The Baltimore Orioles are the Most Interesting Team at the Deadline

The Baltimore Orioles have the prospect capital to make any trade they want and the motivation to go for it with the Yankees in their sights.

Craig Kimbrel #46 and Adley Rutschman #35 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrate a win with teammates after the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 10: Craig Kimbrel #46 and Adley Rutschman #35 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrate a win with teammates after the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

A lot has changed in Baltimore over the past two seasons. Moving the left field wall back, new ownership, and going from Rougned Odor at second to a logjam keeping prospects in Triple-A. After finishing fourth in 2022, the O’s are battling for first place with the Yankees.

This season is by far the best opportunity Baltimore has had in years. A blend of young All-Star caliber players and with a few savvy vets has lead the Orioles to a position they have not been in quiet some time – buyers.

With the July 30th deadline roughly a month away, General Manager Mike Elias has a plethora of options and routes to help solidify this team for a postseason run.

After injuries to Kyle Bradish, John Means, Dean Kremer, and Tyler Wells, rotation help headlines the list of needs. Outfielders Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays (more on them later) have severely underwhelmed. Yes, Baltimore has outfield prospects and rookies but how much do you trust rolling into October with a bunch of rookies and unproven players?

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Luckily, the O’s have just about every tool in their belt. There’s not a trade out there that they cannot match, and the front office has the ability to get creative.

While other teams might believe they are in a similar situation, no one has the ammo Baltimore has. Trades usually follow three classifications; prospect heavy package, blocked players/young big leaguers, and change of scenery. The Orioles can flirt with all three.

Prospect Heavy Package

Teams focused on a complete tear down might target players who are a little further away. The balance of adding talent to your farm while you might also need to wait on some poor contracts to expire makes younger prospects more attractive. Each year we see deals where a couple of 18/19 year-old raw prospects are moved years before their Major League debut.

The biggest name of this bunch is catcher Samuel Basallo. Ranked as Just Baseball’s No. 7 prospect, Basallo has the talent and upside to headline a deal that brings back a All-Star caliber player.

Name whoever you think is the best player on the trade block and a deal starting with Basallo is a reasonable return. Catchers always carry a premium value is trades and with Adley Rutschman on the team, the O’s can afford to more Basallo in the right deal.

Depending on where you look, the Orioles have about five other teenagers who can fill out a deal or be packaged for a piece. That’s just the super young guys.

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How about someone like Enrique Bradfield Jr, a 22-year-old speed demon center fielder would have just about everyone interested in starting a dialogue. Former Florida Gator Jud Fabian alone could bring back a player who could help this team make a run.

Blocked/Young Big Leaguers

Here’s where things can get really interesting. Due to the amount of young talent that has landed on the big league roster, deserving players are not getting a chance. We saw Joey Ortiz moved this offseason and more players of his caliber could be on the way out.

For those unaware, Ortiz is currently hitting .278/.383/.449, with a 2.5 fWAR for the Milwaukee Brewers. There is even a good chance he ends up in Arlington in a few weeks for the All-Star Game.

When it comes to the current group of blocked Orioles, I decided to include Jackson Holiday because he already made his Major League Debut. While I think the O’s do keep him, he’s a top-5 prospect in baseball and can headline any deal.

Sticking in the infield, Coby Mayo and Connor Norby are both big league ready but do not have a spot. Both of those players would be in a lineup today if they were in a lot of other organizations. With Jordan Westburg and Gunnar Henderson locks for the foreseeable future, moving one of these players makes sense.

Baltimore’s outfield situation is a little more sticky.

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Anthony Santandar is a free agent at year’s end, while Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins are not playing at their highest level. Colton Cowser is most likely sticking around, while Kyle Stowers can bring back something of use. The big question is if Heston Kjerstad is moved or not. Prospect Dylan Beavers is a candidate to be moved and plugged into a lineup as well.

Now, I did not forget want to forget about the pitchers. Chayce McDermott, Cade Povich, and Seth Johnson all come with high trade value. Teams that like to target major league ready talent have a large pool to pick from.

Change of Scenery

The change of scenery category is not as sexy, but also should not be forgotten. A major leaguer for major leaguer is possible, and the O’s have a couple of names that other teams might want to try to bring back to life.

First, Austin Hays. Hays had an awful start to this year and there’s no other way to paint it. He’s bounced back nicely and could stay put, but could also be used to add to a deal.

With one more year of control, the O’s could get creative and include Hays in a bigger deal and free up some money to lockdown their young core. His .830 road OPS compared to a .590 home OPS suggest the walls being pushed back have hurt his production.

Second, Cedric Mullins. We are far enough removed from his breakout 2021 season to claim that was the new standard for Mullins. His stolen base production dipped last year, but the speed is still there. A great defender in center with plus speed and another year of control is a great trade chip if Baltimore is ready to shift to Cowser in center.

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Any fan base crafting mock trades needs to ask themselves “would the Orioles be interested in this player?” If that answer is yes, just know their package can top yours. Baltimore can make the biggest splash at the deadline and still have the pieces to remain one of the top farm systems in baseball.

Usually, the best indication of future moves are past moves. Has this organization made aggresive moves in the past? The answer to that is often the same for if they will in the future. Think San Diego.

However, with new ownership in town, the past becomes a smaller sample size. That sample – Corbin Burnes. So, yes the Orioles have shown they are not automatically eliminated from blockbuster deals.

A race to first place, more pieces than they can fit on a team, and a hunger for postseason play is lining up for a deadline with Baltimore being in control. After years of disappointment, the O’s are in the drivers seat. Buckle up.