In a moment of jest, Mike Elias provided a condition in which he would go all in on the 2023 Orioles.
“Unless we have information that the world is ending in November,” Elias quipped, “a big part of my job is worrying about the overall health of the team over the next several years.”
Surely, though, if Earth’s demise was imminent, it wouldn’t be something that an MLB team alone would know. And, naturally, there would be more important matters than a game of stick and ball.
But even without a credible forecast of impending doom, can’t Elias still push his chips to the center of the table?
The throwaway line from the Orioles general manager’s 26-minute news conference was one of many that gave an insight into the thinking of the top executive of the American League’s best team. His answers were unsurprisingly pragmatic.
But, perhaps, this could be the right time for Elias, who has shepherded the Orioles’ radical and rapid transformation in part because of his methodical approach, to lean into the nihilistic impulse he gave a glimpse of Friday. To listen to the devil on his shoulder, throw caution to the wind and let tomorrow’s problems wait for tomorrow.
This seems to be a good spot for a disclaimer: Of course, Elias can’t treat the 2023 trade deadline like a fantasy baseball team — nor will he. The Orioles have seven prospects inside Baseball America’s top 100 list, and he obviously shouldn’t give up too many of them for rentals. It is, as he said, his job to consider past 2023, and there are plenty of good reasons to remain level-headed at this deadline.
However, moments like this one don’t come around often. Baltimore hasn’t won a World Series (or even been to one) in 40 years. A large portion of the fan base wasn’t even alive in 1983 when the Orioles defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in five games. The fans who were have since yearned to experience another.
Having a team — whether ahead of schedule or not — atop the AL standings is a feat not easily achieved, and there’s no guarantee the Orioles will be here again in the future Elias is paid to worry about. But they’re here now, and it’s a rare opportunity that shouldn’t be treated lightly.
Preceding his humorous comment, Elias said the organization’s goal is to “make a deep playoff run” and make the World Series. Immediately following, Elias then explained the “balance” to his trade deadline approach.
“We have tested methodologies that we’ve used now over three organizations to help us make those decisions,” he said. “We’re applying those to weigh the opportunities that come along. Those methods help us weigh the impact of an addition for the 2023 run and the expense of that going out the door and also how much we want to balance that against 2024 and 2025 and 2026. I’m just saying this is kind of the job.”
Now is another good time for a disclaimer: As the deadline stove heats up, it behooves Elias to provide as little revealing information as possible, so as to not tip his hand to a potential seller. But Elias did suggest he could “reach” on a trade if the player and package are a fit. He said the Orioles’ overachieving — with playoff odds that are eightfold what they were to begin the season, according to FanGraphs — has given extra motivation to bolster the 2023 club.
“I think with the position that our players have put us in right here and how well things are going so far and where we are, I think it’s fair to say that if we get within reach of something, we’re going to reach for it a little bit to help this team,” Elias said. “We can’t set the minor league system on fire just because we’re in first place. It’s just our job to balance all that.”
Elias said the Orioles are in the market for pitching — both to strengthen their young starting rotation and reinforce their middle relief. Pitchers thought to be on the trading block include starters Dylan Cease, Blake Snell, Eduardo Rodriguez and Marcus Stroman, as well as relievers Josh Hader, Scott Barlow, Keynan Middleton and Jordan Hicks.
Of course, when it comes to the trades, the devil is in the details. Elias described the market as “thin” with few “pure sellers.” With an expanded playoff field and the new balanced schedule, more teams are in the postseason hunt — a good thing for the sport, but a bad thing for teams like the Orioles hoping to pillage underperforming teams of their best players. A “seller’s market” means Baltimore would, in theory, have to give up more for a player than otherwise assumed.
But that hasn’t stopped other contending teams from making significant additions, more than what the Orioles have done thus far in acquiring volatile reliever Shintaro Fujinami from the Oakland Athletics. The Houston Astros on Friday acquired back-end reliever Kendall Graveman from the Chicago White Sox. The Los Angeles Dodgers added starting pitcher Lance Lynn and reliever Joe Kelly from the White Sox. The Miami Marlins brought in closer David Robertson from the New York Mets. And the Los Angeles Angels traded for starter Lucas Giolito and reliever Reynaldo López from the White Sox.
None of those teams has a record as good as the Orioles’ mark of 63-40.
“Yes, I do,” Elias said when asked if he believes Baltimore’s roster is capable of competing for a World Series. “Doesn’t mean we don’t want to improve. The Dodgers are pretty good, too, and they’re bringing some extra help in, so obviously we’re looking at that. I think very clearly this team has revealed itself to be as capable as anyone in arguably all of baseball right now to make a playoff run.
“We’re right there with anyone I think.”
The goal at the deadline shouldn’t be to make a move simply to make one. But, for a team with an opportunity to be in a pennant chase, the potential of the long run shouldn’t be the main focus.
Source: Berkshire mont