BALTIMORE -- If the Orioles have indeed begun to consider selling off some of their top-name players as a report by Ken Rosenthal indicated July 16, this weekend’s sweep by the Chicago Cubs has given that push greater impetus.
The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is just more than two weeks away, and after the 8-0 loss to the Cubs before 31,105 at Oriole Park, July 16, the Orioles are 42-49. They haven’t been seven games below .500 since Sept. 7, 2015.
While the Orioles, according to the report, won’t consider trading third baseman Manny Machado and center fielder Adam Jones, both eligible to be free agents after the 2018 season, they would consider parting with their top three relievers: left-hander Zach Britton and right-handers Brad Brach and Darren O’Day.
Brach and Britton could be free agents after 2018, and O’Day -- who can veto trades to seven teams -- has about $20 million remaining on a four-year, $31 million contract that runs through 2019.
Britton, who converted all 47 of his save opportunities in 2016, had two stints on the disabled list with left forearm soreness this season. His salary for this season is $11.4 million.
Brach took his place as closer and has saved 15 games in 19 chances. He was awarded $3.05 million in arbitration.
Catcher Welington Castillo, who is paid $6 million this season, and has a player option for $7 million in 2018 and outfielder Seth Smith, a potential free agent with $7 million salary this year, are both expected to be available.
Machado would generate immense interest if he were to become available, but his talent and popularity will probably prevent the team from listening to offers.
Jones, who is one of the Orioles’ most popular players in recent years, has a no-trade provision in his contract.
The Orioles have several other impending free agents, including right-handed starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Tillman, left-handed starter Wade Miley and outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, but they may not attract much interest on the market.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a broken right wrist, has a clause in his contract that guarantees a $14 million salary for next year if he is traded.
Jimenez allowed six runs on a season-high 11 hits in 3.2 innings July 16.
“I was able to get ahead but couldn’t put it away,” Jimenez said. “They were having too good of an approach taking the ball to the opposite field. And by the time we figured it out it was too late. They already scored three, four runs.”
The Cubs scored 27 runs and hit 10 home runs this weekend.
Despite going 20-39 since May 10, manager Buck Showalter still believes the Orioles can turn their season around.
"Oh sure. We have starting pitchers who have a better track record than they’ve had," Showalter said. "It’s been very sporadic in pitching well. The bullpen is doing a good job. We’ve kind of got it in order, but it’s hard to keep it in order with the short starts we’re having."
Chicago right-hander Jose Quintana, who was acquired from the crosstown White Sox July 13, sparkled in his first start for the Cubs.
Quintana allowed just three hits, struck out 12 and walked none. His first 11 strikeouts were swinging.
The Orioles still have seven games remaining on the homestand.
"I think you’ve got to put it behind you," first baseman Chris Davis said. "With the second half starting and us having the long homestand, we want to get started on the right foot, but that didn’t happen. We still have a lot of games left to play, and this homestand is still big. I think it’s big for us to bounce back against the Rangers. Get a nice, comfortable win if there’s such a thing."
Davis believes the Orioles can mount a turnaround.
"Absolutely. If I didn’t think we could come back, there would be no point for us to come back, there would be no point for us to come in here," Davis said. "It doesn’t make things easier when you’re down."
ODDS AND ENDS: Right-handers Chris Tillman (1-5, 7.90) and Andrew Cashner (4-7, 3.54) are the scheduled starters as the Orioles and Texas Rangers begin a four-game series July 17; the Orioles signed their 26th round draft pick, LHP Cameron Bishop. They signed 32 of their 41 selections from this year's draft.