Typically, MLB trade activity picks up in earnest after the draft. This year, the Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays got things started a little early, and then the Washington Nationals and Kansas City Royals completed another trade of significance, but the bulk of the trade deadline-related action is still out in front of us. Which means, for certain teams in the league, it will be decision time. We know that there are obvious buyers, and we know that there are obvious sellers. But, what of the teams in the middle? And among the sellers, how much should they sell? July is a month when some teams look short term, while others look long term. The next rebuilders are still trying to figure it out.
Let's address that. From MLB's 30 teams, I deleted every team currently occupying a playoff spot, then every team within a few games of a playoff spot and every team that's already rebuilding. That leaves us with 10 clubs, all of which face a decision. The playoffs, in 2018, are extraordinarily unlikely for them. Is it time to rebuild, or is it time to reload? Then, we rank those 10 clubs in order of how urgently they should be looking to sell.
When it comes to affordable, contract-year players, all 10 teams should be looking to sell, but that's not only what we're getting at here. These teams are ranked in order of rebuild readiness, from most to least. I don't think all 10 should start to rebuild. No decision to rebuild should be made lightly or easily, given the consequences on the field and at the box office. Sometimes it's simply the right thing to do. So let's kick this off with a gimme.
1. Baltimore Orioles: If the Orioles aren't the worst team in baseball, they probably will be soon. That's because absolutely no one on the roster should be protected, and the best player in the bunch is a few months away from free agency. Manny Machado is never going to stay in Baltimore, so it's only a matter of time until he should get traded. And that should be only the start of it. Players like Chris Davis are untradeable, and certain others like Dylan Bundy would sting, but this is the reality the Orioles face: They're the worst team in a division with two juggernauts, and when my colleagues at FanGraphs released a midseason top-131 prospect list, Baltimore didn't have a single entry. The major league product is bad. The minor league product is bad. Rebuilding isn't an easy decision, but it doesn't get any easier than it should be for the O's. There's nothing to cling to.
Given the state of things, the Orioles are likely to be down for a while. I think they'll be down for a while regardless of how deep the rebuild goes, and because of that, I don't know why it shouldn't be thorough. The organization almost needs to start from scratch. With luck, maybe it could be competitive again in only a few years, but 2023 would be more realistic. If even then. The most hopeful thing for the Orioles right now is that the long-term baseball future is unknowable.