A strange MLB season is about to get even stranger over the next week as the August 31 trade deadline approaches. Typically, the deadline comes at a time when it's clear which teams fall into the "buy" and "sell" categories. In a 60-game season, that's not the case.
The Baltimore Orioles find themselves right in the middle of that conflict. Not expected to do much in 2020, a 14-14 record has them still in the thick of the playoff race at this time due to the expanded playoff field. With just 32 games remaining, anything can happen. But, is that enough incentive to ditch the rebuild plans and go "all-in" for the shortened season?
General Manager Mike Elias has stated that the team is considering all options but is focused on more than just this season. That, however, doesn't clearly label which side they'll be on at the deadline. For NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes, the clear answer is to sell. He also has a potential trade idea that could bring back a sold haul, keep Baltimore competitive and help build for the future. It all revolves around catcher Pedro Severino.
While Severino is batting .333 on the young season with an on-base percentage of .413, the small sample size in 2020 in an outlier for his career in the pros. As of now, his value is higher than ever. Even if those numbers became more than a trend, shopping him at the deadline wouldn't be a bad move according to Hughes, because Baltimore has top prospect Adley Rutschman waiting in the wings.
Does this trade make sense? For the most part, yes. Severino is a catcher that is producing right now, something most contenders will be looking for at the deadline as a solid bat and catching depth are traits every team would like to have. That also means the return for Severino would only add to the Orioles collection of young talent. He would need to be healthy, however, as the catcher did exit Sunday's matchup and an update on his status is still pending.
Additionally, there isn't a strong worry that Baltimore won't be able to replace the production at the position because of Rutschman's eventual call-up. The only flaw in the idea is that promoting Rutschman in 2020 is not necessarily what the Orioles want to do.
The 22-year-old has stated he'll be ready should his debut come this season, but the scenario doesn't seem all that likely. If Baltimore is in playoff contention toward the final stretch, anything is possible, but the cancellation of the minor league season makes it harder for Rutschman to continue to develop, even if he is as polished as they come.
There is also the service time factor. For every 172 days of MLB service, a player accrues a year of service time. After a certain amount, they become eligible for arbitration, extensions and free agency. With top stars, teams sometimes try to manipulate the time in order to keep the player for longer. The Chicago Cubs did it with Kris Bryant in 2015, keeping him off the Opening Day roster just long enough to have him play another season down the line before hitting free agency.
The 2020 season makes service time an even more confusing concept because one standard day now equals close to three days in the prorated season. So, though Rutschman would not reach one year during this campaign, he could eat up more days in a shorter time. Is that worth it considering the circumstance around the peculiar season? That's up for the Orioles to decide.
One week of games could completely flip the mindset of how Baltimore attacks the trade deadline. A win streak could propel them to buy, but a few losses could make selling easier to stomach. If the team is still focused on the future, and is ready for Rutschman to assume his place in the pros, Pedro Severino could be a name to keep an eye on as August 31 approaches.