Orioles general manager Mike Elias spoke with reporters (including Rich Dubroff of BaltimoreBaseball.com) just after their relatively inactive deadline. Baltimore are firmly entrenched in the “seller” category, with the worst record in the American League and only the Diamondbacks keeping them from being worst in all of MLB. But despite that, the club only made a pair of minor trades as the deadline approached, sending Freddy Galvis to the Phillies for Tyler Burch, and Shawn Armstrong to Tampa for cash considerations.
As Elias sees it, the reason for the lack of moves is because their players with the most trade appeal are actually building blocks. “We were very mindful that a lot of our best players that were in demand were players that are not pending free agents with the Orioles,” Elias said. “They’re players that are young and talented and we like and have future years with this club and project to be a part of this club when we hope to be a playoff contender.”
When asked specifically about John Means and Cedric Mullins, Elias said he was “pretty confident that we weren’t going to get very serious in talks with those players. We’re very, very impressed by what those guys are doing, and they’re here for a long time, and they play positions that are not easy to find guys to do what they do. It’s not a priority for us to look at those opportunities.”
Means will cross three years’ service time by the end of this season, setting him up for his first of three arbitration years. He won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2024 season. Mullins on the other hand, has one extra year of control beyond that, slated to hit free agency in late 2025.
Getting back into contention within the next three to four years will be a challenge for the club, as they share a division with four very strong teams. Although Baltimore has a solid farm system, that doesn’t necessarily give them a leg up on their division mates. The Orioles came in seventh on Baseball America’s most recent organizational talent rankings. But two of the other AL East clubs, Tampa and Toronto, are ahead of them. And both of those clubs already have lots of young, controllable talent at the major league level. The Red Sox and Yankees have weaker systems on that list but are currently strong at the major league level and always have higher payrolls than Baltimore to attract and retain talent. Holding on to players like Means and Mullins also carries the risk that they may get hurt or not maintain their performance.
Elias did say that they were “pretty close” to trading away one of their relievers, but didn’t specify which one. Paul Fry and Tanner Scott are two lefties that seen their names surface in recent rumors, alongside righties Cole Sulser and Dillon Tate. All of those hurlers are controlled through at least 2024. And it seems in that the thinking with those arms was the same as with Means and Mullins, that it’s better to hold and try to build around those players before they reach free agency.
One player slated to reach free agency much sooner is Trey Mancini. But despite having just over a year of team control remaining, the idea of a Mancini trade seems unlikely for different reasons. Since missing the 2020 season dealing with colon cancer, Mancini has become a fan favorite in Baltimore and around the league. And trading him would certainly be a difficult sell to the Baltimore fans, who have had few things to feel good about in recent years. As Elias puts it, “I hope he’s here as long as possible and, ultimately, we’re going to take things as we come like baseball teams do in the major leagues and look at stuff and keep talking. He’s a very special part of this team, and he’s going to continue to be so, and we’re happy about that.”