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If the Orioles do make a trade, it should actually be for a relief pitcher

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Strengthen the bullpen and it will take pressure off of the rotation

The August 1st trade deadline is one week away and it’s pretty clear what the Orioles need the most (starting pitching) and what they will probably get (Melvin Upton Jr., for some reason). However, if the front office wants to get the best bang for their buck, they should actually look to add to their already strong bullpen.

Good pitching, bad pitching

Relief pitching is one of the best things about the 2016 Orioles. Going into Monday night’s slate of games, the ‘pen had a collective ERA of 3.08, putting them fourth in MLB behind the Nationals (2.98), Dodgers (2.98) and Astros (3.06).

On the flip side, the Baltimore rotation is in desperate need of repair. Despite a nice run of form over the last week, the starter’s group ERA of 4.91 is 24th in baseball. It’s so bad, in fact, that Ubaldo Jimenez is being rumored to start on Thursday. That is, if he isn’t traded before then. The man has a 7.38 ERA this season, yet the Orioles decision-makers seem to prefer him to the likes of Tyler Wilson or Mike Wright.

Who is out there?

However, what the Orioles need and what the trade market will supply do not line up well this summer. There are more teams looking for starting pitching than there are decent options available. But relief pitchers? There are plenty of those out there.

Going based off of MLB Trade Rumors’ list of the top 50 trade candidates, these are the starters that are available and ranked from most likely to be dealt to less likely: Andrew Cashner, Rich Hill, Jake Odorizzi, Jeremy Hellickson, Ervin Santana, Matt Moore, Jorge De La Rosa, Ivan Nova, Jon Niese, Chris Archer, Julio Teheran, Anthony DeScalfini and Matt Shoemaker.

Just to trim it down, the Orioles definitely do not have enough quality prospects to nab Archer, Teheran, DeScalfini or Moore, and it’s not even clear if those guys are totally available for trade. And De La Rosa, Nova and Niese are no better than what the team already has.

So, that leaves you with Cashner, Hill, Odorizzi, Hellickson and Santana; the five guys every other team has likely honed in on as well. If the O’s want one of those guys, they may have to kiss at least one of Chance Sisco, Trey Mancini, Ryan Mountcastle, Chris Lee or Tanner Scott goodbye. Not that they shouldn’t do that if they feel it greatly improves their team, but there are some doubts that it really does. They have gotten this far with subpar starters, so would one of these guys make a difference.

In the relief market you have lefties Will Smith, Boone Logan, Jake McGee, Fernando Abad, Zach Duke and Andrew Miller; and righties Jeremy Jeffress, Joe Smith, Huston Street, Jeanmar Gomez, Daniel Hudson, Tyler Clippard, David Robertson, Wade Davis and Steve Cishek. That’s enough for every contending team to add a reliever if they want.

Perfect fit

To me, the southpaws stick out for the Orioles, who still don’t have a regular left-handed option out of the ‘pen besides closer Zach Britton.

Logan has an opponent batting average of .167 against righties and .154 against lefties. McGee has struggled in Colorado but was great in the AL East with Tampa for four years prior to that. Abad is more of a specialist with a lefties average against of .174 compared to .242 for righties, but still not a bad option. Duke is striking out 10.4 guys per nine innings. Of course, Andrew Miller would be perfect, but that isn’t happening.

On the right handed side, the only option (other than Davis, who they probably don’t have enough to get) that would really improve the team is the Mariners closer, Cishek. His wonky delivery and 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings would look great in the late innings on nights manager Buck Showalter wants to avoid his big three of Darren O’Day, Brad Brach and Britton.

Keep them fresh

Those big three need to be fresh for Baltimore to go deep into the postseason. Showalter has a reputation of being a shrewd handler of his bullpens. Recently, it has been his policy to avoid guys after they have pitched on back-to-back days whenever possible. It would make it much easier if the team had one more reliable arm.

O’Day, who will be 34 years old in October, is the team’s second-oldest player behind shortstop J.J. Hardy and has recently come back from a hamstring injury, so he will certainly be watched closely. Brach, who made his first All-Star team, has been off lately, allowing three runs over his last two appearances. And while Britton has been phenomenal, it would be nice to give him a day off when needed.

Shallow arms

If you look closely at the Baltimore bullpen, while it is great, it is not particularly deep. Dylan Bundy, who was once one of their middle relief guys, has moved to the rotation. As has former longman Vance Worley. That means their current relief corps is made up of Wilson, Odrisamer Despaigne, Chaz Roe and Mychal Givens in addition to the late inning guys.

Wilson has yo-yoed between Baltimore and Triple-A Norfolk and owns a 5.22 ERA this season in the bigs. Despaigne is the current longman and will probably be handcuffed to Bundy during his starts until he stretches out further than the fifth inning. Roe always feels as though he is on the precipice of disaster. And Givens goes from lights out one night to an implosion the next.

Long story, short: Yeah, the Orioles rotation isn’t too good. But it would be easier (and cheaper) for the front office to add an impact arm to the back of an already talented bullpen. That effectively shortens how far the starters have to go into a game and allows the Birds to win games in a way that they are comfortable with: mash tons of dongs to get ahead, pray the starter can make it through five (maybe six) semi-decent innings and then hand the ball to your studs in the ‘pen.

Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts? Would an additional bullpen pitcher be the ideal trade target? If so, which guy do you want? If not, what should the O’s do at the deadline? Let us know in the comments section below, on Facebook and on Twitter. You can even tell the writer on Twitter as well.