The Orioles are near the halfway point of the season with one of the best records in the majors, so July is set to be a month in which the focus will be on how they can add to this roster and push for the playoffs.

They have plenty of capital to get trades done, if that’s the route they go. It might cause a furor if they trade from the major league roster for the fifth consecutive season, so that group is broadly off the table here. Beyond that, one of the deepest and most talented farm systems in baseball has dozens of players who could help yield major league help for the stretch run and beyond.

Here’s one perspective on how those groups shake out — who should be untouchable, who can net a big name and who could be valuable otherwise — as the Aug. 1 deadline creeps closer.

Group 1 – Shouldn’t be going anywhere

Jackson Holliday, Grayson Rodriguez

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General manager and Executive Vice President Mike Elias will often say it’s his responsibility to take calls and gauge the market on all the Orioles’ players and do what’s best for the organization’s long-term health, but there probably isn’t a world where he entertains trading either of these two.

Each is off limits to me for different reasons, Holliday’s more obvious. Trading the No. 1 overall prospect in the game — a 19-year-old, clear-cut shortstop with elite bat-to-ball skills and plate discipline who is growing into his power — will not net anywhere near equal value. But with Rodriguez, despite his rocky major league debut, the hope is he’s pitching at the top of the Orioles rotation for the next decade. Even if an established starter may be better for the next year or two, anyone the Orioles trade for would be a free agent well before Rodriguez, so they’d be giving up too much. For that reason, he stays off the table for me.

Group 2 – Blockbuster headliners

Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, Coby Mayo, Jordan Westburg, Samuel Basallo

To acquire important players, a team often has to give up important players. This is a group of really important prospects for the Orioles’ future. In reality, there’s probably crossover into the untouchables group in this one. I’m not convinced there’s a major swing to be taken this season — rentals probably could provide what the Orioles need — but these are the pieces other teams likely would ask for in a major trade in the next month.

Each is valuable — both to the Orioles and to opponents — for different reasons. Cowser and Kjerstad, a pair of top-five picks and perhaps the most advanced hitters left on the Orioles farm, boast elite contact skills and elite power, respectively, and probably can contribute down the stretch in some capacity, in addition to being key players throughout the next decade.

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Mayo, at age 21 in Double-A, has exploded at Bowie in the last month. He has a 1.042 OPS and 42 extra-base hits in 67 games overall, with seven home runs and a 1.262 OPS in June. Mayo has improved plenty since getting to Bowie this time last year and, as one of the most productive hitters in all the minors at an age-advanced level, likely will be asked about a lot in the coming weeks.

Westburg is already in the majors, which complicates things because, if he’s helping the major league team at a position of need, trading him would just create another one. But his lengthy spell in Triple-A, albeit successful, certainly gave the appearance of the Orioles trying to preserve his value, so excluding him here doesn’t make sense.

Basallo is the outlier in this group. He doesn’t turn 19 until August, and in his full-season debut at Low-A Delmarva he has an .845 OPS with eight home runs at a premium position. He’s in the top-100 prospect mix, and the Orioles like him a lot, but given they’re set at catcher for the foreseeable future, perhaps selling while Basallo’s value is this high could net them a big haul.

Group 3 – Might hurt for a rental but could meet the price

Joey Ortiz, Connor Norby, César Prieto, Cade Povich, Chayce McDermott, Jud Fabian, Max Wagner, Dylan Beavers

It’s tricky business trading for pending free agents — teams want to get value for them, but acquiring teams won’t want to give up too much, even if the benefit of bolstering a playoff run is worth it. The Orioles probably will be strict about matching valuations of what they think their players are worth and what they’ll get back, and they value their players a lot. These are some they might have to swallow hard and part with, even for a rental starter or reliever.

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The infield group of Ortiz, Norby and Prieto, in that order, may be more valuable to other teams than the Orioles at this point. Ortiz’s major league experience didn’t yield a lot of playing time, but that he was trusted on the bench means the Orioles might want to keep him around as depth in the near and long term, especially as Jorge Mateo gets more expensive. An acquiring team might value his hard contact and shortstop ability more than the Orioles do, though, and all parties may benefit. Norby is a bat-first second baseman who has the potential to hit for the position but not necessarily an avenue to play regularly in Baltimore. Prieto, who plays second and third, has a similar profile. With all three, an acquiring team would be able to tout a near-ready player who can help quickly.

