Hey, remember me? I'm the guy that wrote that article about the Orioles as sellers back on May 18th. Well since that date, the Orioles have gone 25-15 and from three games under .500 to seven games over .500 and hold first place in the AL East. To be fair to myself, I did not call for the Orioles to start selling, but that they needed to start winning if they wanted to avoid that fate and they have. A key deadline acquisition could be the key difference in a muddled American League. So now, what do the Orioles look like as buyers at the trade deadline? Three key questions and answers solve this problem.
What do you need?
One of the more important things to figure out is what you need to buy. The Orioles could use a steadier hand in the starting rotation. Both Chris Tillman and Bud Norris have disappointed to date. Pushing either one of them from the starting rotation might be easier said than done. Furthermore, Kevin Gausman is waiting in the wings, as soon as the Orioles top screwing with him, to take a rotation spot and hold it down for good as he did in the back half of 2014. So while the solution may be in house, the Orioles still need at least one more reliable starter.
The Orioles could also use an everyday corner outfielder. Right now they keep running out six guys for two spots which is untenable for much longer. Any of the current six options could be designated for assignment or traded. Having a outfielder they could plug and play everyday would give the roster a lot more flexibility and potentially, depending on who they traded for, a middle of the order bat. Yet, at least recently, the sextuplet of corner outfielders has produced. With the pressure on, almost all of them have preformed.
Lastly, the bullpen, which has been very good, but I've never seen a bullpen that couldn't use an extra reliever. The Orioles could go after another setup man that could get both right handers and left handers out. The playoffs last year and every year show how crucial a shutdown bullpen can be. Adding another quality reliever to the Orioles current mix could not hurt.
What do you have to sell?
Even if the Orioles found a player they wanted to add, they still need something to buy with. The Orioles do not have a great minor league system. Two of the biggest trade chips going into the season, Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey are both injured and do not seem to be returning to action anytime soon. Furthermore, because of the injuries both have to have an all time low in value. After that is Gausman, who is more likely to earn his own spot in the 2015 rotation or get continually jerked around until a spot opens up in 2016.
The only true prospects left from there in the minor league system are Jomar Reyes and Chance Sisco who are good hitting prospects. Neither are elite level talents and the Orioles need any positional help they can get in the minor leagues. So, not much is going to be bought with the Orioles prospects.
That really only leaves the major league roster to subtract from. The only player of really any value that I see likely to get traded for anything of substance would be Steve Pearce. His ability to play in the infield and outfield makes him more valuable than a similar caliber hitter. The other corner outfielders are more of the designated for assignment and then traded for a bucket of balls ilk. Although, what makes Pearce valuable to everyone else also makes him valuable to the Orioles.
Chris Davis might be an interesting target for a team looking for left handed bat. Going into free agency it might make some sense to trade Davis. It would have to be in the right deal though as Davis is hitting well and has some versatility between playing first base and right field. Again though, the Orioles would have to deal with losing Davis' production.
Norris could also see the trading block, but he has preformed so poorly that trading him would really just be opening up a spot for Kevin Gausman, which come to think of it might be valuable for the Orioles this year and long term.
How do you make room?
So even if the Orioles wanted to buy, they would have to make room on their current 25 man roster which they seem hard pressed to do right now. A trade or two would probably have to happen to make room in the outfield or in the starting rotation. Tillman was the defacto ace going into the season and moving him to the bullpen is not a move I see Buck Showalter making.
Norris could move to the bullpen, where I personally believe he could flourish. If the Orioles would rather trade him, Norris will be a reasonably priced two month rental. Again though, I do not see a magnificent return for Norris. Norris may be the one to get the pothole treatment and come back in mid-August as a bullpen arm.
In the corner outfield multiple guys would have to be moved if the Orioles acquired an everyday corner outfielder. They seem reluctant to let go of one right now. They could pick two of the current six and platoon them in one of the corners. That would make some sense.
Making room in the bullpen is easy, the Orioles have shown that for four years.
What does that all mean?
It probably means that the Orioles will not do very much at the deadline. With an American League so muddled this is a sellers' market and they have little to buy with and not much to gain. Trading for a starting pitcher when the Orioles have Gausman, who pitched well for the team last year, would be a little asinine.
Trading for an everyday corner outfielder makes sense. But, again, the Orioles would probably have to trade Gausman/Davis/Pearce and probably their best two position prospects to get a player deserving of playing everyday over what they currently have. This doesn't make much sense either with the way the current group is playing
The only move I really see the Orioles making is a for a reliever. A middling prospect or two for a seventh/eighth inning setup arm is a trade Dan Duquette has made before and will make again. Also, some August waiver deadline deal seems likely as Duquette has shown a propensity for adding in August. He'll once again attack the depth of the minor league system, but try to keep the top intact.
Obviously, if an injury occurs and a spot opens up, a lot of this changes. It may even still be to early to decide whether or not these Orioles are buyers come July 31st. However, if they are still in contention, I would not expect the Orioles to do much. The lack of minor league depth means the Orioles won't be big buyers on the market.