As I was heading into a movie theater yesterday evening official word came that the Baltimore Orioles had traded Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’ll be their starting shortstop tomorrow evening when they resume their season with a three-game set in Milwaukee. For what it’s worth, Los Angeles will then head to the east coast for a three-game set starting Monday in Philadelphia. So Orioles fans could make the trek up there if they wanted to see Manny one final time. Somehow I suspect that the reception from the phans up there won’t be quite as rosy as it was when he visited as an Oriole and they thought he might be traded there.
However that aside, I do think that Orioles fans have a reason for some optimism on a day where one might feel apt to feel sorrowful. First off, everyone wishes that they could have kept Machado. Speaking for myself, I feel that I grew up as a writer during the time when he was with the Orioles. And certainly there’s a connection with fans, seeing that Baltimore tends to embrace it’s athletes as it’s own.
But my hope is that fans won’t look so much as the not running out ground balls, the infamous bat toss against Oakland, or the act of forcing the team to move him to shortstop. Consequently, I also hope that fans don’t remember his departure simply because he couldn’t re-sign here and the team needed to deconstruct and rebuild. My hope is that fans never forget the fact that his time in an Orioles’ uniform coincided with a surprise return to glory for the Birds. It’s the same as ending any other relationship in life, be it due to breakup, divorce, or death; remember the good times.
The real reason however that fans should be optimistic is due to the fact that the Orioles got five prospects in return for Machado: Yusniel Diaz (OF), Breyvic Valera (IF), Rylan Bannon (IF), Dean Kremer (RHP), and Zach Pop (RHP). As I wrote yesterday, Diaz is the centerpiece of the trade from the Orioles’ perspective, and he very well could slide into the right field role in the future. He was assigned to double-A Bowie, along with Bannon, Kremer, and Pop. Valera was optioned to triple-A Norfolk. There was no money or international signing bonus slots that changed hands. It was a straight up 5-for-1 swap.
Keep in mind folks, these guys are all prospects. It’s tough to say how any of them turns out. It sounds like Diaz, who hit two homers in the future’s game on Sunday, could very well end up in the big leagues at some point in the future. He’s been called “a stud” by several scouts. But if one or two of the other guys ends up in the big leagues somehow, at the end of the day it’ll look like a good trade. Needless to say however, the Orioles got great value for Machado. At one point fans were writing into this site and tweeting at me saying that if all they could get was a low A prospect, they should take that. They got a lot more than that.
Dan Duquette also addressed the local media yesterday after the trade became official, saying all of the pertinent things such as it was hard to part with Manny and so forth. However he also committed the franchise to a rebuild in a sense (all quotes courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):
We’re going to take a look at trading the veteran players. Our veteran players have done a nice job for us, but the ones that are nearing free agency, I think we need to evaluate our club going forward and at this time of year, the competitors are looking for the veteran players who have been seasoned in pennant races, as have our players. And we’re going to look to maximize that opportunity on the market and try to find as many good, young players as we can to deepen our farm system.
In conjunction with that, we’re also going to be making significant investments this offseason in technology and analytics. We’re going to become more active on the international market and invest in our facilities and strengthen our overall baseball operation. That’s part of a plan that we have to have to get the Orioles back to competitiveness. But this is just the first step in a new direction.
Duquette was also asked if there was a chance that the rebuilding process might get shorter based on the moves the Orioles could potentially make in the coming weeks:
Well, we hope so. It’s a growing process, but the clubs that have done it recently have given us an instructive road map in what to follow and I think we have a good idea of what it takes to be consistently good. The thing about the American League East is it identifies your strength and it also identifies your weakness. We have identified a number of weaknesses we need to shore up as we move forward to have a competitive club. Certainly to compete against the really strong clubs in the American League East.
Duquette also talks like a guy who’s going to be around longer than just this year. That’s very much up in the air, as is the Orioles’ ownership situation. But Duquette went on to say that he wants to remain here:
Well, I think everybody understands the changes that we need to make and Orioles fans should know how deeply committed we are to that plan of making these important adjustments. And like I said before, my heart is in Baltimore and I’d like to make the Orioles into a top contending organization again. Like I said, today’s a new direction for the organization. I’m glad to be helping the club go in that direction.
Maybe he has a handshake agreement with John and Lou Angelos to stay with the club. Maybe he’s just being coy or saying the right thing. Who knows? All we can say for sure is that regardless of who manages the team and/or acts as the GM after this year, the organization appears committed to a rebuild along with a commitment to analytics among other things. This is a good start, and it sounds like more changes are coming down the pike. And again, that should give fans a reason for optimism.