Where Should the Orioles Target Help at the Trade Deadline?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Where can the Orioles improve the most through trades?

July is here and the trade deadline is less than a month away. With the Orioles continuing to flounder slightly above .500 and within striking distance of both the AL East and the wild card, the trade deadline represents the last opportunity for the O's to upgrade its roster. Which positions do the O's need the most help and are the easiest to upgrade?

First, we need to know how the Orioles have performed at each position. Below is how the O's have performed in terms of Fangraphs WAR by position and where the O's rank in the MLB.

Position

WAR

Rank in MLB

C

1.1

18

1B

0.7

18

2B

0.2

23

3B

0.3

23

SS

1.8

9

LF

2.4

4

CF

3.2

5

RF

1.6

11

DH

1.3

3 (of 15)

SP

3.9

26

RP

1.1

16

For the position players, the worst performers have been at C, 1B, 2B and 3B. The performance at 2B was expected all along since the O's decided not to address the hole during the offseason. The other positions that have underperformed were less expected, given that the O's return former All-Stars at all three positions. Matt Wieters is lost for the season due to Tommy John Surgery after playing 26 games, while Chris Davis and Manny Machado have struggled mightily when they played. On the pitching side, the bullpen has remained solid despite the implosions of Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz thanks to the emergence of Zach Britton. The rotation is a much bigger question mark. All six members of the rotation, including Kevin Gausman, have allowed runs at around league average rate, but with worse peripherals. The only one with an xFIP lower than 4 is Wei-Yin Chen. None of the six stands out clearly above the rest. Yet none stands out clearly as the odd man out.

We have all learned not to completely trust season-to-data performance when looking into the future. Davis and Machado might not revert to their All-Star caliber performance last season, but they are unlikely to be as bad as they have been this season as well. Below is the projected WAR by position using Fangraphs depth chart and where the O's rank in the league.

Position

Projected WAR

Rank in MLB

C

1.1

18

1B

1.6

8

2B

0.5

27

3B

2.1

5

SS

1.6

5

LF

1.3

8

CF

1.9

6

RF

0.9

19

DH

0.8

5 (of 15)

SP

3.6

21

RP

0.3

19

Here we see that the O's are still projected to be among the Top 10 in terms of production they will receive from 1B and 3B respectively. We know that Nick Markakis is not going anywhere, so the positions where the O's can most realistically improve are C and 2B. For catcher, the O's are probably looking at a mere rental (such as Nick Hundley but a better version) as Wieters is set to return next season, though he would be a free agent at the end of next season. Another route the O's can go is to acquire a catcher under team control and to trade Wieters in the offseason. This seems unlikely as the O's seem to have built a relationship with Wieters and an extension is not completely out of the question. At second base, the O's decision depends on both their projection of Jonathan Schoop, which seems to be high on him, and their plan with J.J. Hardy after his contract expires after this season. If Hardy stays, Schoop has nowhere to play but 2B. I personally would not object to Schoop returning to the minors until he has proven that he can excel at that level, but the O's clearly think differently. 2B and C are clearly the weak links in the lineup and the hole at 2B especially should be addressed given that there is no clear long-term solution on the roster.

As for the pitchers, the bullpen will likely receive a boost when Bud Norris returns from the DL and one of the six rotation members (likely Gonzalez or Norris, if Gausman does not get sent back to the minors) gets bumped to the bullpen. We can only hope Buck does not stick with a six-man rotation for the rest of the season. The rotation is not stellar by any means, but every starter is so mediocre that it is difficult to upgrade as well. Jeff Samardzija might be better than Norris, but just look at what the Cubs are asking for him and question whether the upgrade is worth it.

There are definitely holes on the roster the O's can address at the trade deadline, but the only one where the O's should absolutely make a move is second base. The other positions are much more difficult to upgrade and the cost in doing so might be too high for the O's to pay.

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