If you were an Orioles fan in a coma for the past five years, what you are waking up to is shocking.
Over the past week, the Orioles have:
- Traded a star closer in Zach Britton to the New York Yankees
- Expressed extreme interest in Victor Victor Mesa, the top international prospect
- Traded Brad Brach FOR international slot money
The Orioles are a franchise notorious for being snobs when it comes to inner-division trades and avoiding the international free agent market, so this is uncharted territory, but it also comes with some questions that need to be asked:
Who is actually making the moves in the front office?
Dan Duquette is the general manager of the Baltimore Orioles, but his tenure has been filled with the Peter Angelos' and Brady Anderson's of the world overstepping him. It appears that Angelos has turned over power to his sons, who have let Duquette do his job, but for a front office that's lacked the identity of a decision maker, who really knows? Overall, the packages acquired from trading Manny Machado and Zach Britton have been impressive, too impressive for Brady Anderson to have put together, so if Duquette is behind it all then he deserves some credit. That leads to another question:
Why let Duquette lead the rebuild?
Duquette is in the final year of his contract, so why choose him to orchestrate a full-blown rebuild? Are the Orioles depending on him to set up the future without making his future with the Orioles known first? Keep in mind this is the same guy that spent the entire 2014/15 offseason thinking about running off to Toronto. Duquette has been handcuffed for his entire tenure in Baltimore, but has managed to sign players like Wei-Yin Chen and find diamonds in the rough like Steve Pearce. Over the past month, Duquette has shown he can do the job and do the job well without interference from ownership, so it will be interesting to see if he is kept on following the season. With the work he has done this July uncuffed, he has shown enough that he can be the leader of a rebuild. With that being said...
How fully will the Orioles commit to the rebuild?
Duquette has been quoted saying it will be a "full blown rebuild" multiple times; however, trading only expiring contracts would say otherwise. Machado, Britton, and Brach were free agents at the end of the year and appealed to teams that just needed rentals. If it is truly a full rebuild, then guys like Jonathan Schoop, Mychal Givens, and Kevin Gausman need to be moved by today's deadline or in the offseason. Schoop is a solid player, but even at his peak he is not a franchise cornerstone, and with a year and a half of control remaining he has value. Gausman has been a solid pitcher for the Orioles, but he won't be here for the long haul and has two full years of control remaining after 2018. Givens is a reliever with three and a half years of control remaining, which has enormous value on a reliever-hungry market. If the Orioles are really serious about rebuilding quickly, then none of those three should be on the Opening Day roster heading into 2019.
Why did it take being 40 games under .500 to re-evaluate how the franchise is run?
It is one thing to do this if you are a small market team with a small window, but the Orioles were a mid-market team with a higher than average payroll (before the trades) that could easily afford to have put a competitive team on the field while exploring the international market. Did it really take fielding one of the worst teams in baseball history for the front office to have a change of heart? The same team that did not even make a presentation for two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani because they "philosophically don't participate" in the posting system all of a sudden wants to go after the top international prospect seven months later? Sure, we can be happy that the Orioles are exploring the international market now, but how in the hell did it take until now for the organization to travel down that road? The Yankees lineup is chock-full with international talent, and the Orioles ignored that avenue for years. It was a puzzling practice to straight up ignore talent internationally, so money and attention shifting to the Caribbean and beyond is a promising sign.
Times are changing in Baltimore and the upcoming months will be interesting. What happens with Duquette's future along with how serious the Orioles are about signing international talent and truly rebuilding will tell how long it will take for them to be contenders again.