There have been many rumors about how the Orioles may act at the trade deadline. First, the Orioles were thought to be buyers. After being swept by the Yankees they were considered to be sellers. And as I write this post, the Orioles once again are considered buyers, maybe. If the rumors are true, it sounds like no one knows what the Orioles will do... not even the Orioles themselves.
There are many reasons why the Orioles would consider selling. The Orioles have nearly played 100 games and are roughly at .500. Simply put, time is running out for them to make a run and it's questionable whether even a good stretch would be enough to make this club a playoff team. Even if it is, the Orioles will be hard-pressed to catch either the Yankees or Astros and would likely end up playing in the wild-card game on the road. It would be a shame to trade away some of the few prospects that the Orioles have remaining in order to simply play in one playoff game.
On the other hand, there are a number of good pitchers available on the trade market and therefore it seems likely that Darren O'Day and Wei-Yin Chen would bring back an underwhelming return. Buying teams will be able to offer the Orioles 50 cents on the dollar for these pitchers knowing that the Orioles' only choices are to either trade them or watch them leave in free agency.
In addition, there isn't much in the farm system that can help the Orioles compete in the near future. Kevin Gausman will likely be in the majors full-time starting in 2016 and may make up for the loss of Chen. Caleb Joseph can take over the catcher position for Matt Wieters. Christian Walker will be ready for the majors but would be a poor replacement for Chris Davis. Guys like Dariel Alvarez and Henry Urrutia could perhaps be used as corner outfielders. There are a few other arms in the upper majors that may be successful relievers. The only real talents in the minor league system would be asked to replace valued veterans. As Jon wrote earlier, this may be the Orioles last run for awhile. If so, it behooves the Orioles to make it count.
This begs the question of what the Orioles could do if they decided that they wanted to win this year at all costs. It would probably make sense to target an outfielder or two, an elite starter, and another reliever for the pen. Another outfielder would improve the Orioles' offense and ensure that the O's didn't need to rely on players that are question marks. An elite starter would help anchor the Orioles' rotation. Not to mention that Chen and Miguel Gonzalez would make a strong No. 2 and No. 3 and either Chris Tillman or Ubaldo Jimenez could be a good No. 4 if they can be successful consistently. The Orioles do have a strong bullpen already with Zach Britton and O'Day and adding another elite reliever would help the O's lock down leads as well as make things difficult for opposing offenses in a possible playoff series.
These three trades are one way that the Orioles could fill all of these holes.
Trade No. 1: Kevin Gausman and Michael Wright for Josh Reddick and Drew Pomeranz.
Josh Reddick has often struggled to stay healthy. In his one year where he played 150 games, he was a star for the Athletics and put up a .242/.305/.463 line with 32 home runs and a wRC+ of 108. In general, when healthy Reddick is a capable defender in right field with an above-average bat. This year, Reddick is putting up career numbers with a .282/.336/.452 line good for a wRC+ of 122 partly due to recognizing who he is. Reddick is under contract until 2017 and would solidify right field for the next year and a half.
Drew Pomeranz hasn't had much success as a starter but has been excellent as a reliever. Opponents are only batting .159/.280/.175 against him in limited time as a reliever this year. However, he'll be arbitration eligible at the end of this season and the Orioles will only have a limited amount of control over him and it's not like he's a proven reliever. As such, I think he has limited value.
Kevin Gausman has a lot of promise and could become elite. However, the Orioles have gotten some value from him due to his pitching 200 innings over three seasons. He also will become eligible for arbitration starting in 2018 and if effective will quickly become expensive. This lessens his value because the Athletics won't be able to enjoy more than one year where he's making the minimum.
The other problem is that he still throws only two pitches and isn't an established starter. He still is reasonably young but time is running out quickly if he's going to contribute to a club as a bargain as a cost-controlled starter. As a result, his value is lower than one may have thought.
This deal is a risk for the Athletics because they'd be trading a good chunk of quality talent for primarily a single prospect. Ordinarily, the Athletics would be able to trade Reddick for a number of promising prospects. However, it's an opportunity that they can't afford to pass up because they're unable to sign elite talent free agents and having the chance to add an elite talent close to the majors like Gausman is hard to pass up. Having Sonny Gray and Gausman in their rotation could help them win for the next three years before trading both players for more prospects.
Trade No. 2: Caleb Joseph, Christian Walker, and Parker Bridwell for Jeff Samardzija and Geovany Soto.
This deal would give the Orioles the elite starter that they need to lead their rotation for both an attempt to make it to the playoffs as well as a playoff run. It would also prevent the Blue Jays from trading for Samardzija and thus weakening a competitor. Geovany Soto could take over the backup catcher position and would give the Orioles an option that could give Matt Wieters a rest.
The White Sox would gain their catcher of the future. Caleb Joseph has had success in the majors and won't be arbitration eligible until 2017. They would also add a potential first baseman and reliever.
Trade No. 3: Mike Napoli for Bud Norris and Oliver Drake.
This deal gives the Orioles an offensive player in Napoli that has been terrible this year but has been good in the past and could possibly bounce back with a change of scenery.
Bud Norris would be included in the deal because the Orioles would have no room for him after these trades and in order to make the money work out better. Oliver Drake has the potential to be a solid late-inning reliever if he can fix his walk problems and is currently crushing AAA. All in all, the Red Sox would save some money and get a potentially interesting prospect. It's considerably more than what they received for Shane Victorino.
These trades would give the Orioles a bullpen consisting of Britton, O'Day, Pomeranz, Chaz Roe, Brad Brach, Tommy Hunter, and Brian Matusz. Ideally, I'd like an upgrade from Hunter but I don't think that's going to be so easy to find. Samardzija would give the Orioles the elite starter that they'd need to make it to the playoffs and give them someone that could compete against aces in the playoffs. Chen and Gonzo would make acceptable No. 2 and No. 3 starters while Tillman could be a strong No. 4 if he can have one of his usual strong second halves. Adding Reddick would help solidify the Orioles' outfield. Adding Napoli would allow the Orioles to potentially move Davis to left field. If Napoli can bounce back then the Orioles' offense would be looking pretty scary.
It would be a hard task to come back from their current deficit of seven games back in the division or even three and a half back in the wild card. But if they could then the Orioles would have an awfully strong club. They would be one of the best teams in the American League and making it to the World Series wouldn't be surprising.
On the other hand, the Orioles would have given up Gausman, Joseph, and Walker. That means they would need to find a new catcher for 2016. The Orioles would also need a new starter and that starter wouldn't have the potential to be elite. The Orioles' minor league system has minimal talent and a good chunk of it would have been traded away. Even worse, most of the top prospects remaining have been injured for most of the year. If Hunter Harvey wasn't able to prove himself healthy then the O's may have the worst minor league system in the majors.
But if the Orioles wanted to go all in then they don't have much to trade. Something like this would hurt the Orioles' future but would give them a legitimate chance in the present.
That's really the question. Do you decide to take your shot this year and damage your 2016 and 2017 prospects at winning or do you bide your time and hope you get another chance? It's awfully risky either way.