Baltimore Orioles: Now is the Right Time to Trade Santander

Anthony Santander #25 of the Baltimore Orioles. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Anthony Santander #25 of the Baltimore Orioles. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Anthony Santander has decent trade value but won’t return to his 2020 peak. The Baltimore Orioles should now give their outfield prospects a chance.

The Baltimore Orioles are playing much better than expected this season, on pace for 74 wins precisely halfway through the season. The All-Star-level play from Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, and Jorge Lopez, as well as the positive debut of Adley Rutschman, are signs that the team will be ready to contend in 2023.

But the clear improvements will not fool the front office into making a push for this year’s postseason. Instead, they will follow the same path since Mike Elias became general manager and trade away the players that make the most logical sense. This year, they should accept a fair return for Anthony Santander.

The previous regime, Dan Duquette, did well to pick Santander in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft and hold onto him, and he has blossomed into an everyday power threat under Elias’s leadership. After poor 2017 and 2018 seasons when he wasn’t ready for The Show, he put up a league-average line in 2019. He then became the Most Valuable Oriole in 2020 with a .890 OPS boosted by a .575 slugging percentage.

Elias started listening to trade offers after that season, but he understandably had an astronomical asking price for a 25-year-old with five years of club control. Santander then fell back to Earth in 2021, as his slash line fell below average.

At last year’s deadline and then during the offseason, other teams thought the asking price was absurd for someone with a .720 OPS. I don’t know what Elias wanted, but I imagine a Top100 prospect was the starting point.

Baltimore Orioles: Now is the Right Time to Trade Santander

Tony Taters has bounced back this year, but not to the levels of his brief 2020 campaign. His batting average and slugging percentage have actually fallen a little further than last year, but his on-base percentage is much higher. Generally a free swinger, Santander has been much more patient this year and has already set a career-high in walks. His new plate discipline gives him a higher floor and an above-average line.

With offense down around the league, teams are in need of more offense, and Santander’s .750 OPS is suddenly appealing. A still-young switch hitter has good trade value; it just isn’t close to what it was two summers ago. Jeremiah Carson recently proposed two trade offers for Santander, one conventional and one outside the box.

It is challenging for us onlookers to judge a player’s trade value accurately, but this month seems like the right time to trade Santander. He is playing better, but I doubt his power output will come all the way back.

Two years later, a 37-game surge seems more like a hot streak than a consistent performance. The Baltimore Orioles should get what they can before Santander possibly falls off again when the return would be lousy.

Anthony Santander #25 of the Baltimore Orioles reacts to a pitch. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Anthony Santander #25 of the Baltimore Orioles reacts to a pitch. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Elias and company have made some very shrewd trades (the Angels and Rockies probably won’t call him back anymore), but we have also started to see what happens when they wait too long to trade someone.

They sold high on Cole Sulser, but the same trade to the Marlins was selling low on Tanner Scott. After putting up a sparkling 1.31 ERA in 2020, Scott looked like the short-term closer, except that he slumped to a 5.17 ERA in 2021 for the Baltimore Orioles.

The same thing happened this year with Paul Fry, who had a 2.45 ERA in 2020. He then plummeted to a 6.08 ERA in 2021. The team understandably held onto him to see if he could rebound, but Elias designated him for assignment after posting a 6 ERA in 12 games. He sent Fry to the Diamondbacks for a long-shot complex pitcher.

Relievers are more volatile than everyday outfielders, but they still serve as warning signs for what happens when a team holds on too long. Santander has served the Orioles well, but he probably won’t get better from here on out.

The other important reason to trade Santander is to create an opportunity for outfield prospects. Kyle Stowers made his MLB debut last month, but he was only a COVID substitute because the unvaccinated Santander is not allowed to enter Canada.

So, Stowers has spent the rest of the year in Norfolk. His numbers with the Tides show he is ready for a longer look, and his prospect pedigree means it is essential to see if he can stick in the Majors with the Baltimore Orioles.

Stowers is slashing a strong .258/.355/.542 at AAA, good enough for a .896 OPS. His 15 home runs and 11.5% walk rate both stand out, while a league-average K-rate isn’t worrisome. He was also a second-rounder in 2019, rounding out a historic Day 1 when the O’s took Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson.

Yusniel Diaz and Robert Neustrom also deserve chances at some point, but their current lack of hype means a promotion isn’t urgent. They can wait for the Baltimore Orioles September call-ups and hopefully play better in the meantime.

Next. Predicting the Baltimore Orioles starting lineup after the trade deadline. dark

The front office has been strategically sound for the most part about when to trade and promote their players. Assuming they get a worthwhile offer, they will make the right decision and trade Anthony Santander to help along the rebuild and promote Kyle Stowers in the process.