The MLB trade deadline is about buyers and sellers.
Good teams in playoff position are, in theory, supposed to make trades to improve their rosters for a postseason run, while sacrificing some future potential in the process.
Teams that are essentially eliminated from contention are supposed to sell their useful players who will either reach free agency soon, or have reached an age where they’re unlikely to be part of the next run of success.
The 2022 Baltimore Orioles have thoroughly, and potentially permanently, debunked that theory.
As of Tuesday morning, the Orioles are over .500 on the season. While they’ve been buried in the division by the league leading New York Yankees, they’re just 2.5 games out of a playoff spot.
With the addition of the third wild card team for 2022, the bar to reach the postseason has never been lower. As such, the Orioles are just a few games behind current wild card teams like the Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners have been extremely aggressive at the deadline, trading a substantial prospect haul to the Cincinnati Reds for the deadline’s best available pitcher, Luis Castillo.
The Orioles just did the exact opposite.
Instead of adding on to a roster that had a tremendous month of July, making incremental improvements to strengthen their position, the Orioles gave up.
Trey Mancini was sent to the Houston Astros on Monday, followed by star closer Jorge Lopez departing for Minnesota on Tuesday.
Just 10 days ago, Lopez was optimistic that the Orioles were “absolutely” contenders to win the World Series:
Now he’s been shipped off to the Twins. Who are all of 2.5 games ahead of the Orioles.
This is the infuriating flip side of the modern baseball obsession with efficiency.
No, the Orioles were not likely to win the World Series before making these trades. But they had a legitimate opportunity to make a playoff run and provide some much needed excitement for their fanbase.
Just last year, the Braves were below .500 late in the season, but stormed their way to a title in October. While Atlanta did have star players like Freddie Freeman and Austin Riley, they also relied heavily on deadline acquisitions like Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler in the NLCS and World Series.
The Orioles could easily have done something similar; gone after mid-range players that wouldn’t cost substantial prospect capital while still meaningfully improving their roster.
Rental hitters like J.D. Martinez have reportedly been available. Or the Cubs Willson Contreras, just as a few examples.
Instead, the organization essentially punted on this season, ensuring that fans will face another year awaiting an endless rebuild.
There might be analytics based justifications for the sell off, but baseball moves quickly, especially in the AL East, and seizing on opportunities has value too.
Yet again, Orioles fans will have to dream about being one of MLB’s buyers, actively trying to win instead of playing not to lose.