The Orioles have a tough choice to make over the next month heading into MLB’s trade deadline. Should they buy or should they sell? Every win keeps the O’s in the hunt of a crowded wild card race with no AL team running away with either of those spots yet. Every loss seems to confirm the hopeless cause that we all fear this team might be.
On Monday, I wrote about the Orioles as potential trade deadline sellers. That could still end up happening. But here we are in the middle of a three-game winning streak, with the Orioles back at .500, just 1.5 games out of a wild card spot and 4.5 games away from the AL East lead.
With the way they’ve played over the last month, it seems crazy to think of the Orioles as potential contenders. Crazy or not, that’s what they are, or at least until they lose their way back out of contention. A road-heavy path to the All-Star break could see them fall farther down before the middle of July.
Ken Rosenthal reported about a week ago that the Orioles have told at least one team that they plan to be buyers. The Orioles, it seems, are making like the Civil War’s Admiral Farragut: “Damn the torpedoes!” In their case perhaps it’s more like, “Damn the rotation, full speed ahead!”
Whether this is wise for the franchise in the long run is what remains up for debate. There is no debate that the 2017 team needs some major help if they’re going to get anywhere.
The starting rotation outside of Dylan Bundy is a mess that, through June, isn’t fixing itself. One trade wouldn’t fix that either, even if the player pitched well. The shortstop position is a black hole in the lineup. So is left field, when non-outfielder Trey Mancini hasn’t been playing there.
What can they do about this stuff? That depends on three things:
- Which players will be made available by other teams?
- Which of the available players do the Orioles have the prospects to acquire?
- Which of the available players do the Orioles have the payroll flexibility to acquire?
For the sake of this article, I’ll assume any player who is a free agent after this season or next on a bad (5 games below .500 or more) baseball team is available. This may not actually be the case. I don’t know what motivates the other 29 teams in MLB. Whether the Orioles have the prospects or the payroll and whether they should use those prospects on a particular player is up to Dan Duquette and Peter Angelos to figure out.
J.D. Martinez - Tigers
The 29-year-old Martinez has batted a combined .299/.360/.551 since the start of the 2014 season. He’s been hitting even better than that this season after missing the first month or so with a foot injury, batting .301/.388/.658 in 42 games. Martinez is making $11.75 million this season.
Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson - Mets
The Orioles have been reportedly interested in Bruce in the past. After he posted OBPs below .300 in both 2014 and 2015, I wanted no part of that. He seems to be doing better in Queens this year, batting .267/.338/.537. Bruce’s salary for this year is $13 million.
Granderson is 36 and has now solidified into a low batting average player who walks enough and has respectable enough power to be at least an average bat. He has been consistently just that for four seasons. He is making $15 million this season, which seems like the kind of price tag that would be too much for the Orioles. But I would rather see him in left field than Joey Rickard.
Nick Markakis - Braves
I don’t want this to happen, but there’s probably someone who does. Some might see it as destiny. Markakis has minimal power but a high enough average and decent enough on-base skills to be a league average bat. He is making $11 million this season.
Khris Davis - Athletics
Speaking of destiny, I just think that Chris and Khris Davis on the same team needs to happen. Oakland’s Davis won’t be a free agent until after the 2019 season, but he’s batting .252/.331/.504 with 19 home runs this season, along with 101 strikeouts in 75 games. He’s already an Oriole at heart, you know?
Andrew McCutchen - Pirates
The Pirates seemed to be trying to deal the 2013 NL MVP over the offseason. There may be more takers now that he’s rebounded from a tough (by his standards) 2016. McCutchen is batting .272/.351/.486 through 75 games. That won’t win him another MVP award but again, better than Rickard. He is making $14 million this season.
I don’t know how serious the Orioles would be about getting someone here. They don’t seem to be as concerned about Hardy being one of the worst everyday players in MLB as I was.
Asdrubal Cabrera - Mets
The 31-year-old is apparently mad at the Mets and wants a trade. He may not actually be a good shortstop and his .263/.341/.407 batting line leaves him about league average in OPS. He is only making $8.25 million this season.
Jordy Mercer - Pirates
Riding a possibly BABIP-fueled battling line towards a career best... and even that career best would only mean a .271/.346/.416 batting line. Acceptable defense at a glance, not a free agent until after next season, meaning the O’s wouldn’t have to hit the free agent market for a shortstop this offseason. His 2017 salary is only $4.33 million.
Zack Cozart - Reds
The guy is 31 and was blessed with good BABIP fortune - .367 for 2017 vs. a career of .282. That led him to a .320/.404/.562 batting line before he strained his right quadriceps - an injury he’s only just now returning from. Regression candidate? Oh, yes. The pending free agent is making just $4.33 million this season.
Keep this in mind: Last July, the Orioles were in desperate need of an improvement to their starting rotation and they traded for Wade Miley, whose ERA in Seattle at the time of the trade was 4.98. Yeah.
- Jaime Garcia - Braves
- Edinson Volquez - Marlins
- Jeremy Hellickson - Phillies
- Jhoulys Chacin, Clayton Richard - Padres
- Scott Feldman - Reds
National League pitchers who have ERAs over 4 already? Hell yeah, sign me up! These guys are mostly mediocre-or-worse for a reason: Too many walks, not enough strikeouts, prone to home runs, or all of the above. They range from cheap (Chacin, $1.75 million this year) to no-way expensive (Hellickson, $17.2 million this year).
Derek Holland, Mike Pelfrey - White Sox
It’s really a sad state of affairs for the Orioles rotation that any one of these guys might be considered a potential upgrade. Holland has already served up 16 home runs in 82.1 innings this year and while his ERA is “only” 4.26, his FIP is 5.35, suggesting major regression, especially in Camden Yards in the summer. He’s making “only” $6 million this season.
Pelfrey was so bad with the Tigers last year and this spring that they released him, eating the $8 million that he was owed for this season. With the White Sox, he’s enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, posting a 3.73 ERA over 13 games... but he’s averaging fewer than five innings per start and he, too, appears to be in line for regression with a FIP of 4.85.
The Orioles could trade for any one of these jokers and not help their starting rotation one dang bit. We should all be prepared for the next Gerardo Parra trade, starting pitching edition, this July.