Thinking, thinking, thinking...
Bigbie is pretty much undeniably a fourth outfielder. He seems a bit of a fan favorite (I like him too, I was hoping he'd have a breakout year, but he hasn't). He's pretty good defensively, he can handle center in a pinch, and if you play him every day his upside is .270/.330-.340 with 15 homers.
Ward on the other hand is a horrible outfielder - he's a born DH, and his career has begged for him to be traded to the AL since he was a young Astro that kept not getting a chance. Maybe the Astros knew something, because Ward is not nearly as good as his prospect hype said he could be. He's never panned out and he's probably never going to. Production-wise, Ward is basically a platoon DH/first baseman. The problem for us is that unlike Mike Lowell this year, Ward's platoon split is the exact same as Palmeiro's. Neither of them can hit a lefty if their life literally depended on it. Lowell, despite how bad he is so far this season, is still hitting lefties. Lowell is a lot better for us in terms of production, probably; the only thing Ward has in his favor is that we'll be rid of him in a few months, but I'm also scared of the Orioles signing him to a silly contract if they acquire him, particularly if Palmeiro retires or doesn't come back to the O's next year. An every day player Ward is not.
Splitting Marrero/Ward in left is a risk; neither of them have performed too well this season and Ward has wilted with playing every day in Craig Wilson's absence. Marrero is a nice guy to have but has never played every day either. Surhoff is 40 years old and sucks. I don't entirely object to his being on the team as long as he's not taking frequent ABs away from, well, anybody.
The bottom line is, if we acquire Daryle Ward instead of Mike Lowell, we're still going to need an outfielder with a bat that does more than occasionally hit a home run. Matos, Ward, Sosa, Gibbons, Marrero and Surhoff is not going to produce unless Sosa gets well off the schneid and starts hitting like it's 2001. It could happen, I guess, but I don't think it's wise to count on it. Gibbons and Ward are, as someone here noted before, basically the same hitter. Ward gets on base more, but still doesn't get on base all that well.
If you flank Matos' glove and much-improved plate patience with a couple of real bats, Matos isn't a huge problem with his .715 OPS. However in this scenario, you're flanking him with streaky bats and bad gloves all around. Ward, Gibbons and Sosa are all bad defensive outfielders, and would have the majority of the playing time.
I understand Baltimore's position with Ward; he's only signed through this season, and he's cheap, while Lowell has money coming to him through 2007. But this is a move designed to help the Baltimore Orioles now (and in the near future, but most importantly now). The Orioles have a real shot to win this division, but it is going to take a move like this one to keep that shot alive. This is the front office, for the first time in years, taking a calculated risk. You don't win, especially in a division with the Red Sox and Yankees, if you don't try something once in a while.
With Ward not adding any payroll, it does occur to me that yes, the Orioles could make another move and get a real outfielder, which would probably necessitate letting Surhoff go and replacing that lefty bat with Ward's. In that case, you've probably got an upgrade. But who else is available?
Someone mentioned new Rockie Eric Byrnes, and I really like Eric Byrnes, but that's not an impact player. Aubrey Huff still has pretty weak numbers, but it wouldn't hurt to think about him, especially now that Jonny Gomes has emerged for the Devil Rays. Huff hit .256/.319/.383 with nine homers in the first half this year; he hit .269/.340/.425 with 13 before the break last year, and was considered a disappointment then too. So he followed up with a .331/.386/.579 second half. There's a chance that could happen again, especially if you chance his scenery and what the games he's playing in mean. From all accounts Huff loves Tampa Bay, but losing has got to wear on players at some point.
Look, I don't know, it's all rambling and rumors and scenarios. I'm happy we're getting Burnett. But that doesn't solve everything, and if you think the Red Sox and Yankees won't up the ante if we pull this deal off, think again. It isn't the end of our problems.
We are a good baseball team. Burnett makes us better. He's not Roger Clemens, but he's an upgrade, and a pretty big one. He immediately becomes at least the second-best starter on our staff. But where Lowell can be a wild card, we know what Ward can and almost certainly will do, and it's not enough. There will still be work to do. And I think the management and the ownership of this team - yes, I'm going to give Angelos a little credit for this - sees that this is the time to do it. I don't count out a second real move if we get Ward instead of Lowell. I'd almost expect one, even.