The 2014 Orioles are a good team. But they are also a flawed team (as is pretty much every baseball team in some way). Production from 2B ranks as 3rd worst in the majors in terms of Fangraphs' WAR calculation. Catching has been 9th worst, with Matt Wieters' replacements having combined for 0.0 fWAR. The rotation has accumulated the 6th lowest fWAR in the majors thus far, the 6th fewest innings, and the 3rd lowest K/9 rate.
While the bullpen has been above average overall, that is largely built upon the fantastic seasons from Zach Britton, Darren O'Day, and Ryan Webb. The remainder have been near replacement level or, in the case of Brian Matusz, worse.
One additional area of concern is the heavy right-handedness of the lineup. The Orioles currently carry four left-handed hitters: two starters and two options on the bench (David Lough & Ryan Flaherty) who are defense-first type players.
So those are the areas the Orioles could stand to address as they look to make a run at winning the division for the first time sine 1997. Fortunately, there is an ample supply of talent at each of these positions who could be available via trade.
Certainly, it would be exhilarating if the O's could fix their 2B issue & upgrade the rotation via one trade by acquiring David Price and Ben Zobrist, or Cliff Lee and Chase Utley. But each of those pie-in-sky ideas would cost significant amounts of money and prospect talent.
Could it be worth it? Certainly, if the O's brought a 4th World Series championship to Baltimore. But winning the World Series is more a crapshoot than an equation to be solved. So here are a few more realistic trade ideas that could address multiple issues for the Orioles and help them at least better their chances of making the playoffs, which would then give them basically as good of odds of winning the World Series as any other team.
Target #1: New York Mets' (2B) Daniel Murphy & (RP) Dana Eveland
I love Jonathan Schoop. His defense is great and I still believe in the future potential of his bat. But his bat has been abysmal this year (save for when he's crushing Earl Weaver Specials in New York). And this year is what matters since there are no guarantees the Orioles will be a similar situation next year. Daniel Murphy is a player who was rumored to have been checked in on by Orioles GM Dan Duquette during the off-season.
Heading into his age 29 season, Murphy had just put up a career high in home runs (13) with a solid triple slash line of .286 / .319 / .415 and he would be under team control through the 2015 season. So far this season Murphy has been just as good, slashing .287 / .335 / .406. Even more enticing is that he has hit lefties even better than righties so far in 2014 (.818 OPS vs. .718 OPS).
You may remember Dana Eveland from the 2012 season, when he made two less than inspiring spot-starts but was otherwise decent out of the bullpen. He spent all of 2013 in Korean baseball, but returned this season when the Mets offered him a minor league deal. He's pitched in just 15 games so far, but has pitched very well, putting up a 2.16 ERA and 14 Ks to 3 BBs. With the way Matusz has pitched this season, Eveland could represent a more sturdy LOOGY option for Buck Showalter.
Other potential targets on the Mets: (SP) Bartolo Colon, (OF/DH) Bobby Abreu
Target #2: Chicago Cubs' (RP) Wesley Wright & (OF) Chris Coghlan
The 29-year-old Wright has been great for the Cubs this season, putting up a 2.28 ERA & 2.92 FIP over 27.2 innings. The bulk of that success has been due to his limiting hard contact, as he has put up career rates for HR % (0.9%) and XBH % (3.5%) along with a solid 1.39 GB/FB ratio. So long as the regression monster doesn't get him, he could be a tremendous weapon out of the 'pen.
Chris Coghlan is a former Rookie of the Year winner ('09) and was born in Gaithersburg, MD. He struggled in parts of four seasons with the Marlins post-RoY award before getting non-tendered this past off-season. He signed on with the Cubs to a minor league deal and has found some decent success as a platoon bat vs. RHP with a season slash line of .273 / .355 / .472. His defense is, well...the defensive metrics are not kind, let's put it that way. But his bat could give the O's a significantly more formidable pinch hitting option vs. righty relievers.
Other potential targets on the Cubs: (INF) Luis Valbuena, (LHP) James Russell
Target #3: Cleveland Indians' (SP) Justin Masterson & (INF) Asdrubal Cabrera
Both more well-known names, each is a free agent after the season. Both have also lost a lot of their shine as once impact players. Masterson has been beset by knee injuries this season, his fastball is down below 90 mph average velocity, and he gets absolutely clobbered by lefty batters. But if the scouts potentially see signs of hope in a mechanical tweak or that he is recovered from his injuries then he has the potential of being a strong front-end starter coming down the stretch. ZiPS is optimistic regarding his rest of season potential as well, projecting a strong pull-back in his babip & BB/9 leading to a drop in his ERA of a run and a half.
Cabrera has played shortstop primarily, but does have previous experience at 2B, where the defensive metrics view him much more favorably. A switch-hitter, he would provide the O's offense with another left-handed bat, which could make them less vulnerable to righty slider monster bullpen arms. His splits show him to be slightly better from the left hand side (.711 OPS) than from the right side (.679 OPS).
Going after these two would be a huge 'high risk / high reward' move. But the 1.6 fWAR that ZiPS projects them to combine to produce over the remainder of the season doubles what ZiPS forecasts for Miguel Gonzalez and Schoop. This could well be the difference between the O's making winning the AL East and getting an early start to their off-season.
Other potential targets on Cleveland: (OF) Chris Dickerson, (RP) Marc Rzepczynski
It's clear the O's have areas where they could upgrade significantly. While it would be exciting to see Duquette make a big move for an All-Star caliber player, it does not strike me as being his modus operandi. But one of these combination moves for less heralded players could serve the Orioles well as they make a push for a second playoff berth in 3 seasons.