The pitchers — Povich and McDermott — both came over in 2022 deadline trades and boast attractive mixes that make them among the Orioles’ best pitching prospects. They’d hurt to lose long term, but a team seeking pitching back for its own major league pitchers might ask for them first.

Fabian was the first of the Orioles’ 2022 draftees to reach Double-A after his combination of power, plate discipline and advanced center field defense shone at Aberdeen.

Group 4 – Not at peak value

DL Hall, Kyle Stowers, Terrin Vavra, Max Wagner, Dylan Beavers, John Rhodes

This is a hodgepodge with one overriding theme: Trading any of these prospects before the beginning of August would be doing so when their value has been much higher recently or could be much higher going forward.

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Hall, the organization’s No. 2 pitching prospect entering the season, is in Florida on a velocity training program after an injury entering spring training impacted his preparation. He’s a polarizing prospect as it is, but whether a team views him as a starter or reliever, it will value him less throwing in the low- to mid-90s than the high-90s.

Stowers and Vavra began the season in the majors, didn’t hit much and are now on the shelf at Norfolk with shoulder injuries. They likely would have been in Group 3 if healthy, but the injuries create too many questions.

Wagner and Beavers — a pair of first-day picks in 2022 — are having up-and-down times at Aberdeen, but there’s too much talent and potential there to think another team would meet the Orioles’ valuations. Rhodes was the Orioles’ third-round pick in 2021 and has dealt with injuries since, but now healthy at age 22, he’s coming around. Rhodes has an .889 OPS in the last 30 days, but doing it the rest of the season probably would make him more valuable than he is now.

Group 5 – The 21-and-under lottery tickets

Most big trades — and a lot of smaller ones — feature a young player or two in the low minors or complex leagues who represent a low-risk lottery ticket for the acquiring team. The Orioles can fill that role in any number of ways. Outside of Basallo, their recent international spending has netted players including Maikol Hernández, Braylin Tavera, Aron Estrada and Anderson De Los Santos, all of whom have shown impressive traits and could fit this mold in a larger trade.

This group to me also includes a pair of young players at Aberdeen in Creed Willems and Frederick Bencosme. Willems bounced back from a rough first full season at Delmarva to earn a promotion to Aberdeen at the end of May, with a .946 OPS over two levels. Bencosme is a contact machine who plays the middle infield at age 20 at Aberdeen, and there’s still a lot of projection left.

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Group 6 – All the pitchers

This isn’t an indictment of the Orioles’ minor league pitching. I think to draft pitchers where they do and turn them into prospects with major league futures is admirable, and that strategy is going to start yielding value in Baltimore before long. The reason this group is below all the others is threefold.

First, there’s not a lot among them. Names such as Justin Armbruester, Jean Pinto, Alex Pham and Trace Bright are building impressive minor league résumés, but it’s a matter of preference as to how they stack up or whom another team might want. Second, it’s hard to find opposing scouts with sure-fire rotation grades on anyone in this organization, so getting what the Orioles see as fair value may prove difficult. Third, it’s hard to know what an acquiring team might value. All these pitchers are where they are because they have traits the organization loves — hoppy fastballs, weapons that can get both righties and lefties out, and broad pitch mixes with four and five movement profiles. Only a handful of other clubs may want that, so for these reasons it’s hard to truly say this group — which I believe has more than a handful of major league arms in it — will be as valuable in trades as the hitters above them.

Group 7 – Thinking about the 40-man roster

Hudson Haskin, Drew Rom, Seth Johnson, Easton Lucas, Wandisson Charles, Noah Denoyer, Chris Vallimont

The left-handed Rom and the injured Johnson are already on the roster, while the rest either have been or are due to be added this winter. If the Orioles are trading with an eye toward their long-term roster — as they did in sending Darell Hernaiz to Oakland for Cole Irvin last winter — these players may be candidates to move simply based on the idea that getting some kind of value for their talents if they’re going to be left exposed to the Rule 5 draft is better than losing them for nothing.

jon.meoli@thebaltimorebanner.com

Jon Meoli is the Baltimore Banner's Orioles columnist and head women's ice hockey coach at Loyola University Maryland. 

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