Yesterday saw the first major move of Major League Baseball trade season, with the trade of Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox, but while many are saying the Baltimore Orioles should jump into the trade market, history has shown they should should probably stand pat.
A big question in the baseball world is whether or not the O’s are for real and if they can actually win the American League East. The discussion often centers around whether this year’s team is truly better than so many of the O’s teams who have eventually faded in previous years. Chances are, Baltimore’s management is trying to answer the same question, as they look towards the July 31st trade deadline.
Being a buyer at the deadline has to be a promising and exciting prospect for both O’s fans and player. Before they mortgage some of their prospects for a 50-50 shot at getting a true impact player, the O’s need to make sure this team can really win. So many teams have dove in to the deadline deep end in the past and failed to not only find a true impact guy, but also failed to make the playoffs.
While thinking about who, or even if, they should deal at the deadline, the O’s front office has to look at the Pittsburgh Pirates from last year. Pittsburgh shipped a minor leaguer, thankfully for them not one with major league potential, to the O’s for Derrek Lee. Lee ended up walking after the season and he didn’t help the Buccos find the playoffs.
The Pirates aren’t the only team to look foolish at the deadline. Look at the Texas Rangers two years ago, they sent their top prospect, Justin Smoak, to the Seattle Mariners in return for left hander Cliff Lee. Texas sent more than just Smoak to Seattle, but he was the biggest part. While Texas made it to the World Series, they didn’t win it and Lee ended up walking to rejoin the Philadelphia Phillies. Meanwhile, Smoak has continued to develop for Seattle and is putting up modest power numbers on a rebuilding team.
Texas and Pittsburgh are just two of the vast examples of teams who think one player can win it all for them and give up a lot for a chance at winning it all. These teams ended up at either end of the spectrum of trade deadline failure, with one failing to come close to winning an illustrious World Series and the other falling just short, both moves should be considered failures. They are moves if the organizations would do it all over again, there is a good chance they wouldn’t pull the trigger.
Baltimore is not the kind of organization that can take the blow of trade deadline failure, like the Rangers were able too, at least not in their current iteration. Baltimore can smell a winning season for the first time in what seems like an eternity and they can’t risk losing a critical building block. The O’s need to let the chips fall where they may and continue to build on whatever this season turns out to be.
Players like Dylan Bundy, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop are projecting to be valuable and successful MLB players both offensively and on the mound. With Matt Wieters and Adam Jones established as the foundation, the current prospects project a bright future for a Baltimore team on the cusp of being very successful and very young for a long time.
Yes, these prospects are not sure things either, but dealing for an aging star or veteran who might only stick around for a few months, isn’t worth the price. If they were in a weaker division like the AL Central, maybe the O’s could think about making a move, but with the New York Yankees surging and the Tampa Bay Rays in the mix, Baltimore could easily have their most successful season in a decade and still not make the playoffs.
The last thing Baltimore wants is to trade away someone like Bundy, not win it all, or worse not make the playoffs, and have him turn into someone like John Smoltz. It happened to the Detroit Tigers in the 1980s and the fans have never let the team forget it.
Baltimore is in a great place right now, in contention and playing solid baseball, but lets not confuse solid baseball with championship caliber baseball. This is a season for Baltimore to be exciting about and should bring them hope for the next five years, but not one for the team to take an unnecessary risk on and mortgage an important part of the future.