The 2008 Orioles have thus far surpassed almost all expectations for their season, coming out of the first "half" with a competitive 45-48 record, though that is still good for just fifth place in the AL East. To lose 100 games, as some of us thought they would this year, they would have to go 17-52 the rest of the way. Unlikely. Not outright impossible, but highly unlikely.
Take out Ian Kinsler, and Brian Roberts is the best second baseman in the American League. (Even if you factor in Kinsler's brick glove, he wins, so don't start.)
Without Roberts and his .296/.375/.489 line at the top of this lineup, what do you really have? You've got two and a half guys that can hit (Markakis, Huff, and the super streaky Luke Scott) and a bunch of schmucks, only one of whom (Jones) has any real promise of getting any better than he currently is.
Who hits leadoff without Roberts? Trembley has shown a slight fear of pressing too hard on Jones. Is it Mora? Is it the shortstop du jour? The only other truly viable option in the lineup is Markakis (.401 OBP), and then who do you hit AFTER him? Mora (a recent hot spell has bolstered his OBP to a robust .302)?
Without Brian Roberts, this team is a lot worse, because the fact is that Freddie Bynum or Luis Hernandez or Brandon Fahey would be playing second base, with Cintron at short. And with Cintron hurt, that means two of those three is playing out there every day. Roberts is so massively ahead of any potential replacement that it makes Markakis-to-say, Tike Redman, look like a present for all of us.
First Half Cy Young: Jeremy Guthrie
129 innings of a 3.49 ERA and 1.19 WHIP? Sure, I'll take this scrapheap pickup that paid off in spades last season and has only continued his excellent contributions this year. 3.49/1.19 is the sort of line that has made an ace of Chien-Ming Wang, except in fact a little bit better. Guthrie is a pitcher whose repertoire and style seem to me like they forecast a long period of effective big league starting, and he is good enough to carry a staff, especially if his team would ever hit for him. For those of you oldsters with your prospector outfits, setting to head out for a hard day's mine (watch out fer chiggers!) who think win-loss records reflect a pitcher's ability, please explain his 5-7 mark. Sit down, Joe Morgan. He hasn't been "outpitched" in 3-2 games.
The real truth is that you could probably get a fairly pretty penny for the 29-year old Guthrie, whose arm hasn't been beaten on and has now shown in two straight seasons that the hype he had coming out of Stanford really did have some reasoning.
Personally, I wouldn't trade Guthrie. I wouldn't trade Roberts, either. Both of them would require packages better than you're going to get out of anyone at the trade deadline. If something massive comes up this winter, think about it. But not until then.
Should They Stay or Should They Go Now?
Who to trade? Who to keep?
I say keep Roberts, keep Guthrie (whose name hasn't come up but you have to realize he's one of our most valuable pieces), and even keep Daniel Cabrera. If nothing else, Cabrera has value in throwing 200 innings a year, which is not the easiest thing to replace. Keep obvious guys like Jones and Markakis.
Everyone else? Find a suitor. Find a dance partner. See what they've got, hear them out, decide if it's enough.
The Clash's last album (well, I wouldn't REALLY call them The Clash) was titled Cut the Crap. That's the general idea here. Millar's clubhouse prankery and general feel-good attitude is great and all, but he's become a detriment at the plate. When your first baseman is hitting .239/.331/.391, it's a problem that can't be made up for with funny novelty hats or impassioned pleas for another team to win the ALCS. Millar's a great dude, an underrated glove at first base, and I'll remember his time in Baltimore fondly when all is said and done. But I'd like all to be done soon.
Aubrey Huff is on the other side of the teeter-totter. He's hitting a healthy .284/.349/.526 with 18 homers, and had an argument for inclusion into the All-Star Game. (He was one of several more deserving Orioles than the guy who made it in.)
But Huff seems just so fluke-y this year. Look at his WARP3 totals for previous seasons (2005-2007): 3.8, 4.0, 3.7. This year? He's at 5.9, the third-best number of his career and his best since 2004 (6.4, which was preceded by 7.7). Huff's having a dynamite season.
If the Orioles cannot find a contender that wouldn't like to have a power-hitting veteran lefty bat who is comfortable DHing and can also fill either corner infield spot (and in a pinch, either corner outfield spot), then they're doing something wrong. The way he's hit, the rest of his contract looks like a bargain. I'd rather someone else take the chance that it actually will be one. The cute stories of him going out and just not thinking are great and all, but not a lot of guys have long-lasting bouncebacks starting at his age.
All-Star George Sherrill should be traded. Yeah, he's affordable, and for a little while longer. But saves are a silly stat that have overrated his real value. By VORP totals, he's the team's fourth-best reliever. He could be replaced by Jim Johnson at a moment's notice, probably, and believe it or not, Chris Ray's health doesn't much matter to me when it comes to trading Sherrill. Someone on this team will find at least a momentary home in the closer's role (believe me, it happens), and if no one really does...boo hoo? Y'all plan on going to the playoffs? A closer will happen. We'll find one. Sherrill was a non-closer that turned into a closer. Joe Borowski has racked up saves before, too. Todd Jones has done it. It's not the great art some make it out to be (though it's not the easy job some have before made it out to be, either).
The affordable part assumes Sherrill keeps on being good. Relievers are a volatile bunch, man. A guy like Sherrill has no guarantees. You can probably sell high right now -- maximum value. That might mean one troubled prospect who has stalled, or it might mean a couple fringe guys. Fine! Brian Roberts was a fringe prospect. Sometimes those guys pan out. And if they don't, then I just don't think George Sherrill is too good of a bet to factor into the next contending Orioles club to not take the risk.
I don't dislike Sherrill. In fact, I think the guy's just super. He's a fan favorite, like a lot of these guys are. But it's not like we're talking about B.J. Ryan or anything. And despite some of the Sun's more, erm, knowledgable readers/commenters, this is not the best Orioles closer since Randy Myers. Sherrill has probably pitched a little over his head in this role, and it's not been anything too special to begin with. Find a GM that cares about the number under SV on the media guide and go to town.
Or at least try. That's really all I ask.
I ain't speakin' for nobody else, just me. You're free to think George Sherrill is a hot potato, Kevin Millar's leadership is TOO INVALUABLE to trade away, and that Aubrey Huff surely will be hitting 30 homers a year for the rest of his contract. I just do not.
But whatever -- let's hope the second "half" can be as downright fun as the first one was.