MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

To Treyd Mancini or not to Treyd Mancini (see what I did there?), that is the question for the Baltimore Orioles and general manager Mike Elias as they approach the Aug. 2 trade deadline.

Complicating what should have been an easy trade for Elias to make is that out of the blue the Orioles are shutting down opponents with their overpowering bullpen made up of waiver-wire claims and pulling out late-inning heroics nearly every night to find themselves firmly in the middle of the AL Wild Card race.

I mean, this Orioles team is the Cleveland Indians team in the movie “Major League,” and this Orioles season is the Indians season in “Major League.” Although the Orioles’ owner here is nowhere near as sultry or as hot as Rachel Phelps was in “Major League,” but I digress.

After Tuesday night’s Orioles 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, one of the college kids MASN has hosting the Orioles postgame show came on camera and blurted out, “A shocking come-from-behind win for the Orioles!” But it wasn’t shocking at all. It was no more shocking than any of the other come-from-behind Orioles wins because it seems they are doing this almost every night.

And when they don’t, it seems as though they fall a little short as another late-inning comeback falls short. See Wednesday night …

It is rare for this Orioles team to win a laugher. They don’t come right after anybody with the Frank Costanza move. This team pitches, plays defense and battles and chips away, and hangs around. They don’t go away. In any game.

And while the Orioles have been grinders from the get-go this season, the actual winning began to come about when catcher Adley Rutschman came about. Rutschman has already proven himself to be a special player and a special catcher, period. But he is an outworldly hitter in the late innings, as it was once again his basehit on Tuesday that got the game-winning rally underway.

Trey Mancini has had his hand in a few of those as well, as he is a steady veteran with a veteran presence on a young team that looks to it. He can play first, the corner outfield and DH, and complicating the matter even more is he has become one of the most popular and beloved Orioles of recent vintage, as the entire city and state, and Orioles fans everywhere, rallied around him as he fought and defeated colon cancer two years ago.

On top of everything else, he’s just a damn fine ballplayer, but the 30-year-old is likely headed for free agency thanks to a $10 million mutual option (with a $250,000 buyout). And given the number of teams that could use a quality right-handed bat, Elias is going to have multiple suitors for Mancini.

The ideal time to have traded Mancini, when he would have brought back multiple quality prospects, would have been two years ago when he was 28, on top of his game and under club control; but there is no way the Orioles – for many different reasons, one of which being gruesome public relations – could have or would have traded the young player as he was battling cancer.

Forget about what would have been a sour return, the chief consideration was always humanitarian, and from that humanity blossomed a love affair between Mancini and the city, and millions of cancer patients and survivors.

Now, has this Orioles rebuild advanced to the point that you trade Mancini just to trade him? Do you trade him for the sake of movement and not coming away empty handed when he’s no longer in Baltimore?

Or has the rebuild progressed to the point of having the top-rated farm system in baseball and deciding it’s finally time to let the big-league club stay together and learn how to win together?

Of course Orioles fans love Trey Mancini; everybody loves Trey Mancini. I just don’t know what kind of return he would bring at this point to the point of making a difference in an Orioles season of goodwill that has suddenly become one of fans and enthusiasm coming back to the ballpark slowly but surely.

That said, I do believe if Orioles fans are concerned about a trade of Mancini upsetting the chemistry of what seems to be a very entertaining and potentially winning season for the Orioles, they should be wary of outfielder Anthony Santander and closer Jorge Lopez being traded.

Don’t misunderstand: Trey Mancini is going to be a huge asset to the Orioles on and off the field for as long as he’s on the team. Santander and Lopez, however, both have two years of club control remaining on their contracts and would bring bigger and more valuable hauls to the Orioles in return.

Thus, the price of beginning to scratch the surface of being successful again …

It’s tough making the difficult decisions.

Of course, Mike Elias is paid to believe the decisions are not difficult at all.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. 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 [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT