Impact bats that could intrigue the Baltimore Orioles on the trade market

Mike Elias' phone should be very busy come July.
Mike Elias' phone should be very busy come July. / G Fiume/GettyImages

For the first time in what seems like an eternity, the Orioles are poised to be buyers at this year's trade deadline. This is not just speculation, but the words of the Orioles' lead decisionmaker, Mike Elias. “We’re definitely preparing all types of scenarios,” Elias said, “and they’re buy scenarios.” Of course, Elias famously told success-starved Oriole fans after the 2022 trade deadline that it was "lift-off" from there, only to underwhelmingly add the solid but certainly unspectacular Kyle Gibson, Adam Frazier, and others.

But at 37-22, good for third best in the American League, the Orioles have certainly looked the part of a team that expects to buy at the trade deadline. As far as needs go, the first item on the Orioles' shopping list should be starting pitchers. Indeed, Cole Irvin and Grayson Rodriguez, two expected fixtures in the 2023 rotation, have pitched their way off the team and appear stuck in the minors for now.

In addition, the Orioles could - and perhaps should - consider promoting top prospects Colton Cowser and Jordan Westburg to give the offense a boost. Nevertheless, the Orioles should certainly explore any opportunity to upgrade their starting lineup by any reasonable means. This article explores possible trade targets who could fit that mold.

Potentially interesting targets for the Orioles at the trade deadline

1. Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals, 1B

Paul Goldschmidt
St. Louis Cardinals v Cleveland Guardians / Ron Schwane/GettyImages

Proposed Trade: Paul Goldschmidt for Ryan Mountcastle, Connor Norby, and Cade Povich.

This suggestion may raise a few eyebrows, as the Orioles first basemen, Ryan Mountcastle has been with the team since 2020, has hit some prodigious home runs, and has always seemed to be a part of the core. But a closer look at Mountcastle's stats suggests that the Orioles could look to upgrade at first base, should they choose to do so.

Mountcastle's OPS currently sits at a mediocre .709 (league average is currently .727). While Mountcastle has hit solid 11 home runs, his batting average and on base-percentage stand at a not-so-solid .235 and .273, respectively. Mountcastle's 2022 season was similarly pedestrian: the first-basman posted only a .728 OPS, to go along with a poor .250 average and .305 on base percentage.

Enter Paul Goldschmidt. To be clear, I do not know whether the St. Louis Cardinals are shopping their superstar first baseman, but with the Cardinals languishing in last place in the terrible NL Central at 25-35, perhaps they would consider trading Goldschmidt. Other media outlets have picked up on the possibility of the Cardinals being sellers, with Goldschmidt potentially being available.

If so, the Orioles should be the first team on the line. It is no exaggeration to say Goldschmidt has been one of the best hitters in the National League over the last ten years. In fact, he won the NL MVP in 2022, batting .317 with 35 home runs, 99 RBIs, and a .972 OPS. The perennially good right-handed hitting Goldschmidt is in the midst of another All-Star caliber season, batting 296 with 10 home runs, 26 RBIS, and a .907 OPS. Following this season, he has one year and $22M remaining on his contract, so the Orioles need not worry about being saddled with a declining players' final, overpaid seasons (see Cabrera, Miguel and Tigers, Detroit).

So, what would it take? If the Cardinals opt to throw in the towel in late July, they will certainly be seeking young, cheap, controllable talent in return for Goldschmidt's services. The Orioles have plenty of that. Logically, any deal should start with Mountcastle who, despite the poor numbers, is under team control through 2026 and has the potential to OPS over .800 on a regular basis if he can find some consistency.

The Cardinals would also likely want a young arm such as Cade Povich, who the Orioles acquired in the Jorge Lopez trade last July and ranks 11th among the Orioles' top 30 prospects. The Cardinals would want one more impact prospect and Connor Norby, ranked seventh in the Orioles' system, should fit the mold. Trading Norby would be tough, but the Orioles are stocked with current (Gunnar Henderson, Adam Frazier, Jorge Mateo, Ramon Urias) and future (Joey Ortiz, Cesar Prieto, Jordan Westburg) to offset his loss.

Acquiring Goldschmidt comes with risk. He is 35, and at $22M, would easily be the highest-paid player on the Orioles this year and next. And as painful as trading some of these players might be, this is a deal the Orioles would have to make, and a deal that would vault them into serious contenders in the American League.

