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National Baseball Writers On Orioles' Rebuild, Timetable For Competing And More

August 6, 2019
The Orioles stood pat at the Major League Baseball trade deadline July 31, ending speculation they may trade some of their best players for young prospects who could aid in the team's years-long rebuild.

For J.J. Cooper, executive editor of Baseball America, the deadline wasn't one Orioles general manager Mike Elias needed to necessarily "win" because it's far too early in the team's rebuilding process.

"This is not a trade deadline you can really say, 'OK, Mike Elias needs to win this trade deadline.'" Cooper said on Glenn Clark Radio July 31. "When he came in, this team had no hope of any short-term or medium-term success. He took over a roster that was bereft, that was the worst team in baseball with a farm system that did not have a significant number of players to turn to and say these are the guys that are going to turn this around."

Elias' track record of helping turn the Houston Astros into a perennial contender -- he was the club's scouting director beginning in 2012 and later the assistant GM -- should give him a long leash with Orioles fans, according to Sports Illustrated's Joe Sheehan, but it won't be until 2023 or 2024 until the general manager can be fairly assessed.

"They haven't done anything except hire the guy," Sheehan said on Glenn Clark Radio July 30. "I think the biggest challenge is going to be understanding how long of a haul this is. This is a very, very long process because the Orioles tried to squeeze those extra years out and they didn't get max value for the guys that they had, and they are inheriting such a difficult situation."

The entire organization is in the process of a big change, Sheehan said. The Orioles also hired Sig Mejdal, who was with the Astros from 2012-2018, as assistant general manager and charged him with developing an analytics department.

"I said it before: you are looking at a 2023 or 2024 before you really start to see the fruits of this," Sheehan said. "If there is a 'why not?' year in 2022, great, but this is a five or six-year ask. My concern is they're not going to get enough time. You can't give these two guys a job like this and then when you lose 300 games over the next three years get mad at them. This is what they inherited."

While the team did trade right-hander Andrew Cashner to the Boston Red Sox July 13, the other players mentioned in trade rumors -- including outfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini, infielder Jonathan Villar and right-handed pitchers Dylan Bundy and Mychal Givens -- remained in Baltimore following the July 31 deadline.

Mancini has been the Orioles' most productive player this season, but, according to NBC Sports' Craig Calcaterra, the 27-year-old is worth more to the Orioles than any prospects they could get for him.

"Mancini is a classic example of a guy who is worth more where he is then he would be to somebody else," Calcaterra said on Glenn Clark Radio July 29. "I know Orioles fans don't want to hear this because you don't want to have someone hit you over the head for the 812th time that you are in the middle of a very long, bad rebuild that is still in its early stages, but every team in the situation that the Orioles are in now would do better if they kept Trey Mancini around."

"Whenever the Orioles are really, really good again, they can look back and say, 'Look at the Trey Mancini years. Those were dark, but we loved Trey Mancini," Calcaterra added.

With three more years of team control remaining, Mancini can now be the face of a rebuilding franchise and someone they can put on the media guide, Sheehan said. Keeping Mancini in Baltimore means the Orioles will have a solid No. 2 hitter on the team next season as the team builds around young prospects like No. 1 overall pick Adley Rutschman, 22-year-old infielder Ryan Mountcastle and a high pick in the 2020 draft.

The addition of Rutschman helped bump the Orioles to No. 8 in Baseball America's latest organizational farm-system rankings. The potential of High-A Frederick left-hander DL Hall, Low-A Delmarva righty Grayson Rodriguez and Mountcastle also contributed to that ranking.

Cooper sees Rutschman as the best draft prospect since Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper went No. 1 in 2009 and 2010.

"We view Adley Rutschman as a rare talent for a No. 1 pick," Cooper said. "Not all drafts are created equal. Some years you have this absolutely clear No. 1 where you say, 'Man, that guy may be one of the best top draft prospects in years,' and other years there is no clear No. 1 and Mickey Moniak goes No. 1 to the Phillies [in 2016]."

Even if Rutschman doesn't quite meet the lofty expectations of a No. 1 pick, he will still be a solid major leaguer in the vein of four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner Matt Wieters, Cooper said.

"The difference of an Adley Rutschman versus a Ryan Mountcastle is that barring some sort of massive injury or something like that, there are not many ways [Rutschman is] not going to be a useful or productive big leaguer or part of a rebuilt, successful Orioles team," Cooper said.

And the ceiling for the former Oregon State backstop is lofty.

"He does look like a middle-of-the-order hitter ... who if he does have to move out from behind the plate for whatever reason is still going to be a very good player," Sheehan said. "But with that kind of bat, if he can catch 120 times a year, [he] is an MVP candidate."

For more from Cooper, listen to the full interview here:

For more from Sheehan, listen to the full interview here:

For more from Calcaterra, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox