It was rather refreshing that the Orioles didn’t just sell everything they had at this year’s MLB trade deadline for whatever return they could receive.
Even if illogical, Orioles fans certainly seemed to at least somewhat fear the possibility that the team would continue to shed talent, and in the case of Trey Mancini, someone who might stand to make some actual money via arbitration next year. But they didn’t do that. They didn’t do much of anything. And when explaining why, Orioles general manager Mike Elias said something that was, frankly, downright hopeful:
“Leading into this deadline, we were very mindful of the fact that a lot of our best players that were in demand are players that are not pending free agents with the Orioles, and they’re players that are young and talented and we like and that have future years with this club and project to be a part of this club when we hope to be a playoff contender.”
Word? Are we … are we talking about that type of stuff now? Because that’s, that’s, that’s … quite exciting!
Maybe this is what happens when a team is so miserably bad, but it seems like the Orioles declaring that they didn’t trade away their best players because they’ve identified their window for contention and they’re ready to go for it should have probably been bigger news. Particularly since they must have included the announcement of Mancini’s new contract and buying out Cedric Mullins’ arbitration years when they said that, right?
Perhaps before the next issue of PressBox is in your hot little hands, the Orioles will have announced a new deal for Mancini. He seems to want to be here, and they didn’t choose to trade him. With just one year of club control remaining for Mancini, that HAS to mean a new contract is coming, doesn’t it?
I ask these things because Mike Elias’ words are essentially worthless without these types of actions. Mancini’s contract is the most important. If the Orioles aren’t getting a new deal with him done before next season, there really was no reason not to deal him at the deadline (no matter how much it would hurt Orioles fans who have grown to love him as much if not more than any other player post-Cal Ripken). There’s no practical reason to believe he can perform so incredibly well that it would make up the trade-return difference of him being just a rental piece by the time we get to the 2022 MLB trade deadline.
Words without actions are particularly meaningless. We know that some baseball teams have been perpetually rebuilding … or at least telling their fans they’re rebuilding … while in reality they’ve been doing nothing other than losing and avoiding spending money. To be clear, I have ABSOLUTELY NO REASON to believe that’s what the Orioles are doing.
But they need to prove they’re doing something else. It’s not just Mancini. Mullins and John Means are tremendous candidates to be bought out of arbitration years in order to try to maximize their timeframe juxtaposed against the Orioles’ likely window to compete should the likes of Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez and D.L. Hall all pan out at the major-league level.
Means is under club control through 2024, Mullins through 2025. While it’s no guarantee they’ll be able to replicate their absolute 2021 brilliance in future years, if they’re even in the neighborhood of this season’s results, extending them through 2026 or 2027 would go an extremely long way toward the Orioles allowing the possibility of creating a plausible window for contention once the top prospects have arrived. Instead of putting all of the eggs in the 2024 basket, the team could create a four-season window from 2024-2027 in which they could pursue a World Series.
Would it be more desirable if all of these players panned out and the Orioles signed all of them long-term and I’m celebrating my 65th birthday with Orioles fans in Cooperstown while we watch Rutschman, Hall and Rodriguez get inducted together just a few years after Means and Mullins were? But of course. I’m just trying to paint with a more realistic brush.
The trade deadline decisions were … encouraging. Elias’ words are enough to make you believe there truly MIGHT be some light at the end of this darkness. But those words must be backed up. We have to see the organization put its money where Mike Elias’ mouth is soon or we’ll have no actual reason to believe those words really meant anything.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox
Originally published Aug. 18, 2021