In an MLB rebuild, teams often sell off valuable parts for lottery tickets, prospects and fringe-level MLB players to field a team until their touted prospects are ready to contribute. It’s to be expected. Baseball is one of the only sports where tanking isn’t exactly punished, but that’s another story entirely. I don’t think the Orioles are purposely tanking, but they aren’t doing so great overall.
The 2021 Baltimore Orioles have one of the worst records in baseball. It isn’t entirely their own doing. With that in mind, it’s probably another lost season for the Orange and Black. Because of that, pundits are already chomping at the bit to see who’s the next Oriole to don different colors. Possible candidates (probably) include Anthony Santander, Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis, Trey Mancini (which would be an a-hole trade to make) and starting pitcher John Means. In a perfect world, all five of those names would be on the next contending team alongside Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson. In a more-realistic world, at least one of them will probably be gone by midseason 2021.
So, should the Orioles trade their only starting pitcher with a winning record for a chance to compete somewhere else down the line? As you probably know, I’m an Orioles lifer. I’ve there during the days of Eric Davis, Erik Bedard and Eric Young Jr. And as an O’s fan who’s seen the team struggle to get decent-to-good starting pitching for most of my teenage years and some of my adulthood, I’ve got to say “no, no and hell no” to trading John Means.
John Means pitches better than his 4-0 record indicates this year (in other words, on another team, he’d have a few more wins because the offense would also be as live as his pitching is). On top of that, he’s become a success story that you only hear about in MLB The Show “Road to the Show” story modes. He dominates his opponents unlike any Orioles pitcher (who dominated as an Orioles pitcher, so I’m leaving Jake Arrieta off the list) I’ve seen since Mike Mussina.
Hell, I’d argue that the team needs more John Means and less lottery tickets, as they’re starting to put things together in a way that’s reminiscent of the 2010s Orioles. That is, minus relying mostly on the home run and as many exciting extra-innings wins. They’re scrappy and rarely go down without some attempt at a fight. Their offense clicks more than it has over the past couple years. All they need to do is get some starting pitching and their farm system to contribute at the MLB level and you’ve got a chance to see the Orioles back in the playoffs in the next few years.
However, you don’t trade your only winning starting pitcher–even if the season is seen as another learning experience. Means is one of the few SP who gives the Orioles a legitimate chance to win each time he hits the mound. What they can/should do is start building up the SP corps in the minors, or maybe even trade one of the aforementioned names for some MLB-caliber starting pitching–just not Means. In my opinion, trading Means means we’ll have to go even longer without starting pitching that can handle itself better than what we’ve seen since the days of Chris Tillman, much less Mussina (unless they go buckwild in free agency, which can also be a crapshoot).
Long story short, the Orioles need John Means and John Means does well for the Orioles. Keep the brother and build around his talents in the pitching realm.