Assessing the Orioles’ trade chips as deadline nears

The July 30th trade deadline is eight days away, and the Orioles haven’t figured prominently in trade chatter.

Two years ago, in Mike Elias’ first season as Orioles executive vice president/general manager, he made a deal well ahead of the deadline. On July 13, 2019, he dealt right-handed pitcher Andrew Cashner, who was having an excellent season — 9-3, 3.83 ERA – to the Boston Red Sox for two young players, outfielder Elio Prado and infielder Noelberth Romero.

Prado is on the 60-day minor league injured list and Romero was hitting .207 through Tuesday,  for the Orioles’ Orange team in the Florida Complex League.

Cashner was just 2-5 with a 6.20 ERA, mostly in relief outings for the Red Sox and hasn’t pitched since he allowed four runs on five hits while recording just two outs against the Orioles on September 28, 2019.

The trade deadline for last year’s 60-game schedule was on August 31st. On August 30th, Elias traded left-handed pitcher Tommy Milone to the Atlanta Braves for two minor league infielders — Greg Cullen and AJ Graffanino, who are at Double-A Bowie and High-A Aberdeen respectively.

Later that day, they also traded relief pitcher Mychal Givens to the Colorado Rockies for infielders Tyler Nevin, who briefly played for the Orioles in May, and is at Triple-A Norfolk, and Terrin Vavra, who was with Bowie but is out because of a back injury. The Rockies also sent outfielder Mishael Deson, who’s hitting .360 for the Orioles’ Black team in the Florida Complex League.

On August 31st, reliever Miguel Castro went to the New York Mets for left-handed pitcher Kevin Smith, now at Norfolk, and shortstop Victor Gonzalez, who’s playing in the Dominican Summer League.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the players whose names might have come up.

Unlikely to be dealt

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Trey Mancini: Trading the popular first baseman/designated hitter would be an unpopular move, especially since Mancini has inspired so many by sharing his story about his fight against colon cancer.

On Sunday, he’s partnering with the Orioles on Blessings in a Backpack, a program designed to help feed children on the weekend.

Mancini, 29, will enter the final year of arbitration eligibility this offseason, and it seems unlikely that there’s a big market for him. They’d be better off keeping him as a productive power hitter and inspiring player.

John Means: The left-hander hasn’t won a game since his May 5th no-hitter. On Tuesday night, he pitched for the first time since straining his left shoulder on June 5th and gave up five runs in five innings.

Means has a 2.72 ERA and has three-plus years of club control, and the Orioles desperately need a No. 1 starter. They probably would consider a deal if they were overwhelmed, but I don’t see that happening.

Cedric Mullins: If the Orioles would have to be overwhelmed to trade Means, they would have to be knocked over to move the American League’s starting centerfielder in the All-Star Game.

The Orioles are trying to develop players like Mullins, and he won’t be eligible for arbitration until after next season.

Anthony Santander: At the beginning of the season, Santander appeared to be a decent trade chip. The Orioles had Mullins, Austin Hays and DJ Stewart in the outfield with Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna clamoring for major league time.

But Santander, who was the team’s Most Valuable Oriole in 2019, missed a month because of a sprained left ankle and hasn’t produced the way he did in 2019. His .231 average along with a .667 OPS are far below the .262 average and .890 OPS of a year ago.

Santander’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is -.3. Last year, in the 37 games before he suffered a season-ending oblique injury, Santander had a 1.6 WAR.

The Orioles placed Santander on the Covid-19 injured list on Wednesday. It’s not known how long Santander will be out.

The Orioles hoped Santander would have another strong season and that Diaz would do well in his first year in Triple-A.

Neither has happened. Diaz has had another injury-marred season. When he plays again, he will be trying to end an 0-for-27 streak that has lowered his average with Norfolk to .167.

Santander has three more years of club control left, so there’s no rush to deal him in a market that’s not there.

They would have liked to, but:

Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis: The Orioles signed both to free-agent contracts and would pay them each $250,000 if they were traded.

Franco, who has underperformed this season with a .221 average and a .641 OPS, is on the 10-day injured list because of a sprained right ankle. There’s no known market for the third baseman, who could be back with the Orioles before the deadline. He’s in Sarasota on a minor league rehab.

Galvis could have been dealt to a team looking for a stopgap shortstop. He has played well this season, but he’s been out since June 27th because of a strained right quadriceps and won’t return until after the deadline.

Matt Harvey was 3-1 with a 4.06 ERA after he beat Oakland on May 1st, but he went 12 starts without a win.

On Sunday, Harvey threw six scoreless innings, allowing just three hits against Kansas City, and improved his record to 4-10. His ERA is still an astronomical 7.13.

It’s possible that if Harvey has another strong start, it creates a market for him, but that seems unlikely.

Pedro Severino: No, the Orioles aren’t trading Severino so they can call up Adley Rutschman from Bowie.

The Orioles are paying Severino $1.825 million, and it’s unlikely that he returns in 2022, especially with Rutschman expected to be the No. 1 catcher.

But even with catchers at a premium, Severino hasn’t created a market for himself, but he does have a positive WAR (.4).

The most likely to go

Paul Fry and Tanner Scott are the only two left-handers in the Orioles’ bullpen. Fry could be attractive to a contender, perhaps Houston or Oakland, that’s looking for a setup man.

Fry has floundered in the ninth inning this year (8.31 ERA) but has sparkled in the seventh (1.42) and eighth (1.80).

Scott, who was the losing pitcher in Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, has a tantalizing arm but continues to struggle with control (28 walks in 38 innings). He has 55 strikeouts but has never been consistent.

Fry and Scott have three seasons of club control remaining beyond this year, but trading both would leave the Orioles without an experienced left-hander.

Elias’ deals for Castro and Givens look solid so far. If he could get a similar return for Fry and Scott, perhaps he’d trade both. The guess here is that Fry could get dealt when the trade deadline comes next week.