BALTIMORE -- The Orioles have taken the baseball world by storm, this spate of winning unheard of in recent years and flatly unpredicted by pundits around the league. Yet within the clubhouse and the front office at large, you won’t get quite an admission, however extra exciting this team has made itself.
“I don't get surprised about baseball,” executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said prior to Saturday's game against the Angels.
Even still, after Saturday’s 1-0 win at Camden Yards for Baltimore's improbable seventh consecutive victory, the questions about what path the Orioles should take come the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline are growing:
• Should they sell, as largely predicted this winter?
• Should they hold pat and let the good vibes of this clubhouse play out?
• Should they add?
“Everything that I do or that we do has tradeoffs. And all I can say is we do everything from a very global, very thoughtful perspective about what is the right thing to do for the health of the Orioles franchise,” Elias said. “All that's being taken into consideration for the Draft, but also for the Trade Deadline coming up, and I don't know what's going to happen. What I'm saying is we're taking a look at everything as we make these decisions, and we'll see what happens.”
This group of Orioles -- especially of late -- are doing what they can to try and force the issue for the progressive. Saturday’s victory propelled them to just two games under .500 and moved them within 4 1/2 games of second place in the AL East and 3 1/2 games out of the final AL Wild Card spot as of last out on Saturday.
They are winning in ways not witnessed under manager Brandon Hyde and the Elias regime, riding their first seven-game winning streak since before the rebuild, from Aug. 23-30, 2017.
“It's been hard, because we've lost so many games, that it's hard to bring it every single day,” Hyde said. “Right now, I'm just happy to see smiles on faces, honestly. … I just like to see our guys have success, really enjoying this time.”
“It's something special,” said starting pitcher Dean Kremer, who fought his way to five scoreless innings with seven strikeouts. “It’s been really fun. The only time I've ever had this has been in the Minor Leagues, and this is way better.”
Though there’s knowledge anyone could be moved at any minute, the clubhouse is publicly affirming a day-by-day mindest. Players show up to the ballpark with a newfound swagger, concerns only on the playing surface.
One of baseball’s greatest cliches: Control what you can control.
“I don't sense any sort of, 'What if?' But we are all professionals and we understand the nature and the business of the game,” Hyde said on Friday afternoon, five games into the streak. “And right now, we're in last place in our division. Someday, we'll be first place in our division, but right now, it's just one foot ahead of the other, and we'll see what happens.”
Should the Orioles elect to sell, the obvious candidates would seismically change their clubhouse makeup. The biggest trade chips are Trey Mancini, Anthony Santander and Jorge López. Mancini is the longest-tenured Oriole. Santander is close behind him, here since 2017 as a Rule 5 Draft pick. López is an inspiration around the organization, the team’s likeliest All-Star who comes with a touching backstory.
Mancini produced the walk-off swing on Friday; Santander and López were key on Saturday, the former lacing the game-winning single in the fourth and the latter locking down his 16th save of the season in front of 32,286 fans, mostly clad in the Hawaiian giveaway shirts.
The Orioles may very well believe they can produce while selling all the same. Soon, top prospects such as Kyle Stowers, DL Hall and Terrin Vavra will be in the Majors. When they flipped backend arms Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott for three prospects and a high Draft pick, their pitching lab still developed one of the best bullpens in the Majors to date.
Should the Orioles elect to buy, they’d almost assuredly do so solely for younger, controllable players -- and specifically pitchers. They have yet to trade one player -- current big leaguer or prospect -- for another player with extended big league experience under the guidance of Elias.
Any way they decide to turn at the Trade Deadline, the 26 in Baltimore’s clubhouse -- and the countless others in support staff, coaches, ballpark workers and ballpark enjoyers -- will witness the ride as far as it goes. It’s been a whirlwind already thus far.
“I’m very happy, I'm very encouraged by it,” Elias said. “I'm very proud of our players, and I credit them and the Major League coaches with, not the results of these games, but the style of play and the effort level that I think we're all seeing. … I think that we're in store for a lot of good stuff here the next few years, and I'm very happy that it's kind of reflected right now during this stretch of play so plainly for our fans.”