I feel like when a baseball team decides to go through a full and total rebuild, fans should ask themselves two particular questions.
The first is simple: “Do I support my favorite team going through a complete and total rebuild?”
And the second is a bit more complicated: “But do I really?”
Perhaps you’ve heard that Orioles pitcher John Means is, like, pretty good. As in, ‘maybe even a little better than noted great pitcher Wade Miley’ good. After throwing a no-hitter and shouldabeen-complete game May 5, Means’ WHIP now sits at 0.67 for the season. That’s better than everyone in baseball other than some feller named Jacob D. Grom.
Including his last four starts of the 2020 season, Means has an absolutely ridiculous 1.42 ERA in a stretch of 11 starts. He’s better at pitching that your friend Cole is at making you think he actually understands Dogecoin when, yeah, I promise you he doesn’t understand it any more than any of the rest of us.
As if that wasn’t exciting enough, Means is still only 28 years old and is also under team control through the end of the 2024 season. You might say his value to the Orioles is, as the kids say “to the moon.” And yes, that’s lead to us asking about what his value might be to other teams as well.
It’s an awkward conversation. We’re not talking about Matt Harvey here. We’re not talking about a mercenary type who means nothing to Orioles fans and is going to be on another roster next season no matter what. Those are the obvious moves teams make even when they’re not necessarily “rebuilding.” There’s nothing awkward about discussing Harvey’s future.
John Means isn’t that. He’s the real deal. He’s created a relationship with this community. He’s shown us his vulnerability after losing his father. We’ve gotten to know his family, including his wife Caroline, a former NWSL goalie who regularly interacts with Orioles fans on social media. It’s not quite like the Trey Mancini conversation but it isn’t far off.
The question is fairly simple. “Should the Orioles trade John Means or should they hold him to be a central figure in this rebuilding process?”
I posed the question to MASN analyst and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer the morning after Means replaced him as the most recent Oriole to throw a complete game no-hitter. He was dismissive.
“Why do you want to trade [Means]?” Palmer asked, comparing it to the idea of trading Anthony Santander. “Are you just going to get some people that you hope become John Means or are you going to get somebody that you hope is the real deal?”
That’s the crux of what appears to be the argument against the possibility of trading Means. Isn’t the point of rebuilding an attempt to find good players? The Orioles HAVE their good player. While there’s still a long season ahead, they’ve potentially stumbled into one of the best ones. This is why you struggle!
The Orioles didn’t need to suffer through a 50-win season to come away with Means. Their ace came to them with the 331st pick in 2014, right in the midst of their run as the winningest team in the American League in the middle part of the decade. He’s the guy they’re looking for! He’s that critical puzzle piece that you spend an entire week at the beach trying to find!
Combine Means with DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez and you’ve got yourself a potential high-quality starting rotation in coming years! Why in the world would you possibly be looking to get rid of that? The players you acquire might never pan out at a level even close to Means!
But then again, what IS the point of a rebuild, exactly? Is the point of the rebuild to simply identify and acquire good players? Or is it really to create a window in which you can not only compete, but ideally win a World Series? And that’s the context that makes the Means conversation difficult.
The first question is whether the Orioles can compete to win a World Series by the 2024 season. It’s a tough sell. If Adley Rutschman pans out as the player many believe him to be, it would go a long way to making it possible. But we’re hard pressed to imagine there will be enough hitting prospects already panning out by 2024 to believe it possible right now.
“But what if the Orioles extend Means before he would depart?” Great question, Glenn! We’ve still never seen the Orioles buy out all of a player’s arbitration years and more recently we’ve seen them purposely trade players who were due raises via the process, as Means most certainly will be. Should that change at some point? You betcha! Are we on the cusp of that right now? I’m hard pressed to believe it.
And if they wait until closer to free agency, we’re talking about paying big money to a starting pitcher who will be turning 32 the April after he hits free agency. Which reminds me of another move the Orioles made … never.
Again, that’s not to say they shouldn’t. Or even that they couldn’t.
It’s really to present the argument of why it seems silly to dismiss the possibility of a Means trade. The easy response would be, “Well, OK, but they’d have to get an overwhelming return in order to make the deal.” And yeah, that seems like it should go without saying. They have a highly valuable asset. There’s no world where they should be moving that asset without getting an organization-changing haul in return.
The point is not that the Orioles SHOULD trade Means. It’s that the team and its fans shouldn’t dismiss the possibility altogether. As much as want to speed the process along, this is a total rebuild.
Are you in? I mean, are you really?
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox