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Playing "Let's Make a Deal" with the Orioles

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BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 05:  Starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie #46 of the Baltimore Orioles delivers to a Toronto Blue Jays batter during the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 5, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.
BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 05: Starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie #46 of the Baltimore Orioles delivers to a Toronto Blue Jays batter during the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 5, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.

If I had to name just one of the Orioles many problems in 2011, I would undoubtedly struggle and then murmur something along the lines of "no power". After all, the Orioles are better than only two American League teams in the extra base hitting department and I've just now been vaguely insulted by the Orioles' broadcasters parading Vladimir Guerrero's now-51 singles as if that makes him a great baseball player.

Boy, that's frustrating to listen to. It really is. But that makes me think that I have a more immediate problem with this team. Vague frustration at an unsurprisingly ignorant appraisal from the broadcast booth is the strongest emotion I have going for the birds right now. I guess it doesn't help that Chris Jakubauskas is pitching (even if he is doing a good job against the somehow-even-lighter-hitting Athletics), but this Orioles team is a dull exercise in being dull.

Well, that's life when your favorite team is bad, right? And let's not split any hairs: this Orioles team has maybe moved away from being embarrassingly bad, but they remain bad (and unexciting). In that light, it's no surprise really that despite the early date some of us O's fans are already talking about the trade deadline. Fearless Leader wrote on that the Orioles should consider dealing away Jeremy Guthrie before the July 31 trade deadline (tangentially, it is awesome and all that MASN is giving the best writers around the blogOsphere an opportunity in the spotlight, but why not make that spotlight easily findable from the front page of the website, MASN?).

But that kind of sucks, doesn't it? Jeremy Guthrie is one of the best players on the Orioles, and it doesn't feel that strange, despite the rich pitching history in Baltimore, to think of him as one of this town's all-time pitchers*. He's also such a strange and likeable guy, and, frankly, he's our guy. He came over from Cleveland after the Indians gave up on him and he built himself from fundamentally nothing into an ace (if only nominally) before our eyes. You don't see that happen very often in baseball, and every single time it does it's awesome and a little bit magical.

You know as much as I do that the ratio of the Orioles' goodness is directly proportional to the number of Jeremy Guthries on their roster. Trading Guthrie makes the team worse in more ways than simply wins and losses, and that's a bullet none of us want to bite.

*Another tangent: I looked up Guthrie on the Orioles All-Time pitcher wins above replacement table (both versions), where Guthrie is ranked 13th best Orioles pitcher ever. Both tables agree on that placing of Guts, but the players above him are wildly different (which is just how it goes with these things unfortunately). Fortunately for consistency's sake, the two names at the top of each list are identical: Jim Palmer and Mike Mussina. Have I mentioned that the Orioles should re-embrace Mussina, who will always be one of the best Orioles ever?

But let's go back to my second point up top. This is a bad Orioles team, and it's built to unfortunately continue to be bad going into the future unless something is done. The Orioles have somewhere between two and four position players that look like worthwhile long-term pieces of a contending team (and that's generously including the vanishing Nick Markakis), and one minor league hitter of Delmarva.

The Orioles don't need to get better positionally. If the Orioles got better in the field and at the plate, they would still kind of stink at the rather critical aspects of hitting the baseball and catching the baseball. No, the Orioles have put themselves into such a position that they need to do something to get a lot better. Doing nothing, in the Orioles case, would be monumentally foolish, and would potentially doom the entirety of Andy MacPhail's rebuilding master plan.

If not by trying to find a strong trade partner with Jeremy Guthrie as the bait, then with whom? The Orioles aren't blessed with many prime trade candidates. Of their older/approaching free agency players, the good ones (that is, players both performing and without unwieldy contract issues) are just Jim Johnson, Koji Uehara, Guthrie, J.J. Hardy, and perhaps the struggling/hurt Luke Scott. That's it. And there's just no question that if the goal is to find some premium young talent on the trade market, Guthrie is the top candidate to look to deal.

Needless to say, that really does suck. I've grown quite attached to Guthrie (and the other four viable trade candidates, even the grotesquely crazy one) and I don't want them to play for other teams. I want them to stay with the Orioles. But I need them to help the Orioles by bringing back younger, good players. Players that can help the Orioles do what none of these guys have helped the Orioles do: be a really good baseball team.

And I want that more than I can articulate. More than I want anything, even getting to keep watching some of my favorite players wear black and orange.