BALTIMORE — Buried in the AL East cellar and well on their way to a second straight losing season, the Baltimore Orioles enter the so-called second half with this unavoidable realization: It’s time to break up the band.
The trade of shortstop Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night started the inevitable rebuilding process for a team that has bottomed out in 2018. After reaching the playoffs in 2012, 2014 and 2016, the Orioles own the second-worst record (28-69) in the major leagues, have endured six losing streaks of at least a half-dozen games and have been shut out nine times.
Thus, Baltimore approaches the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline in full selling mode. The exit of Machado could be followed by the departure of outfielder Adam Jones, lefty Zach Britton and right-hander Brad Brach, all of whom are in the final year of their contracts.
“Obviously, you never want to be in a position to sell, but that’s just the nature of this business,” nine-year veteran Danny Valencia said. “The front office is going to make moves that they feel (are) going to better this team in the future. Us as players, we have to accept this.”
It hurts even more because the Orioles left spring training fully expecting to be contenders.
“There’s no shortage of talent on this team,” right-hander Kevin Gausman said. “That’s the most frustrating thing.”
The Orioles tried to keep a good thing going. It didn’t work. All they can do now is offer a hug and a wave to those headed elsewhere.
“If Adam Jones is gone, I’d be bummed. He’s one of my friends,” Valencia said before the All-Star break. “Manny, too. It’s a good thing for those guys because they’re going to be going to teams trying to win a World Series, but you don’t want to see guys like that playing in a different uniform.”
Machado has never suited up for anyone but the Orioles, but he’ll be wearing Dodger blue on Friday night in Milwaukee. Britton has played only for Baltimore, and Jones began his career with Seattle but became a five-time All-Star with the Orioles.
And now, it appears as if it’s time for them to move on.
“It sucks, man,” Valencia said. “When you’re winning, the team stays together. Losing, they break up the team. And I think the saddest part of this is, at the end of the year guys will be on different teams and the offseason will come, and they’ll look back and have regrets because they will realize this team was super talented and underachieved.”
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is carefully weighing all options. It took him a while to unload Machado, and he probably won’t make another deal until he’s absolutely sure he’s getting as much talent as possible,
“Until it happens, it hasn’t happened,” Britton said. “You don’t know the offers that they’re getting.”
Come August, and maybe sooner, it will be time for the Orioles to take a long look at their younger players and try to make the best of a horrific season. Manager Buck Showalter is currently protecting the team’s trade chips (he prevented Machado from playing on a wet field Sunday) while making plans for guiding a different sort of club.
“There’s things I’m trying to do with people who could potentially be moved, trying to do what’s best for the organization long term and short term,” Showalter said. “I stop and think about those factors every decision I make.”
The influx of youth can be invigorating, but there’s a risk in rushing players to the big leagues too early. How this goes is anyone’s guess.
“I have no idea,” catcher Caleb Joseph said. “The five years I’ve been here, we’ve been buyers at the deadline every single time. So, I’ve never experienced it before.
“There is a certain level of energy a young player brings, but they also bring inexperience,” Joseph noted. “Patience is the key. But there are some interesting pieces in the minor leagues, and they may be getting a chance soon. It will indicate where we’re at as an organization.”
Over the final 10 weeks, the focus for the Orioles will be on finishing strong and seeing who’s worthy of being on the retooled 2019 roster.
“We’ve got to forget about what’s happened already,” second baseman Jonathan Schoop said, “and look to the future.”
By DAVID GINSBURG, AP Sports Writer, Associated Press