Anyone who watched today's game, and really anyone who's watched the Orioles for the past week, knows that the Orioles need to show some marked improvement if they are going to continue pretensions towards contention. Weaknesses have been apparent in hitting, pitching and fielding.
Today, the rumor mill began to swirl regarding the potential of the Orioles acquiring veteran slugger, and member of the 600+ home run club, Jim Thome, who had been with the Phillies. In exchange for Thome, the O's have sent minor leaguers Kyle Simon - a right-handed pitcher and last year's 4th round draft pick - and catcher Gabriel Lino, to Philadelphia. The new Philadelphia farm director is Joe Jordan, who was the scouting director for the Orioles when Simon was drafted last season.
You all probably have your own memories of the last several times that the Orioles have acquired an aging slugger. Thome is 41 and in his 22nd MLB season. He's only played in 30 games for the Phillies, batting .242/.338/.516 in a limited 71 PA. This trade was announced during today's game broadcast and MASN play-by-play man Gary Thorne noted that Thome is basically no longer capable of playing in the field due to his back. Based on this, we can assume what we might have already guessed, that Thome will be a full-time DH.
Will Thome add anything to the Orioles club from that spot? The Orioles would very, very much like for you to know that Thome has hit a lot of home runs in his career. As the Internet joke goes, JIM JAM MASHES TATERS. And he has mashed a lot of taters in his time. Thome is tied with (lamentably) former Oriole Sammy Sosa for 7th place on the all-time home runs list with 609, and the Orioles PR department notes that in 67 career games at Oriole Park, Thome has hit a home run every 13.6 at-bats. Two of the Eutaw Street home runs were hit by Thome, including one this year. I'm sure that'll be just great.
Since Thome will be the apparent full-time DH, that forces the likes of Chris Davis, Mark Reynolds, and Wilson Betemit into the field more often, a prospect that should not thrill anyone who has watched those gentlemen in the field this season or ever. I cannot summon any joy whatsoever at the prospect.
For now, the only roster move that has been announced is that Zach Phillips has been designated for assignment. Phillips had only appeared briefly on the big league roster this season and did not impress. There will also need to be a 25-man roster move, but there is no indication what that move might be. If you've watched him this season, you may be hoping "Five Runs All Earned" Tommy Hunter (which he managed even in a relief appearance today) will find himself sent to Norfolk again.
Past trades we've seen in the Dan Duquette era have involved trading a couple of unheralded, mostly non-prospect minor leaguers for whatever Duquette wishes to acquire. Is this trade in the vein of Jarret Martin and Tyler Henson for Dana Eveland, or Randy Henry and Greg Miclat for Taylor Teagarden?
Simon was drafted out of the University of Arizona last year in the fourth round. He'd made fourteen starts for the Frederick Keys this season, with a 3.96 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP. That's in high-A ball as a player who will be turning 22 in August. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus tweeted this about Simon as he heard of the trade: Plus sinker, mediocre secondaries, can't miss bats.
Lino is 19, a Venezuelan signee who has gotten the attention of some of the prospect people here on Camden Chat, but he had a .622 OPS in 56 games for the Delmarva Shorebirds this year. It seems that Dan Duquette felt he was an expendable part at the present time. Jon Shepherd of Camden Depot tweeted of Lino: He has the potential to be a high ceiling player, but not likely to reach it.
That the Orioles will ever miss Simon or Lino is unlikely. On the other hand, the acquisition of Thome is not going to solve all of the Orioles' problems, and potentially makes one big issue with the team worse while representing a questionable improvement in another area. Neither one of these involves starting pitching, with the O's having three of the five worst pitchers in the AL in ERA having been in their rotation. We can all be fairly sure Duquette is well aware of this, and perhaps he has some ideas of how to possibly address that.
Or as a wittier Camden Chatter than I put it, Dan Duquette is shuffling his cards looking for the Lucky Monkey and the Great Bird. I have a feeling that Duquette is not done shuffling. Whether the Lucky Monkey or the Great Bird are in the deck of cards remains to be seen.
For now, the Jim Thome Era is underway. He is expected to be in uniform and perhaps in the lineup in tomorrow's game. And what does Jim Thome do? He mashes taters. May it continue to be so while he wears the black and orange.