50 games into the Baltimore Orioles 2013 season, a couple of things seem clear. One, the O’s are a competitive team, with a good core. Two, the Front Office is likely going to have to augment the roster between now and the non-waiver deadline if a return trip to the Playoffs is going to be possible.
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If the O’s are going to go shopping, they have to first identify what it is they require. When that is established, the next step is determining what can realistically be obtained.
Let’s look at the roster as it currently exists:
DH / Bench: Pearce, Dickerson, Navarro, Snyder, Valencia
Rotation: Hammel, Tillman, Gonzalez, Gausman, Garcia
Bullpen: Johnson, O’Day, Matusz, Hunter, Patton, McFarland, S. Johnson
Things that could impact the roster internally between now and the end of July:
1) Chen will be back shortly, and likely replace Garcia in the rotation.
2) Arrieta has been moved to the bullpen at Norfolk. Not hard to see Britton, and Wada being other relief options at some point. Strop will come of the DL, and be given a chance to get right mechanically at AAA before any promotion. EDIT: Arrieta’s stay in the Norfolk bullpen was short, as he started for the Tides on 5/29. Obviously it is now clear his bullpen outing 5/25 was about getting him his first appearance since 5/7.
3) Roberts – who ruptured tendons in the back of his right knee – had sutures removed on the 20th. He is expected to need another 6 weeks of rest before resuming baseball activities. EDIT: There has been a further update, and Roberts could be back within 3 weeks.
4) Reimold is expected back in mid-June.
5) Betemit will begin light baseball activities next week.
6) Teagarden is beginning a rehab assignment 5/31.
7) Additional injuries.
It is important to understand that with the 2nd Wild Card, there are going to be a lot of teams believe they have a chance to contend. With that in-mind, the few teams that are ‘sellers’ are going to be in a position of strength. That does not bode well for the O’s in terms of acquiring true difference making talent, because the Orioles Minor League system – while not barren – is not flush with the depth necessary to out bid other teams competing for talent in the trade market.
That doesn’t mean the O’s have nothing to offer. In my eyes, the most attractive players the O’s would likely consider moving are Arrieta, Britton, S. Johnson, E. Rodriguez, Delmonico, Bridwell, Hoes, Avery, Wright, Schrader, Reimold, Strop, Patton, and Urrutia. You can put together an interesting package out of these players. What you lack is a headliner. There is probably no scenario which would have existed where the O’s would have traded Dylan Bundy, but with with Bundy’s injury; it’s not even something which can be considered. I could have seen the O’s possibly having been willing to part with Schoop, but would have been surprised. The stress-fracture in Schoop’s back takes the odds of the Curacao native being moved to pretty much non-existent.
In summary, you have pieces other organizations will value, but not the pieces which are going to bring back a star.
If you lack the talent to directly trade for a star, how else could one be obtained? The only other option a team would have, is to try and ‘buy’ talent by taking on an expensive contract that another team is looking to get out from under of.
Could the O’s do that? It is within the realm of reason.
Do I think the O’s will do that? No, I do not. Of course it should also be mentioned that even if the O’s were willing to ‘buy’ talent, that doesn’t mean there is going to be a market flush with such available players.
This takes us back to our original premise. Based on the roster as it currently exists – the strengths and weaknesses – plus the things that could impact the roster between now and the end of July; what would a realistic shopping list look like?
A) In an ideal world the O’s would be able to obtain a front-end starter (a Cliff Lee, a David Price, etc) which could lead the staff, and that you could easily see taking the ball in Game 1 of any Playoff series. In a realistic world, how about another mid-rotation starter that you will generally feel comfortable taking the ball every 5th day? Ricky Nolasco? Matt Garza? Edinson Volquez? Bud Norris? As we talked about above, Chen should be back shortly, likely replacing Garcia in the rotation. That would give you a 5 man rotation of Hammel, Chen, Tillman, Gonzalez, and Gausman. I’m not arguing Nolasco, Garza, Volquez, or Norris are dramatically better options than any of those existing options. I’m suggesting it is unlikely that the existing options get through the season unscathed, and that the addition of another mid-rotation starter would allow you to potentially move one of the existing options to the bullpen.
B) It’s the end of May, and Roberts is looking at another 6 weeks of rest? It’s not hard to imagine the O’s selling themselves on the idea of Roberts returning for the 2nd half, as an addition to fortify 2nd base. I can’t say I was overly optimistic about Roberts as Spring Training ended, and the season began; but I was hopeful. I thought there was a decent chance of him being the best available option. If he was available tomorrow, I think he might still be the best option, but that is not the case. We don’t have to rehash the Roberts story, but after playing 59 games in ’10, 39 games in ’11, 17 games in ’12, and just 3 games in ’13, the bottom-line is you can’t expect him to be the answer in the 2nd half.
Chase Utley is the prize, and seems obtainable. Earlier this week he was placed on the DL with a relatively mild oblique strain. Utley is clearly the guy O’s fans have circled. Should he get back to the Phillies lineup, and is producing; I fully expect the O’s to pursue. Former Orioles Scouting Director Joe Jordan is the Player Development Director for the Phillies. Perhaps that will help a trade be finalized.
You certainly can not book on obtaining Utley though. The odds say that even if Baltimore pursues, Utley won’t be spending the Summer wearing Orange and Black. So the question would then become, is there another option with greater upside than Casilla, Navarro, and Roberts? Houston’s Jose Alutve would pretty easily fit that bill. The Astros are in desperate need of everything, so you could see them being willing to move Alutve. However, with Alutve being under team control through 2017 – they are not going to give him away. While Alutve would be an upgrade for the O’s, there has to be a limit of how much the O’s would trade for him.
C) It has been a rough couple of weeks for the bullpen, particularly Johnson with his 4 blown saves. Not a lot the O’s can do about that. After back-to-back excellent seasons Johnson is the guy. The O’s need him to perform. His track-record says he will. If he doesn’t, there is not another elite guy ready to slide right in to replace him. To me the key for the bullpen is the rotation in-front of the relievers. Get consistent innings from the starters, and you can match-up. We talked above about how the addition of a mid-rotation starter could improve the bullpen. We also talked above about how Arrieta, Britton, Wada, and a returning Strop could be options for the bullpen as well.
The bullpen as a whole is struggling right now, but I don’t see the pursuit of relievers becoming a priority for the O’s. If the O’s do go looking for external bullpen arms, there should be numerous available options.
D) With Pearce, Dickerson, and Valencia; it looks like the O’s have a couple of decent platoon options for the bench and at DH. Betemit and Reimold figure to factor here as well as the season goes on. Betemit obviously crushes RH pitching, and Reimold does have talent. Like Roberts though, you can’t rely on Reimold to perform. If Betemit is not in the lineup and producing by mid-July, might the O’s look for help at DH? Justin Morneau could be available, and like Betemit crushes righties.
Who do you want the Orioles to pursue? Who do you think should be on their shopping list?