Colossal Struggles Could Lead to the Orioles Being Sellers

It was just two weeks ago that the Baltimore Orioles took three out of four games on the road from the New York Yankees. Ever since that impressive series win, the Orioles have fallen apart and been underwhelming from all aspects. Currently 6-14, it’s a legitimate possibility that Baltimore will become sellers in the not-to-distant future.

Going into the regular season, the Orioles weren’t viewed as an American League contender, but were capable of being a legitimate Wild Card threat. They added veteran righties Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb to a pitching staff that finished 27th in ERA last season (4.97). At the same time, they figured Kevin Gausman (who recorded a 4.68 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 2017) and Chris Tillman (who recorded an abysmal 7.84 ERA and 1.89 WHIP in 2017) would bounce back, or, at the very least, improve off their subpar 2017 campaigns. However, the two righties, as well as the Orioles’ starting staff in its entirety, have done no such rebounding.

Outside of Dylan Bundy (who has recorded a remarkable 1.42 ERA in his first five outings this season and was on the rubber for the Orioles’ Friday night victory versus the Cleveland Indians), and Cashner (who has recorded a 3.00 ERA in his first four starts), the Orioles have struggled to pitch deep into games and limit a team’s offensive firepower. Gausman currently owns a 5.57 ERA and 1.57 WHIP; Tillman owns an 11.91 ERA and 2.82 WHIP; Cobb has surrendered 12 earned runs in his first two outings this season. The Orioles as a whole went into Friday night 26th in team ERA (5.11). They cannot win with a two-man rotation, and, for the moment, the pitching woes have only worsened from last season. Their bullpen is also tasked with filling the void created by Zach Britton‘s absence in the wake of his offseason Achilles injury.

When an order features the likes of Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop, Chris Davis, Tim Beckham, and Trey Mancini, it’s expected to perform at a high level. Unlike years past, that lineup has posed no such threat. Going into Friday night, the Orioles were 27th in team batting average (.223) and 22nd in runs scored (66). Schoop was hitting just .235 heading into Friday night, while Davis, Beckham, and Anthony Santander were hitting below .200, and catcher Caleb Joseph owned a .105 on-base percentage. Outside of Machado (who is playing at an MVP level), Jones, and Mancini, manager Buck Showalter‘s order has been disappointing. With Machado, Jones, and Britton hitting free agency after this season, general manager Dan Duquette would be wise to contemplate shopping the three if Baltimore continues to reel.

Look at the Orioles’ competition in the American League East. The Boston Red Sox are 17-2, and clearly one of the best all-around clubs in baseball. While the Yankees are off to a slow start this season after making the blockbuster trade for Giancarlo Stanton, they’re still just 9-9 and very much in the playoff conversation. It was hard to forecast what the Toronto Blue Jays would be after a quiet offseason, but they have surprised many starting the year 13-6. Heck, the Tampa Bay Rays are a half game up on the Orioles.

As the @Orioles fall deeper into a standings abyss, one thought seems to be the consensus: the O's should become trade deadline sellers.Click To Tweet

The Orioles, for the most part, are healthy, and have a deep and talented roster, but are playing themselves into a huge hole. At 6-14, the Orioles are in dead last in the AL East, and the case could be made that they’re the fourth best team in the division even if they catch fire in the coming weeks which: A) Speaks volumes to the stiff competition within their division and B) Means the Orioles aren’t a playoff team. Talent-wise, this isn’t a 6-14 team. They have a number of All-Star caliber players who have excelled at the plate and in the field in recent memory; they even have proven commodities in their rotation, despite their collective struggle to garner consistency.

History and reality can tell two different stories. The past serves as a model for the Orioles in that they have the talent to turn things around based on it still being April. Simultaneously, reality tells management that with three premier free agents-to-be on their roster and a 6-14 record, they should be sellers. Many expect next winter to be a period of significant change for the Orioles. Their premier free agents appear likely to depart, and with his contract expiring after this season, Showalter’s time in Baltimore may be coming to an end too.

It’s not likely that the Orioles will get a king’s ransom for Machado, Jones, and Britton if they put them on the trade block based on the fact that teams could wait until the offseason to sign them. But they could still get back a well-thought-of and/or top ten prospect in a potential trade or two. And if you’re the Orioles — at the bottom of the division and well-below the .500 mark in July — what’s the point of not entertaining trading the trio? They are all big names at their respective positions, but if they walk in free agency and the Orioles get nothing for them, it’ll be even worse.

The Orioles are just a year removed from playing in the American League Wild Card game, and that team’s core is still intact. But talent and results have been screaming two different outcomes in Baltimore.

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