The Baltimore Orioles' quest to regain an upper-tier position on the field in MLB is an ongoing and moving target. General manager Mike Elias is wearing a lot of hats as he attempts to pattern the organization after the two teams he worked for previously: the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros.
Right now, the team rightly has its sights set on whom to pick in the June draft. After the draft, the focus will pivot to making the most of international scouting director Koby Perez's hard work and beginning to effectively use international bonus slot money for something other than trades that amount to small potatoes. That period begins each year in early July.
During the offseason, there will likely be a couple of low-end possibilities in free agency. But just as important, and maybe even more so, is trading fungible assets on hand now to teams fighting for the 2019 world championship. The Orioles would be wise to deal some veterans this summer when their value is high rather than wait.
So, who on the present Orioles' roster fits that mold? Who is potentially coveted by another team for the short-term goal of winning now?
At one time, Bundy, 26, was a prospect worthy of being selected as the No. 4 pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, but the high school phenom from Owasso, Okla., has not had an easy time of it.
Greatness seemed within his grasp after a very solid minor-league season in 2012 that saw him pitch in Low-A Delmarva, High-A Frederick, Double-A Bowie and even 1.2 innings in the big leagues. However, Tommy John surgery in 2013 changed the trajectory of his career. He pitched 41.1 innings at Short Season-A Aberdeen and Frederick after returning from Tommy John in 2014, but he dealt with more injuries in 2015, pitching just 22 innings at Bowie.
Due to the nature of the contract he signed as an amateur, he was guaranteed a 40-man roster spot. Bundy was out of options by 2016, meaning the Orioles risked losing him on a waiver claim if he didn't make the big-league club that spring. He made the team, and manager Buck Showalter figured out a way to utilize him out of the bullpen and in the rotation to the tune of 109.2 innings and 10 wins.
Since then, Bundy has had his ups and downs. But if he can string together a stretch of starts similar to the one he had May 4 -- seven shutout innings against the Tampa Bay Rays -- the Elias regime would be giddy to trade for a solid prospect who may actually be around in 2021 and beyond. Bundy is under club control through the 2021 season.
The Orioles drafted the right-handed, side-arming Givens as a shortstop with the No. 54 overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft. After struggling offensively and showing very little overall upside as a position player, Givens and the club agreed to convert to pitching in 2013. He got on the fast track and was in the majors by June 2015 after just about 160 innings in the minors.
Givens, 29, was brilliant at times in lower-leverage situations in the fifth and sixth innings, but with injuries to relievers Darren O'Day and eventually Zack Britton, he was quickly pitching later and later in ballgames. This year has been his first real opportunity to close games out -- the only problem being the number of opportunities to record saves.
Givens had a less-than-stellar start to the 2019 season, giving up five runs during his first nine innings. But he bounced back to record four saves and a 0.93 ERA during his next 9.2 innings.
If that keeps up, Givens could be seen by some World Series contenders such as the Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox as a major piece to help them in the more immediate future. Givens could bring back a serious prospect and maybe even a little more since he's under team control through 2021.
Former executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette's trade of infielder Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers last summer seemed to be about acquiring prospects. But in reality, Villar -- a player the Brewers seemed eager to dump because of their own budgetary constraints -- may end up being one of the better acquisitions of Duquette's tenure in Baltimore.
Villar is making a very affordable $4.8 million this season and has one season of arbitration eligibility remaining before hitting free agency. The 28-year-old could provide a contending team a versatile, productive and dynamic player for a stretch run this season. While I don't think Elias and Co. are dying to trade Villar, that fact places the Orioles in the catbird seat to extract a solid prospect for Villar.
One Player Not Going Anywhere: Trey Mancini
Mancini, 27, would bring the Orioles a decent return, but his new position as the quasi-leader of this team seems to supersede the need to move him for a so-so prospect. While I love a lot of the intangibles Mancini brings, I do not believe Mancini will have created enough value this summer that contending teams would give up a top 100-150 prospect for him.
My money is on Mancini being here for the duration of the rebuild, but if he posts a .300-plus batting average, 25-plus homers and 80-plus RBIs this season, Mancini could be used in an offseason package to bring back a couple of significant pieces from a team that sees Mancini as someone affordable and productive enough to be a difference-maker in their lineup.
Photo Credits: Kenya Allen/PressBox
Issue 254: May 2019