While the Washington Nationals cleaned house as expected, the Baltimore Orioles completed just a pair of minor deals and kept its current big league roster intact. For now.

While not completely unexpected – only general manager Mike Elias had any idea what it would take to move somebody as the trade deadline approached – the stand pat signals that the Orioles are ready to proceed to the next stage of development in this rebuild with the current core group of big league players.

“We are very mindful that a lot of our best players that were in demand were players that are not pending free agents with the Orioles,” Elias told reporters. “They’re the players that are young and talented and we like and have future years with this club and project to be part of this club when we hope to be a playoff contender.”

Those players, of course, are left-handed starter John Means, center fielder Cedric Mullins and first baseman Trey Mancini. Means, who threw the Orioles’ first complete-game no-hitter in 52 years earlier in the season, won’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season and Mullins won’t be a free agent until after the 2025 season.

Mancini, however, will be a free agent after next season, which means on paper alone, he would have been the most logical player on the Orioles’ roster to move because, aside from having over a full year of club control, Mancini is 29 years old, which is a little long in the tooth for this kind of complete rebuild. But remember, he played three seasons at Notre Dame before turning pro.

Trading Mancini, though, would have been an absolute disaster for this organization. Aside from the fact he’s the team’s best and most seasoned player, he is easily the team’s most popular player. On top of that, no matter what the haul might have been, trading Mancini the year after he recovered from colon cancer would not have been the kind of cold-hearted look any organization would want to create for itself, particularly since the Orioles are having problems drawing fans on their own merits.

Rather, Elias envisions Mancini being at the heart of the successful rebuild, telling reporters, “I hope he’s here as long as possible and, ultimately, we’re going to take things as we come like baseball teams do in the major leagues and look at stuff and keep talking. He’s a very special part of this team, and he’s going to continue to be so, and we’re happy about that.”

Mancini returned from the All-Star break with a hot bat and wasn’t missing pitches, particularly early in the count, as he has been in the middle of the Orioles’ 10-6 start to the second half. He attributed his revived production to his participation in the Home Run Derby, in which he finished second.

Usually, players tend to avoid competing in the Derby for fear it will send them into bad habits for the second half, but Mancini said, “my swing was so screwed up in the first half, I figured maybe the Home Run Derby could somehow help me get it back.”

Maybe it did.

It is what it is, of course, as the Orioles are 29 games under .500. But as they showed in the early months and are showing now, if their starting pitching can keep them around in games and the bullpen continues to right itself after a miserable stretch, this club has the offense to compete most nights.

No, it’s not winning baseball yet, but it’s competitive baseball and that’s something Orioles fans can at least enjoy watching each evening until the time is right to expect more.

For instance, the Orioles did not get one hit with a runner in scoring position on Monday night and their best player, Mancini, was their only player who failed to reach base. Yet they throttled the New York Yankees, 7-1.

Means, Mancini, Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays and the No. 7-rated farm system in all of baseball according to Baseball America …

As Ben McDonald said on Monday night, “Oh, they’re coming.”

Mike Burke writes about sports and a lot of other stuff for Allegany Radio and Pikewood Digital and also talks to Tony C. on The Morning Rush on 102.1 FM and AM 1230 WCMD. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT