Baltimore Orioles fans got a glimmer of good news over the weekend with reports that both the owners and players are willing to compromise on a financial payment plan for 2020 even if the current proposals are not realistic.
So with a season on the horizon, I thought this would be a good time to look at potential Baltimore Orioles moves. MLB insiders expect a transaction craze once rosters unfreeze, and the Orioles should be a key part of that.
With the pandemic cutting off income streams, many teams are expected to further cut payroll by trading away some players, which means that smart teams can take advantage and add to payroll a little bit and improve their rosters. The Orioles already did their cutting in the offseason, leaving the active roster with a payroll of $50 million, 28th in the league. With such a small number, the Orioles have room to increase their payroll and take advantage of a frantic market.
The Players Association justifiably has plenty of problems with the league’s economic proposals so far. But they will likely accept the 30-man active roster and 20-man taxi squad, so that players aren’t wore out. The four extras on the active roster will probably all be pitchers, so the fringe guys like Dillon Tate and Cody Carroll who usually ride the Norfolk shuttle will have more opportunities to show their stuff with the big league club. Don’t expect a better bullpen, just one with some more variety.
Swingmen won’t be the only ones to benefit, as I expect much of the taxi squad to play, especially for a rebuilding team. Top slugging prospect Ryan Mountcastle should be up sooner rather than later, and others like Cedric Mullins will get a second chance to prove themselves.
The front office should not pretend like they have a shot at the wild card in a shortened season, but they can add some veterans that help the team in the medium-term future, and maybe prospects that help long term.
The teams that are most desperate to cut salaries are weaker teams and/or smaller markets, so we’ll focus on them.
Nabbing a Catcher
During the Winter Meetings, the Angels dumped Zack Cozart‘s $12 million contract on the Giants, but they also gave first rounder Will Wilson to make the deal worthwhile. The Giants then cut Cozart, but the Orioles can get creative and make similar trades for players they might want to keep.
The Angels who dealt Cozart are the same team who gutted their scouting department a few days ago, so clearly they are trying to save money despite playing in the LA market. A trade here isn’t likely for the Orioles, but I could see them taking catcher Jason Castro ($6.8 m) and a mid-tier prospect for one of their own catchers. I bet GM Mike Elias is ready to give up on Chance Sisco, and Castro offers experience and a bit of power behind the plate.
The A’s also announced that they will furlough scouts, which is still upsetting but less surprising since they have a smaller budget. With their top pitching prospects reaching the majors in Jesus Luzardo and AJ Puk, Oakland may have a surplus of players if not cash. The Orioles could take on Mike Fiers or Joakim Soria, who both make $8 million or so. They are in their mid-thirties, but the Orioles signed Wade LeBlanc this year, so that should not be much of an issue.
Wooing Other Potentials
There are some other potential suitors, but they don’t perfectly fit this profile. The Marlins are in perpetual financial trouble with poor leadership, but their large contracts are all new acquisitions, including Jonathan Villar. The Rays can maneuver any kind of trade they want, but they don’t really need to improve or trim their roster at this point.
The Reds and White Sox were big spenders this offseason, but that means their larger contracts are desirable players. Maybe the O’s could go for Gio Gonzalez or Freddy Galvis. The trade I think is most plausible, though, is with the Braves, who could use a third baseman and have a surplus of outfielders. How about dealing Renato Nunez or Rio Ruiz for Ender Inciarte and Touki Toussaint, whose prospect shine has worn off but still has a lot of potential.
Maneuvering with Martin
I am wondering when the rosters unfreezing will occur, because an earlier date will affect the draft strategy, or vice versa if the draft happens first. Teams don’t draft for need in baseball, but the O’s can part with a third baseman if they take Austin Martin.
Of course, none of these trades are likely to happen, but the Orioles could and should come up with something. Perhaps these trades all favor the Orioles because an O’s fan is coming up with them, but the theory has worked in practice. Mike Elias is a more careful and knowledgeable person than me, so I trust that he can make some cunning moves.
Now here’s to hoping the two sides reach an agreement. None of this matters if there is no return, so please bring baseball back.