After a hot ten minutes in which the Orioles were allegedly so close to Jon Lester for Miguel Gonzalez plus some other parts before reports surfaced that no, they weren’t, it was almost inevitable that whatever happened before 4:00 on July 31, 2014 would be a letdown. Unless the Orioles got one of the two best arms available through trade without giving up the Holy Trinity of Bundy, Gausman, and Harvey, nobody was going to be happy after that.
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The Orioles couldn’t coerce the Phillies to swap Utley, Lee, Hamels, Burnett, or even Byrd, all of whom could have helped the team. But then again, it appears nobody could this year.
The piece that the Orioles did get, Andrew Miller, has looked like a stud in 2014 but concerns me. His K% (40.6%!), B% (7.7%!), and WHIP (0.898!) this season are all delirious departures from his career norms (21%, 12.2%, and 1.602, respectively) and significantly different than his 2013 figures (35.6%, 12.6%, and 1.370, respectively). He’s giving up home runs on just 6.1% of fly balls, which might hold and it might not. Sure, in a small sample size, a guy like Miller (read: a guy in a bullpen) can put him some pretty fantastic stats. He can even do that for a full season! If he does, that’s great for the Orioles, since Miller becomes a free agent when the year ends. If he doesn’t… well, remember when Francisco Rodriguez came over to the Orioles and never seemed to make it into games? Or even worse: remember another pitcher that was untouchable until he wasn’t? I’m not saying I disliked this trade; I mostly nothing this trade. I’m just not confident that Andrew Miller is the knockout stud he’s being touted as for the long term – but that’s okay, because he doesn’t need to be that guy for any longer than November.
You owe it to yourself to stay positive. You deserve to be happy! How can you do that, with two of the best teams in the American League getting so much better so quickly while the Orioles mostly stood pat? Look around you at the desolate wasteland that is the AL East!
The Red Sox held the world’s most expensive yard sale and got rid of nearly their entire starting rotation from Opening Day 2014 while picking up some decent-to-very-good Major League talent. Cespedes is an exciting player, yes, but part of a winning baseball team is being able to stop other teams from scoring too, and the Red Sox have all but given up on that in 2014. While the Orioles might face Lester in the ALCS (maybe twice, if he’s trotted out on short rest), they won’t have to deal with him in the remaining six games against the Red Sox.
The Yankees continued to make marginal moves in bunches, with even Stephen Drew, the biggest name acquired by New York, hitting an abysmal .176 this season. It’s been pointed out, and rightfully so, that Drew is fast approaching the 40-game mark when Manny began to hit after missing the beginning of the season. So Drew may turn it around, but I doubt that any of the other aging infielders or the Yankees’ rotation of unknowns and Brandon McCarthy pose a real threat to the AL East pennant.
The Tampa Bay Rays, arguably the hottest team in baseball in July and a legitimate darkhorse candidate to win the second AL Wild Card, shipped their Cy Young winner to Detroit. Like Lester, the Orioles will likely face Price in the postseason at least once, but don’t have to worry about him in the seven remaining games against Tampa Bay.
And while these pitchers may appear to have been attainable by the Orioles based on what Boston and Tampa got in return, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to find that AL East teams may be hesitant to trade within the division. This is particularly the case with the Rays and David Price, since they only received Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin, and a shortstop prospect. Smyly is a 1.1 fWAR pitcher with a 3.77 ERA and a 4.17 FIP who strikes out 2.81 times as many batters as he walks. That’s roughly comparable to Wei-Yin Chen, whose contract situation isn’t nearly as favorable to the cost-conscious rays. Maybe you would trade Chen, Schoop, and Eduardo Rodriguez for Price (again, very roughly comparable), but the Rays would still have to be willing to give a divisional opponent – and one that they may still consider themselves to be chasing for a 2014 playoff spot – one of the best pitchers in baseball. The Red Sox seemed to be looking for Major League-level talent in exchange for Lester, and the Orioles weren’t looking to give that up in the midst of a pennant run, nor were they willing to part with one of the big three.
The AL East became unquestionably weaker today, despite upgrading in bits and pieces, thanks to the departure of two legitimate ace pitchers leaving for other contenders. The Orioles may not have gotten the starting pitching that many of us wanted, but they have been given a slightly clearer path to their first Division Title since 1997.
And no, this is not a failure by the Orioles front office to capitalize on some minuscule window of opportunity. That’s often cited as a reason to make a splash because after 2016, it’s likely that both Wieters and Davis will be elsewhere, and Markakis and Hardy might be as well. Instead, look at this as the front office recognizing that the team’s window of opportunity only gets bigger from here as Gausman and Bundy take on significant Major League roles. The Orioles are here with Wieters out, Davis in a year-long slump, Markakis an average and at time underwhelming player, and Hardy swapping in his power stroke in exchange for not much else. Where are the arms that carry the Orioles to the promised land? They’re all in the minors for now, and the team is riding high on having a very good team at an even more opportune time and watching the window open more and more every time Kevin Gausman takes the mound.
And if that doesn’t cheer you up, just watch Manny Machado for twenty minutes because he’s guaranteed to do something amazing.