As we approach the midway point of the season, the Orioles are, as we all know, the worst team in baseball by a considerable margin. Therefore, the Orioles should be sellers as the trade deadline approaches. Two of the current Orioles most likely to be moved are Kevin Millwood and Ty Wigginton, both of whom are in the last year of their current contracts and who are having successful, if unspectacular seasons and have drawn interest from a number of contenders.
But Andy MacPhail has already made it clear that the Orioles will not make trades simply to shed payroll. Certainly, we cannot know how truthful that statement is. But it suggests that the Orioles will be willing to pay some of the millions remaining on the contracts of Millwood and Wigginton in order to get a better return, and will not be trading either of them for the dreaded "player to be named later or cash". But what kind of return can we expect, and who are some of the names out there that should interest us?
The teams who have been linked in trade rumors to either Millwood or Wigginton are the Mets, Cardinals, Rockies, Yankees, and Twins. None of these teams are likely to surrender a blue chip prospect for either Millwood or Wiggy (well, the Cards might), and the Yankees are a bad match, but the others have interesting prospects who could end up with the Orioles.
RHP Jeurys Familia - Familia has a fastball. A big one, sitting at 92-94 and topping out at 96 in spring training this year. He compliments it with a power slurve and a below average changeup. After a strong performance in the Sally League in 2009 and an increase in velocity to fit his ideal pitcher's frame, a lot of people were expecting big things from Familia this season. Alas for the Mets, it hasn't worked out that way so far, with Familia putting up a 6.16 ERA in eleven starts as a 20 year old in the Florida State League. His main problem has been control; his BB/9 has nearly doubled from 2009 to 5.8.
But there remains a lot of promise in Familia's arm. Despite a rough season so far, he has actually improved at missing bats, striking out 8.9 batters per nine innings. He's also continued to do a good job at keeping the ball down, with a GB% of 54%. This also helps him keep the ball in the park, and he has never allowed more than 0.5 HR/9. His control problems have his stock down some, but Familia could break out in a big way if he finds the zone with more consistency, and if not could still be a strong arm in the bullpen.
CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis - Nieuwenhuis, the Mets third round pick in 2008 out of Azusa Pacific, made a name for himself after a strong 2009 campaign in the FSL as a 21 year old, hitting 16 homers and delivering an OPS of .824 while playing an average center field. His 2010 campaign hasn't been quite as successful. While his batting average has improved marginally and his power has remained constant, his control of the strike zone, never his strongest suit to begin with, has taken a step backward. So far, he has only 15 walks in 273 plate appearances and 60 strikeouts.
Nieuwenhuis does boast a pretty impressive collection of tools, however. He doesn't have plus range in center, but he has a strong arm, notching nine assists in 2009 and sporting five already this season. He has good speed and basestealing ability, and has stolen eleven bases so far this year while being caught only three times. He makes strong contact with the bat, and has plus gap power to go with 20 home run power. He'll have to gain better mastery of the zone in order to make those tools work at the major league level, but as a 22 year old in AA and in only his second full professional season, he has plenty of time to figure it out.
SS Tyler Greene - Greene, a first round pick in 2005, is past prospect age at 26. This is the main reason the O's stand a chance of obtaining a shortstop who managed an OPS of .851 in the PCL in 2009. Greene has speed to burn, having stolen 121 bases in his minor league career while only having been caught 19 times. He makes solid contact and has decent power as well. He's shown respectable plate discipline in the minors as well, walking in nearly 10% of his plate appearances in AAA in 2009, although in short stints this hasn't yet translated in the majors.
Greene would probably be the starting shortstop for the Orioles tomorrow. But on a contender like St. Louis, Greene is trapped in AAA, with occasional promotions to the bigs where he has been used as a utility infielder with limited success. The owner of a career .950 fielding percentage in the minors, Greene isn't the fielder than Brendan Ryan is for the Cards, although his bat might well make up the difference. But the Cardinals are unlikely to give him an extended shot anytime soon, making him a prime candidate to be dealt for someone to help with their playoff chances.
1b Mark Hamilton - Hamilton, who was born in Baltimore but raised in Louisiana, was a second round pick out of Tulane in 2006, and struggled mostly at staying healthy his first several professional seasons, perhaps due to despair over being a first baseman for the team with Albert Pujols. However, he came back strong in 2009, putting up an OPS of .927 with an OBP of ,.401 between AA and AAA, and the Cards put him on the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule V draft.
A left-handed batter with good hitting skills and excellent on-base skills but problems staying healthy, Hamilton is essentially the poor man's Nick Johnson. Hamilton doesn't offer much in the way of defensive value, and has at times struggled badly against lefties, and has only four hits against them in 33 at bats so far this year. He's killing righties, however, with an OPS against them of 1.100 so far this year in AAA. Three weeks ago, however, Hamilton landed back on the disabled list. Blocked by Pujols in the majors and already at AAA, Hamilton will probably be used as trade fodder for the Cards when he returns to the field.
RHP Chris Balcom-Miller - A sixth round pick out of junior college in the 2009 draft, Balcom-Miller got off to a great start to his pro career, going 4-0 with an ERA of 1.58 on his way to winning Pitcher of the Year in the Pioneer League. He's had less luck so far in 2010, going 0-4 with an ERA of 4.04 in the Sally League, but don't let that fool you. Balcom-Miller has a FIP of 2.35 this year for Asheville, a WHIP of 0.94, and has a GB% of 60.4. He's shown plus control, walking only 1.13 per nine innings, and induces lots of swings and misses, with a K/9 of 9.56.
Balcom-Miller has good pro size at 6'2, 190, and features a two-seamer that sits in the low 90s and a plus changeup. While he projects to be a #4/#5 starter at the pro level, his results to date suggest that he could be a right-handed version of Zach Britton.
SS Trevor Plouffe - The Orioles have been reported to be interested in Twins prospect Trevor Plouffe, a first round pick out of high school in 2004. Plouffe hasn't exactly broken out though at any point in his minor league career, however, and has never posted an OPS above .800 in six full minor league seasons. In fact, his .768 OPS so far this season in AAA is the highest he has ever achieved. He doesn't feature any plus tools either, lacking plus speed, contact ability, or power. He has good range at shortstop, but has shown a lot of inconsistency with his throwing, and has a career fielding percentage of .945 in the minors. He saw his first taste of the majors this year and didn't exactly impress, going 3-23 with an error and no walks in seven games.
Compared to a toolbox like Greene, Plouffe seems like a less attractive option. And the Twins, who have catching prospect Wilson Ramos to use as trade bait, can and likely will do better than Millwood if they want to add a starter. But they have a need at third base and could pursue Wigginton, and while I hope the Orioles would get another piece besides Plouffe for him from the Twins, he appears to be someone the O's believe in and is their most likely trade target from Minnesota. The Twins have a history of prospects who struggle in the minors finding greater success in the majors, such as Denard Span, so perhaps there is something that Jordan and MacPhail see in Plouffe that I can't find in the numbers.