Mariners and Orioles win streaks: The case for and against becoming buyers at the MLB trade deadline

The Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles are pushing franchise history. The Mariners have won nine straight games and went 10-1 after suspensions from a brawl with the Angels, whereas the Orioles have also won nine straight, their longest streak this millennium.

It’s true. This is Baltimore’s longest winning streak since 1999.

23 years.

The Orioles are .500 in July for the first time since 2017, and the Mariners are tied for a wild card spot as they look to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001. While reaching the Yankees or Astros in their divisions is an exercise in futility, both feel like they’re playing for something heading into the break.

Jerry Dipoto and Michael Elias, the presidents of baseball operations for the Mariners and Orioles, respectively, now face a unique challenge heading into the second half of the season: Ride the wave and try to buy, or sell at the trade deadline?

While plans can’t be determined by a well (or ill)-timed winning streak, they can be adjusted. The picture for both of these teams is far bigger than this season, with the Orioles boasting the most well-stocked farm system in MLB and the Mariners riding the success of young stars like Julio Rodriguez and Logan Gilbert. However, momentum does matter, and it has to be acknowledged that teams care about optics.

With that in mind, what should these teams do at the deadline? They’re similar but different cases, so similar but different arguments must be presented.

MORE: Why the Toronto Blue Jays fired Charlie Montoyo

The case for the Orioles selling at the trade deadline

Wherever the Orioles are going, they aren’t there yet.

Yes, they’re .500 and yes, they aren’t the dregs of the American League this year. That dubious honor goes to the basement dwellers in the AL Central and the AL West. But the players they’re relying on during this streak aren’t the ones who are ultimately going to take the Orioles to the next level.

Trey Mancini and the Orioles have a mutual option after the season, so free agency is inevitable for him.

Rougned Odor is on a one-year deal and has journeyman written all over him in his post-Rangers life, despite being just 28 years old.

Anthony Santander is up for arbitration after this season, and his timeline does not coincide with the likes of Gunnar Henderson, top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez, and whoever the Orioles draft first overall Sunday.

It’s an exciting time to be in Baltimore, and fans need to be able to enjoy this streak. Teams should not be allowed to coast on the “maybe next year” mentality forever, and the length of this Orioles rebuild has been astonishing, daunting, and embarrassing. However, this streak could well be a sign of things to come.

If it is, getting players who are going to complement the likes of Adley Rutschman, Henderson, and whoever is next is important. Is the pitching staff over-performing during this stretch? Absolutely. The bullpen is fifth in MLB with a 3.23 ERA. There are building blocks. But although the time to win and compete is nigh, it isn’t upon us just yet.

The case for the Orioles buying at the trade deadline

There’s always a reason not to win now.

“The next big prospect isn’t up yet.”

“We have reinforcements coming in the second half.”

“We might make the playoffs, but we aren’t beating the Yankees or Astros.”

Championship mentality has permeated the sports zeitgeist like no other time in history.

Missed out on the playoffs by a game? They were never good enough.

Lost in the first round? Just played a real contender.

But look no further than the Braves in 2021 to see what a minor miracle can give a team that people didn’t think was good enough. It’s about getting hot at the right time.

Indeed, it always has been.

This is what MLB’s extra playoff spot is all about, after all. Getting more teams in the hunt. Making July baseball interesting and making September baseball appointment viewing. If a team decides a streak doesn’t matter and punts, simply for the sake of getting something in a trade rather nothing for a free agent, why put someone like Mancini in the lineup at all?

According to Team Rankings, the Orioles have already played the second-toughest schedule in baseball to date, along with their division bedfellows the Blue Jays.

Tankathon has their remaining SoS as seventh overall. So the journey is uphill, but Orioles fans should be able to watch some meaningful baseball past Aug. 2.

There’s talent to be excited about to be sure, but there’s talent to watch now. That’s the talent they’re tuning in to see.

Verdict: The Orioles should sell, but frugally

The Orioles shouldn’t go all-in on buying, but they also shouldn’t sell with the mentality of “something is better than nothing.”

The Orioles are finally garnering some national attention this season. Turning around and flipping Mancini, Santander, and Jorge Lopez for the sake of getting rid of them would lose them a lot of goodwill among casual viewership.

MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand said the Orioles could be in on a player like Pablo Lopez of the Marlins, but the entire league is seemingly eyeing the No. 2 pitcher in Miami.

Baltimore has the capital to land him, and Lopez has another two years of arbitration left. That can be used as leverage, as well.

If they’re going to make a play for Lopez or a player like him, now is the time. There simply aren’t enough roster spots for the farm-level talent in Baltimore.

Should Elias want to flip several prospects into a Major League arm, this deadline is as good a time as any.

Ultimately, players like Mancini won’t net the return Orioles fans are likely hoping for. He’s decidedly a rental, and that always impacts return. The Diamondbacks landed JD Martinez from the Tigers for Sergio Alcantara, Jose King, and Dawel Lugo at the deadline in 2017. The Orioles have enough talent in the farm to work with — it’s time to start locking down some long-term difference-makers .

FOSTER: Matt Olson is having a really weird season

The case for the Mariners selling at the trade deadline

Jerry Dipoto has big ideas, but the Mariners have more talent on their farm than they realize. It seems like they always do. Mitch Haninger hasn’t played since April and he’s a free agent after this season, so if a team needs outfield help he could be a viable trade piece. Adam Frazier is another utility player whom the right team could pursue.

The Mariners, hot as they’ve been, are in no-man’s-land as far as contracts go. Carlos Santana is another recently-acquired player who is going to be a free agent, and Jesse Winker — acquired in a prospect package / salary dump from the Reds — will be a free agent after 2023. His value will only diminish come next season, and Eugenio Suarez has frankly been the better return in that package this season.

The case for the Mariners buying

The Mariners need to make the playoffs this year, full stop. Their playoff drought reaching the legal drinking age would be a brutal failure, and this was a team that came into this season with lofty expectations after barely missing the postseason last year.

Seattle was ranked the second-best farm system in MLB behind Baltimore before the season by MLB.com. In addition to the magic of Julio Rodriguez, who is already an All-Star, prospect Noelvi Marte — a shortstop — has been on an offensive tear in High-A Everett. Matt Brash struggled in his first MLB stint, although Round 2 got off to a good start with a shutout inning against the Blue Jays, and George Kirby has good stuff but struggles at times.

Mariners prospects don’t often work out like Rodriguez. Indeed, the Jarred Kelenic debacle was a microcosm of their development issues, and watching Edwin Diaz blossom as one of the best closers in baseball only serves to amplify those problems. Landing a sure thing and someone who can help them this season should be front of mind for Dipoto and co.

In addition to all of this, the Mariners desperately need another outfielder who can make a difference at the plate. Perhaps Haninger or Kyle Lewis return in the second half and solve that issue, but for the time being Rodriguez is the only reliable daily player out there.

Verdict: Buy an outfielder, stand pat elsewhere

The Mariners truly, desperately, horribly need a playoff berth. They feel like they’re regularly spinning their wheels, so perhaps a well-timed trade gets them over.

Kelenic is putting together a nice season in Tacoma, so perhaps that’s the answer. Or it’s getting back Haniger. Or Lewis. But with options like Andrew Benintendi, Ramon Laureano, Jordan Luplow, and even Tommy Pham on the market, it would behoove Seattle to get something closer to a sure thing.

Seattle was playing below its talent level earlier this season and it seems to be turning things around. But it has to play its hand wisely heading into August. If it doesn’t, this season has all the potential in the world to end in another heartbreak in Seattle.

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