Even if the Baltimore Orioles are fifth place in the AL East in late July, they could still be buyers at the non-waiver trade deadline, depending on how many games back they are from a playoff spot at that time.
But what could happen if they blow it during the first four months of the season, and could benefit by selling at the deadline? Who would be on the trading block?
A contending team may turn to a possible losing Orioles team for a two-month rental, or even a player that could help them in 2017 as well. Here are six Orioles that could be on the trading block this summer if the Orioles are out of contention.
MATT WIETERS - CATCHER
Contract Status: $15.8 million in 2016, Free Agent
Wieters is probably the most obvious pick of the bunch. The switch-hitting backstop accepted the Orioles $15.8 million qualifying offer, in hopes to rebuild his value on a one-year pact to hit the free-agent market again next offseason with a better chance to land a big contract.
If Wieters can have himself a nice bounce-back season in 2016, even if it's a losing season for the O's, he could generate trade interest from numerous contending clubs that either have a below-average starting catcher behind the plate, or have an injury at starting catcher that needs to be replaced for the remainder of the season. If the Minnesota Twins are in contention, they could be a good trade fit if Kurt Suzuki and John Ryan Murphy aren't getting the job done.
Even for a two-month rental, the Orioles may be able to acquire a couple attractive prospects for the former All-Star backstop.
MARK TRUMBO - FIRST BASEMAN/DESIGNATED HITTER
Contract Status: $9.15 million in 2016, Free Agent
Trumbo, acquired from the Seattle Mariners earlier the offseason, could very well be on the trade block if the Orioles are out of contention. He is set to become a free agent after this season, and a team in need of some right-handed pop in the middle of their order could be of interest.
Trumbo isn't the best player that could be available at the deadline, but he should be one that multiple teams will call about if the O's plan to sell.
BRIAN MATUSZ - LEFT-HANDED RELIEF PITCHER
Contract Status: $3.9 million in 2016, Free Agent
Matusz is the potential two-month rental on the Orioles that would likely bring in the least amount of future talent. If I was a team trying to acquire Matusz, I wouldn't want to give up much for two months of a LOOGY. Teams will likely be interested in Matusz if the Orioles are out of contention, but it shouldn't take much for the O's to say yes to push him away.
UBALDO JIMENEZ - RIGHT-HANDED STARTING PITCHER
Contract Status: $13 million in 2016, $13.5 million in 2017, Free Agent
Now let's talk about three guys who give more to a team than just being a two-month rental. If Jimenez can duplicate his 2015 performance -- or perform even better -- then teams should be interested in the 32-year-old right-hander at the deadline (if the O's are selling).
Orioles fans cringe at the thought of Ubaldo's four-year, $50 million deal, but if he continues to pitch like he did in 2015, he's earning his paycheck, and the remaining average of $13.25 million annual value per year through 2017 isn't a big deal. If Jimenez performs well and the O's are not contending, the right-hander could bring a couple young pieces to Baltimore in a trade.
CHRIS TILLMAN - RIGHT-HANDED STARTING PITCHER
Contract Status: $6.23 million in 2016, Arbitration Eligible in 2017, Free Agent
Tillman will need to bounce back from a not so great 2015 season, and it won't be easy, seeing that his good seasons have come from out pitching his peripherals. However, if he performs well, he could be a more attractive target than Jimenez. Yes, they are under team control for the same amount of time, but Tillman is younger and cheaper. He will then be 28 years old and could garner some interest in late July if the O's put him on the trading block.
However, even if the Orioles are selling at the deadline, they may balk at the idea of trading two of their top rotation pieces if they plan to build to contend again in 2017.
ZACH BRITTON - LEFT-HANDED RELIEF PITCHER
Contract Status: $6.75 million in 2016, Arbitration Eligible through 2018, Free Agent
Probably the least likely to be traded, but would be the prized possession. Remember when the Orioles salary dumped Jim Johnson because they didn't want to pay him $10 million in 2014? Well, Britton could earn that in arbitration as early as next offseason. It remains to be seen whether or not the Orioles will be willing to pay that or not, but they would be able to get back more than just Jemile Weeks if they do choose to deal Britton.
The San Diego Padres traded closer Craig Kimbrel (with his salary of $11.25 million in 2016, $13.25 million in 2017, and a $13 million club option for 2018) to the Boston Red Sox for prospects Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Carlos Asuaje, and Logan Allen. Margot is now the top prospect in the Padres' system, and is on track to become San Diego's future star center fielder. Guerra is now the second-best prospect in their system, and has the potential to be a Top-10 shortstop in the game when he breaks through around 2018. Asuaje brings a solid bat to the table and will find a home at either second base, third base, or left field at the highest level. And lastly, Allen was drafted as a high-school southpaw that could develop into a solid mid-rotation starter in the coming years. All of these prospects could make a good-to-great impact for the Padres in the future, and they traded two-to-three years of a great, but high-priced closer to acquire these impressive talents.
I'm not saying the Orioles should trade Britton, but if a proposal of two-to-four potential top young talents are on the table, it's hard to pass the opportunity up. With such a thin farm system, the club can bulk up the minors if they get the right trade packages in return for their major-league talent. Again, this is all if the Orioles are out of the playoff race by late July. Of course, I hope for a successful 2016 campaign -- but the future of the franchise could be helped out a bit if the O's trade away some valued big-league talent if they are out of it this summer.