Going into the 2017 trade deadline, the Baltimore Orioles were largely expected to be sellers. Closer to the wild card race than the AL East cellar, the team still had more holes than strengths and were positioned to auction off closer Zach Britton at the very least.
Some owners just don’t want to sell. Especially if the team isn’t in a position where there’s simply no other option. The Orioles aren’t out of it by any means. Don’t expect them to make up the 6.5 games in the division, but only 3.5 games separate them from a postseason berth via the wild card.
The script for the O’s has been a perplexing one. Manny Machado has struggled mightily but they’ve received an incredible season from Jonathan Schoop —second in the American League in RBI with 79— as well as a breakout year from Trey Mancini (.298 with 17 home runs) and free agent signing Wellington Castillo has been a steal at $6 million dollars.
Hitting isn’t this club’s problem. It’s pitching. Specifically starting pitching. Only Cincinnati pitchers have a worse ERA than the Orioles’ 4.98. The same applies to starters, where the O’s enter August fourth with a dreadful 5.71 mark.
So they’re not out of it. They’re probably not in it, either. But they’re in it enough that ownership wants to at least go for it with this group.
With that said, they addressed the starting pitching circus with the low-cost acquisition of Jeremy Hellickson, who has seemingly been on the block since he was acquired by Philly at the end of 2015.
With respect to fan favorite Hyun Soo Kim and minor league pitcher Garrett Cleavinger (as well as international spending money, sorry), Hellickson came rather cheap. He’s going to be a free agent but it could be a mutual fit going forward.
Days later on actual deadline day, Baltimore snuck in another deal. Another buying job. Nothing to make big headlines but Tim Beckham is more than serviceable. A 1.6 WAR and three more years of team control slot Beckham right into the starting shortstop position in Baltimore.
A spot designated for J.J. Hardy, who is on the disabled list with a wrist injury but hasn’t done much this season anyway. He’ll likely get his spot back with Beckham taking the backup role, but it’s another low-cost, low-risk stealth buy that only cost the club minor league pitcher Tobias Myers.
Tampa had no room or need and finally cut ties with the 2008 first overall selection. It’s a good get for Baltimore, who can do a lot worse with a third middle infielder.
Similar to how the Pittsburgh Pirates stealth bought Felipe Rivero last season despite a winning 52-49 record. They also received prospect Taylor Hearn, who John Sickels ranks seventh in the Buccos’ system.
It’s been a steal of a deal, a deal met with surprise and criticism for the Pirates, just as the Orioles are taking some heat for their unexpected pair of moves.
They aren’t deals that will change the baseball landscape but it’s two very cheap acquisitions for a team that isn’t committing to a rebuild just yet, but aren’t far off from making the playoffs.