 SIERA in 93 innings last season.
His early numbers in 2018 are similarly ugly, but the veteran looked much better against Detroit in his previous outing, limiting the Tigers to two walks and a hit in seven shutout frames. If he can string together a few more starts like that closer to the deadline, Baltimore may be able to get some kind of prospect return for the 30-year-old.
With any other team he’d simply be an option to fill in at the tail-end of the rotation. Starter-needy clubs in Seattle and Anaheim could conceivably use Tillman.
It’s hard to overlook the potential of a Tillman/Adam Jones trade involving the Mariners. Both would fill obvious needs for Seattle, the same organization that dealt the duo to the O’s back in 2008 in the Erik Bedard blockbuster.
Zach Britton and Brad Brach: Twins, Angels, Nationals or Mariners
Pretty much any team looking for bullpen help could use either Britton or Brach. Britton hasn’t pitched yet in 2018, but once he gets going, the O’s should be able to market him to franchises in need of relief help.
Even as rentals, both players could fetch useful prospects in return. The argument could be made that both have higher trade value than Jones.
Minnesota and Anaheim stand out as potentially the best-suited trade partners for the O’s considering both teams have had trouble finding suitable closing solutions in the last month.
Richard Bleier: See above
While Britton, or even Brach, could conceivably step in as a closer, Bleier’s inability to miss bats will keep him out of the ninth inning.
Bleier doesn’t throw hard and has struck out just 4.02 batters per nine frames in his career—not to mention a lifetime 8.7 swinging strike percentage.
However, he’s left-handed and has worked to a 1.75 ERA and a 3.78 FIP in 103 Major League innings. He knows how to get outs.
The biggest luxury on a losing club is a bullpen. Baltimore should look to move Bleier along with Britton and Brach despite the former not being a free agent this winter.
Caleb Joseph: Mets, Mariners, Nationals or Cubs
Joseph isn’t going to win any batting crowns with his hitting at the plate, but he’s shown he can be a decent contributor at the plate in years pat (82 wRC+ in 2017, 11 home runs and a 88 wRC+ in 2015).
According to Statcorner, Joseph was also the 10th-best pitch framing catcher in baseball last year.
He may not have the resume of a starter, but the backstop could make for a useful backup or part-time player for a team in need of help at his position.
A trade to the Mets would make sense. Baltimore probably wouldn’t get too much in return but dealing Joseph for a lower-level prospect like outfielder Quinn Brodey or catcher Ali Sanchez would open up consistent playing time for Chance Sisco behind the plate.
In New York, Joseph could hold down the fort until Kevin Plawecki is ready to return and then deputize or serve as a compliment to the 27-year-old.
Colby Rasmus and Craig Gentry: Angels or Nationals
The Baltimore Orioles aren’t exactly loaded with trade chips. However, Rasmus and Gentry could be useful bench pieces to teams in need of a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Anaheim and Washington could both use the added depth. Parting with either or both for a lottery-ticket prospect or a player to be named later would seem like a prudent move for the O’s, as it would open up more plate appearances for players like Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, Joey Rickard and D.J. Stewart.