Ever since the overachieving Orioles made it to the ALCS in 2014, it has been postulated that Baltimore's baseball franchise would be better off reloading their anemic farm system by trading some of their elite playmakers to craft a winning future. Instead, the Orioles have waffled in the realm of being just competitive enough to post a winning record and, as a result, have continually disappointed a fan base that knows full well that things have to get a little worse before they can be decidedly better.
Although it is still early in the season, the Orioles power laden lineup has struggled mightily to chase some of the better pitchers within the AL East. Losing five of their last six games by a scoring margin of 29-9, the Orioles have been anemic offensively and inconsistent in terms of their pitching rotation posting enough quality starts to hold off some of the more offensively opportunistic teams in baseball. However, while the Orioles losing ways may be difficult to watch and accept, there is a potential solution that may be blasphemous to acknowledge but could very well be the Orioles saving grace for years to come: trade Many Machado
A dynamic infielder and gifted hitter, Machado is an ideal centerpiece for any franchise that is looking to take a decisive step forward to become a legitimate World Series contender. Leading his team in batting average (.308), home runs (3) and RBI's (9), Machado has been one of the few bright spots for the Orioles this season and will most likely continue to excel at the plate during his final year under contract for the struggling franchise.
Aside from the natural versatility of Machado, the Orioles also possess one of the most intriguing and capable closers in baseball. Throwing a deadly sinker that regularly gets into the upper-90's, Zach Britton has been the guiding force for an Orioles bullpen that has developed a reputation for being dominant from top to bottom…when he is healthy. Currently on the 60-Day DL with a ruptured Achilles, Britton's value as one of the top closers in the league has certainly decreased noticeably, an issue that the Orioles could have avoided had they traded the talented closer last August. However, when you consider that Britton has posted ERA's below 2.00 in three of the last four seasons, the efficient closer could still fetch some nice prospects from a team that needs to beef up their bullpen going into the postseason.
While prepping for the future has clearly been a favorable avenue for teams such as Houston and the Chicago Cubs to pursue, they both had capable general managers that were unafraid to make bold decisions, especially when it came to trading away athletes that were fan favorites in order to acquire exceptional young talent. To be fair, Orioles' general manager Dan Duquette has had his moments of bolstering this team at times during both the offseason and before the trade deadline (see acquisitions of power hitter Nelson Cruz and middle reliever Andrew Miller). Unfortunately, Duquette has lacked the foresight when it comes to collecting the pieces needed to sustain several years of success, which is a conservative philosophy that simply does not work in the majors today. As this is his final year under contract for the Orioles, it becomes fair to wonder if Duquette will be properly motivated to make the difficult decisions to make this team better for the future.
Even though fans and pundits have witnessed the Orioles defy the predictive metrics to be successful in years past, this season appears to be one that needs to be acknowledged for what it truly is: a sign of things to come. While letting go of Manny Machado and Zach Britton will be incredibly painful for loyal fans to accept, it is the surest and most proven path to eventual success in a league where the dominant players are becoming younger and younger. Ultimately, the only thing standing in the way of the Orioles inevitable rebuild is a stubborn front office that is overly fearful of becoming a losing and competitively inept franchise yet again.