During the All-Star break, Manny Machado was traded to the Dodgers for a solid package of prospects led by Yusniel Diaz. Last night, longtime closer Zach Britton was shipped off to the Yankees for Dillon Tate and some other interesting names. Both moves were obviously made with a view to the Orioles’ future.
Both moves were also inevitable, though — and, in a way, easy. It doesn’t take a fancypants scientist to figure out that trading terrific players who’re headed to free agency is a smart thing to do; us regular-pantsed folks can see that for ourselves. Now, though, there are harder decisions to make, other players to give away, if the Orioles are going to embrace a full rebuild. Complicating this is an organization that has shown a tendency to balk at hard decisions and put off future plans, preferring instead to tread water with the least aggressive quarter-measures available. In this case, however, action is required.
Unfortunately, we can’t just waltz into the B&O Warehouse and start trading away Orioles. Seriously, I double-checked what my credentials will permit. No, we may have to seize the team by force. Let’s presume that our dark FanGraphs forces can seize the corporate offices successfully — we do have a particular expertise involving WAR — and gain control of the franchise. It wouldn’t be the first war lost by the Angelos family, and Sheryl Ring can draft some paperwork to make this nice and legal. We have to be quick, though, before we all end up in jail. So let’s start the sale.
Kevin Gausman to the Pittsburgh Pirates
It seems a little too easy to sell Kevin Gausman to the Chicago Cubs and, really, at this point, I’m tired of Orioles pitchers going to Chicago and experiencing a renaissance. Jake Arrieta is the most noted example, but the Cubs squeezed significant value out of Jason Hammel, Pedro Strop, and even Tsuyoshi Wada. The Pirates aren’t rightly interested in rentals: they’ll require somebody who’s useful beyond the 2018 season because, even with their 11-game winning streak, they’re still more likely than not to miss the postseason.
Pittsburgh has their own excellent pitching coach in Ray Searage, and the team has an excellent track record with reclamation projects. Gausman’s far from a bad pitcher, of course, but he’s a maddeningly inconsistent one. A rich man’s Nate Eovaldi, Gausman feels like a pitcher whose talents ought to be producing better results. He’s not averaging 99 mph in starts anymore, but part of his drop-off in velocity is quite possibly a the product of an attempt to focus on location. He still his nasty splitter-change thing (splange? chlitter?) and slider that is hit harder than it feels like it ought to be. I still think there’s the toolbox of a borderline ace here.
In the case of developing Gausman, the O’s have been like a mediocre Rumpelstiltskin, spinning gold into less gold. With Gausman’s two full controlled years, though, Pittsburgh would have ample time to collect possible rewards for the risk they take. I’m not sure we can get Ke’Bryan Hayes in the trade, but I’d like to try — and I’d love to snag one of the extra shortstops the Pirates have at higher levels.
Adam Jones to the Colorado Rockies
The Colorado Rockies have an erroneous belief that Gerardo Parra’s .300 average also means that Gerardo Parra is having a good season. This is not the case, of course, but if you’re going to upgrade the Rockies, you have to give them someone with a big enough name to take away Parra’s at-bats consistently. Adam Jones can likely still hit near .300 with the benefit of Coors Field, and the park would hide the fact that his power has also started to fade considerably. Jones probably still has enough range to be effective in a corner, and in the event the Rockies decide to play him at center, I’m not sure he’s even a downgrade over Charlie Blackmon given how poor a season the latter has had defensively. AJ also gives the Rockies a right-handed bat on an outfield depth chart occupied exclusively by lefties except for Noel Cuevas.
Dylan Bundy to the San Diego Padres
The Padres believe that their timeline is accelerated, else why bring in Eric Hosmer? They’re actively looking for starting pitching and bringing in someone like Noah Syndergaard would probably necessitate a huge overpay, as the Mets seem to require a huge offer for Thor even to past the stage of amiable skylarkings.
Josh Naylor has no obvious path to the majors in San Diego and infielders like Esteury Ruiz or Hudson Potts may be lost in the shuffle. Petco isn’t the pitchers’ park it used to be, but it’s a safer home for the flyball-prone Dylan Bundy than Camden Yards.
Mychal Givens to the Arizona Diamondbacks
Paul Fry to the St. Louis Cardinals
Both ZiPS and the FanGraphs Depth Charts agree that the Diamondbacks and Cardinals have the weakest rest-of-season projected bullpens among this year’s realistic contenders. (Apologies to the Angels, who face a daunting mathematical challenge.) In this case, the team without Andrew Chafin, who’s pitched well for Arizona, has a greater need for a left-hander.
St. Louis’s southpaws in the bullpen have combined for a 6.00 ERA, conceding a .300/.406/.489 to opponents. While the team’s righties haven’t been that much better (5.11 ERA, .265/.342/.414 against), ZiPS and Steamer both like the latter group more than the former. Paul Fry is a non-splashy move for a team that likes to take care and someone who can help their bullpen depth down the road as well. hile it may seem weird for the O’s to be trading a player with little service time, middle-of-the-pen guys with OK-ish stuff aren’t exactly building blocks, and there may be space for an incremental prospect upgrade here. For Arizona, they have more pressing needs offensively and with a weak farm system, they can hardly be spending the crown jewels on relievers. Mychal Givens is a fine upgrade, though.
Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers
Jonathan Schoop has had a wreck of a season. Neither ZiPS nor Steamer are the least bit worried, however, both projecting Schoop for something better than a two-win seasonal pace for the rest of the year. ZiPS in particular isn’t buying Schoop’s low .258 BABIP, the preseason projected wRC+ of 104 only dropping to the current rest-of-season projection of 102, despite the 81 wRC+ he’s recorded to date. Schoop’s power, one of his most obvious positive attributes, still plays just fine in Miller, and if the Orioles were going to get a reasonable long-term extension on Schoop, they would’ve done it by now.
With Schoop only a year away from free agency, the O’s would do better to trade him now than waiting until next year’s deadline. The middle infield has been a weak spot for the Brew Crew and they’ve already been linked to Schoop anyway, so it’s not a far-fetched scenario.
Chris Davis to the Bench
I really tried to find a new home for Chris Davis. There just aren’t any. Earlier this season, when I did my yearly Worst Contracts update for ESPN, I described Chris Davis’s deal as a nearly unmitigated disaster, with ZiPS projecting it to be the third-worst in baseball behind just Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera’s. This was before Davis hit like a pitcher for half a year, a development that has al -but eliminated that “nearly” qualifier from the previous sentence. Convincing a club to assume Davis’s contract is basically impossible. Even throwing in Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman for free leaves us well short of equivalent value. Covering 90% of the deal still doesn’t net any prospects.
Giving Davis a week off didn’t fix any fundamental problems. Sticking him in the lineup every night isn’t fixing anything either. He already has the 32nd-worst WAR for a position player in baseball history after only 83 games, and while there’s some kind of perverse curiosity to seeing if he can put up the worst season ever for a hitter, it’s almost cruel to keep playing him at this point. Shutting him down for the year on the bench and making him a coaching challenge may not be effective, but the Orioles have Chris Davis for a long time — and are paying him for even longer than that — and it’s hard to imagine worse results than the current approach.
Boog’s BBQ to Great American Ballpark
If I’m going to break myriad state and federal laws just to make some trades, I want to get something out of this for myself. Once you cross the Ohio River going west, pit beef availability becomes non-existent, and I’m sure that it transplants better out here to Ohio than steamed crabs would.
Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.