JULY 18: Rosenthal now reports (via Twitter) that Angelos has indeed given Duquette his approval to explore trades involving the team’s top relievers as well as Smith.
JULY 16: As long as Orioles ownership approves, executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette has told other teams that he is open to trading three of his top relievers (Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Darren O’Day) as well as outfielder Seth Smith, Ken Rosenthal reports via his Facebook page.
Also noteworthy in Rosenthal’s report is the list of names the O’s apparently aren’t willing to trade. The club isn’t listening to offers for Manny Machado or Adam Jones, and though Mychal Givens is receiving interest from rival clubs, the O’s also don’t plan on dealing the righty, who is controllable through the 2021 season.
This would indicate that the Orioles aren’t approaching the deadline with an eye towards a full-blown rebuild. Dealing a controllable player like Givens (who is likely being groomed for a larger role should one of the veteran relievers be dealt) or moving cornerstone players like Machado or Jones would imply that Baltimore wasn’t planning on contending in 2018. Instead, the team looks to be attempting to free up some payroll space in the form of pricey relief contacts, and move some excess pieces in the bullpen and bench with an eye towards reloading for next season. With this in mind, Rosenthal opines that Welington Castillo could also be a trade chip, as the catcher can become a free agent this winter if he doesn’t exercise his player option for 2018.
All this trade talk assumes, of course, that Orioles owner Peter Angelos is willing to green-light the proposed deadline moves. Rosenthal points out that Angelos hasn’t permitted his team to make significant trades of veterans at the deadline since 2000, though the O’s are only on the fringes of contention this year. The Orioles entered the day tied with the Blue Jays for fourth place in the AL East with a 42-48 record, 8.5 games out of first place and five games out of a wild card berth.
Britton posted one of the best years of any closer in baseball history in 2016, though he has only pitched 13 innings for Baltimore this season due to a pair of forearm strains. Despite the worrying nature of such injuries, Britton’s track record ensures that he would be a prized commodity at the deadline, with such teams as the Dodgers and Astros already showing some interest.
Britton’s rise to elite closer status has coincided with his arbitration years, as he is playing this season on an $11.4MM salary. Though his injury woes will probably limit the size of his raise in his fourth and final trip through the arb process this winter, Britton still has another $12MM+ salary coming his way in 2018, and there were whispers all winter that the O’s could move Britton and go with a less-expensive option at closer.
Brach, for instance, is only earning $3.05MM this season and is controlled through the 2018 season. This contract situation and Brach’s own strong performance this year as Britton’s replacement at closer has put Brach perhaps even in higher demand than Britton. It probably isn’t likely that both Britton and Brach would be dealt, as the club likely sees one or the other as their closer in 2018.
The veteran O’Day missed some time due to a shoulder strain this year and was hampered by injuries in 2016, though he had continued to post his usual solid numbers when healthy. O’Day has a 3.77 ERA, 11.3 K/9 and 2.79 K/BB rate over 31 frames for Baltimore this year. O’Day is owed $9MM in both 2018 and 2019 and has roughly $3MM remaining salary for this year. The veteran also has a partial no-trade clause in his contract that allows him to block deals to seven teams, so O’Day has some control over his destiny if the Orioles do want to trade him.
Smith was acquired in a trade with the Mariners last winter to boost the Orioles’ left-handed hitting outfield depth, and he has a solid .259/.328/.436 slash line through 244 PA. Trey Mancini has stepped into an everyday corner outfield role, so the O’s could use a platoon of Joey Rickard and Hyun Soo Kim in the other corner spot should Smith be dealt.