2. Brent Rooker, Oakland Athletics, OF/DH

Brent Rooker
Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros / Bob Levey/GettyImages

Proposed Trade: Brent Rooker for Drew Rom and Kyle Stowers

Ever since trading Trey Mancini at the 2022 trade deadline, the Orioles have rotated several players through the designated hitter spot, including Ryan O'Hearn, James McCann, and Anthony Santander. Enter Brett Rooker, the formerly unheralded Minnesota Twin who has burst onto the scene in his first season in Oakland. Rooker has thus far posted an .869 OPS with 12 home runs and 34 RBIs for Oakland, and the OPS and home run total would lead all Orioles.

With the Athletics going nowhere fast at a Major-League worst 12-50, they should be looking to capitalize on Rooker's hot start to add to their system. And while teams will be leery of Rooker, who is posting a by-far-career-best-year at age 28, the Athletics should be able to net at least a couple of interesting young players for him.

I propose left-hander Drew Rom, who has averaged over one strikeout per inning in ten appearances for Triple-A Norfolk and ranks 18 on the Orioles' list of top prospects, and outfielder Kyle Stowers, who has raked in the minors but struggled with the Orioles this year. Stowers specifically presents as a classic change-of-scenery player and would likely see every-day at bats in Oakland's outfield next to speedster Esteury Ruiz and veteran Ramon Laureano.

Rooker, meanwhile, would likely draw the majority of starts at DH for the Orioles as they hope he continues his hot start at the plate. The emergence of Ryan O'Hearn, who homered against the Brewers and has been hot of late, could ultimately wind up platooning with Rooker, who is under team control through 2027.

Orioles fans know all too well how good Rooker has been this season, as the right-handed power hitter went 6-12 with three home runs and 9 RBIs against the Orioles in three April games.

3. Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies, IF

Ryan McMahon
Colorado Rockies v Kansas City Royals / Jay Biggerstaff/GettyImages

Proposed Trade: Ryan McMahon for Adam Frazier and Justin Armbruester.

While Paul Goldschmidt would certainly qualify as the biggest name of suggested offensive targets for the Orioles, Ryan McMahon could represent an interesting option as a left-handed power-hitting infielder. Yes, the Orioles are loaded with infielders in the Major and Minor leagues (in fact, I just wrote that in the Paul Goldschmidt analysis). But there's no doubt that McMahon provides an upgrade over both Adam Frazier and Ramon Urias.

Perhaps flying under the radar as a member of the perennially bad Colorado Rockies, McMahon has followed up a solid 2021 and 2022 with a strong start to his 2023, hitting .258 with 9 home runs, 34 RBIS, and an .814 OPS. Last season, McMahon slugged 20 home runs and posted a WAR of 3.0, and in 2021, he hit 23 home runs, had an OPS of .779, and was worth a stellar 3,9 wins. In comparison, Frazier currently has a .235 average and .691 OPS. Last season, Frazier posted an even worse .612 OPS in Seattle.

In the second year of a 6 year, $70M extension he signed before the 2022 season, McMahon has played all over the infield in his career, but primarily at second and third in 2023. Due to his hefty contract, and the ever-present fear that Coors Field drove his home run totals, the Orioles could potentially land McMahon for a package including Adam Frazier (to set off salary at least for this season and clear playing time for McMahon) and a mid-tier minor leaguer such as Justin Armbruester, ranked as the Orioles' 30th-best prospect.

This deal allows Colorado to shed McMahon's salary and take a flyer on a decent pitching prospect, while the Orioles acquire a lefty power bat to take advantage of the short porch in right field in Camden Yards. McMahon could rotate between second and third base and provide an offensive upgrade over Frazier while the Orioles continue to await the arrival of Jordan Westburg and Joey Ortiz.

Overall, this type of deal is unlikely, as the Orioles probably do not want to commit to a high-paid middle-infielder when the team has significant infield prospects. However, in a trade market with few impact bats, McMahon would present an upgrade for the remainder of this season and beyond.

The biggest fish in this potential pond of offensive trade targets is Paul Goldschmidt. But it is also the first week of June, and it is too early to tell which teams will be "sellers" at this year's trade deadline, including the Cardinals, who won the NL Central last season.

At the end of the day, the Orioles should focus their trade deadline efforts on supplementing their starting pitching, with a greater selection of players available and a more obvious need. But, if the Orioles seek to upgrade their offense via trade, these are three options that they could look into acquiring prior to August 1.