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What’s happened to the Baltimore Orioles’ roster rebuild?

Robbie Stratakos
Baltimore Orioles roster rebuild
May 30, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Keegan Akin (45) leaves the game against the Chicago White Sox during the fifth inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles have lost 14 consecutive games. They also haven’t finished with a winning record since 2016 and have posted a winning percentage no better than .463 in each of the last five seasons. It’s not going very well for the Birds at the moment.

The Orioles have been transparently rebuilding over the last four seasons but have been doing so at a snail’s pace, making minimal, if any progress. What does the future look like for the O’s? It’s bleak with holes and question marks across the board.

There are only a handful of franchise pillars on the Baltimore Orioles’ roster

Baltimore Orioles star Trey Mancini
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Trey Mancini is back to his stellar ways at the plate and Cedric Mullins is having a nice season at the top of the order, and that’s about it for the Orioles’ offense. They’re a unit that manufactures offense at a low level.

Manager Brandon Hyde has some capable hitters on his positional depth chart, but it’s mostly a grouping of players who have been productive in spurts over the last two years (Anthony Santander, Austin Hays, DJ Stewart, Pedro Severino and others). Meanwhile, their starting rotation is an essential one-trick pony.

John Means has been one of the best left-handed starters in MLB since 2019 and has been the best version of himself this season. He has thrown a no-hitter, sports a 2.05 ERA across 11 starts and become the undisputed anchor of the Orioles’ pitching staff. There’s nothing auspicious on this pitching staff outside of him.

Jorge Lopez can throw hard but has been inconsistent. Matt Harvey was off to a promising start but has since faltered. Opposing offenses are hitting over .300 against both Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann. Surely, youngsters like Kremer and Keegan Akin can improve as they have little big-league experience under their belt. That said, them taking a step forward as the regular season progresses does little in making this unit a stable staff.

The Orioles are 17-37, good for last place in the American League East. It would make sense for a rebuilding team at the bottom of its division to shop its veterans to corral more prospects, right?

It’s difficult for the Baltimore Orioles to get busy on the MLB trade market

Baltimore Orioles roster: John Means
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles’ prime trade candidates are Mancini, Mullins and Means, as they’re the team’s three most valuable players at the moment. The problem with moving one or two of them? The trio makes for the three best things the organization has going for itself, and Baltimore could be taking another step back by moving them. Plus, there’s the contract conundrum.

Means could never have more trade value than in the present given that he’s under contract through 2024 and performing like a Cy Young winner. If he keeps up this level of performance, Means could get the Orioles a sweet return via trade. On the other hand, trading him could make the Orioles’ rotation the worst in baseball.

Mancini is an All-Star player and talent. However, he’s only under team control through 2022, meaning a team would be acquiring him for a year and a half. The Orioles would get back a lacking haul for the slugger, similar to when they traded two months of control on Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018.

Mullins is under team control through 2025 and is yet to put together a complete season but looks like someone the Orioles should be riding out the season with. Cashing in early on Mullins’ 2021 campaign would be premature.

Then there’s the prospect of the Baltimore Orioles being buyers. That possibility loses legs when taking into account how the players Baltimore would offer teams for a proven commodity have been unable to establish themselves in the big leagues and/or are unappealing. In other words, the Orioles are stuck trying to make it worth with what they have and trying to catch lightning in a bottle with free agents looking to right the ship (they attempted to do this by taking a flier on Matt Harvey). Maybe they can get a middle-level prospect for Freddy Galvis and/or Maikel Franco before the trade deadline?

The Baltimore Orioles’ rebuild has become disturbing

Baltimore Orioles losing streak
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

To cap it off, the Baltimore Orioles play in an extremely competitive American League East division that has been stout this season. The 2020 American League champion Tampa Bay Rays have hit their stride lately, winning 16 of their last 17. One of the surprise teams has been the Boston Red Sox, as they’re 32-21 and in the thick of the pennant race.

Sure, the New York Yankees have been a puzzling rollercoaster. At the same time, they have a deep-rooted offensive attack and an improved starting rotation. Concurrently, the Toronto Blue Jays are loaded around the diamond and a budding team as a whole.

The Orioles are the worst team in the American League East and have the bearish long-term extrapolation of the five-team cluster. What are they supposed to do? They’re worse than all of their divisional rivals and struggling to produce homegrown everyday players and pitching fixtures.

There are only a handful of players who would yield a considerable return via trade and the organization has been perhaps the quietest team on the free agent market over the last three years. The Orioles acquiring right-hander Adam Plutko from the Cleveland Indians in March was their most noteworthy transaction since trading Machado in 2018.

This rebuild has become downright disturbing. June has just begun, and the Baltimore Orioles have already fallen out of realistic playoff contention and have made no progress as an organization. There’s virtually no positive route for them in the near future, a notion furthered by the team’s inactivity on the free agent market. We could be on the verge of one of the most catastrophically bad rebuilds in MLB history.