Mike Elias spent his first four seasons as general manager of the Orioles as a seller at the trade deadline.

Now, he’s on the other side.

The Orioles hold the top spot in the American League. He’s pleased with the 26 men he’s acquired mainly via trades and drafts.

Does he think they can win a World Series?

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“I do,” he said.

“I think this team has revealed itself to be as capable as anyone arguably in all of baseball right now to make a playoff run,” he added.

The competition, though, is tough. Tampa Bay is only 1.5 games behind. The Yankees can never be counted out, and they seem as though they intend to add at the deadline too. And that’s not even taking into account the Braves and Dodgers in the National League.

“It doesn’t mean we don’t want to improve,” Elias said. “The Dodgers are pretty good too, and they are bringing some extra help.”

The Orioles intend to be buyers

Gone are the days of fire sales at the deadline. The Orioles are a first-place team, and they intend to at least try to buy before Tuesday’s 6 p.m. cutoff.

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There are caveats, of course.

The Orioles have the best farm system in baseball, with the No. 1 overall prospect in Jackson Holliday (who, btw, is sick and was not being held out of the lineup at Double-A Bowie because he’s being traded). But their goal is to sustain a winning team, not go all in on one season.

“If we get within reach of something, we are going to reach for it to help this team,” Elias said. “We can’t set the minor league system on fire just because we are in first place. It’s our job to balance all that.”

The market is thin and favors sellers so far. There are still a number of teams who are on the bubble, undecided what they will do at the deadline.

The Orioles can use help, but they aren’t desperate.

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“I’m not going to make a terrible baseball trade and force it just so we can point to something,” Elias said. “We definitely have the flexibility to do it. We are going to be considering opportunities.”

Pitching is a priority

Elias wasn’t ambiguous about what they are looking for: pitching, pitching and, oh, more pitching if they can find it.

“It’s no secret that that would be the area of the team we could, A, use more depth or, B, look for upgrades,” Elias said. “We are working on that right now.”

They added Shintaro Fujinami from Oakland already, but they can still use more middle relief help. Mychal Givens and Dillon Tate, who were expected to play significant roles, have missed the majority of the season. Givens is in a throwing program in Sarasota, but Tate is not close.

They have also played without John Means, who should be ready to play in Florida Complex League games next month barring another setback. His return date and role are murky.

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With Cedric Mullins and Aaron Hicks on the injured list — but inching toward returns in August — the Orioles are not seeking center field help.

Payroll is not a major concern

The Orioles do not have a track record of spending big bucks. They rank 29th in payroll and have only three players making over $5 million.

But, Elias said, he has had multiple discussions with ownership and has been given the go-ahead to make the deals as needed – within reason, of course.

“We have latitude to make baseball moves,” he said. “Possibly those are adding payroll relatively significantly, but it doesn’t mean we are going to do it. I think the ball is in the court of the baseball ops department, which is great. ... It’s up to us to navigate this. We have to find a match with other teams.”

danielle.allentuck@thebaltimorebanner.com

Danielle Allentuck covers the Orioles for The Baltimore Banner. She previously reported on the Rockies for the Denver Gazette and general sports assignments for The New York Times as part of its fellowship program. A Maryland native, Danielle grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Ithaca College.

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