The Orioles have raced their way into September on the heels of both an exciting seven-game winning streak and a soul-crushing loss that again highlighted the team's year-long fatal starting rotation flaw. The deadline passed on Thursday night for the last chance to add help from outside of the organization. The O's will continue on through the last month of the season with the same guys who got them here.
Much of the season has been spent making painfully clear what a lamentable state of affairs that is. Of the six guys who are currently in the Orioles rotation, four of them are fully capable of pitching in such a way that you would rather never see or think about them again. At the July 31 trade deadline, knowing they desperately needed to add to that dreadful rotation, the Orioles big move was to trade for Jeremy Hellickson.
The teams who, like the Orioles, are trying to chase down the second wild card spot made moves where they could before the waiver trade deadline. One of those moves even saw a former Oriole change hands, with Miguel Gonzalez heading from the White Sox to the Rangers in exchange for minor league infielder Ti'Quan Forbes.
The fact that Gonzalez isn't still on the O's to begin with is an unfortunate state of affairs on its own. The decision to let one tough season and one tough spring training, along with a desire to save a few million bucks, overrule the track record of three consecutive seasons was an eyebrow-raiser at the time.
Gonzalez, after being released, ultimately signed with the White Sox and after a short minor league stint to prove himself, came up to the big leagues and continued with the kind of solid performance O's fans would remember. The O's, in Gonzalez's absence, had one of the worst rotations in baseball, relying on the likes of Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson.
Worse still, the rotation was so bad that they talked themselves into trading for Wade Miley at last year's deadline, who, by the way, costs even more than Gonzalez.
The O's history with Gonzalez is important context, but even if his name was John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt and he had been pitching for the Padres, the O's should have been thinking about him last night. Gonzalez has pitched in 22 games, notching a 4.31 ERA that's not great but still leaps and bounds better than three of their current starters.
OK, they were thinking about Gonzalez at least a little bit, according to the Baltimore Sun's Eduardo Encina:
The asking price comment is curious because Forbes, at least to these eyes, looks to be about as close to a nothing prospect as you get. Although he was a second round pick in the 2014 draft, the infielder in his fourth professional season has never posted an OPS better than .652 at any of the levels he's played in the minors.
That career-best for Forbes was in 80 games at the Low-A level this season. He also spent time with the High-A Down East squad, the same league as the O's Frederick affiliate. For Down East, Forbes played in 51 games and batted .227/.280/.308. When that's how you hit, it doesn't really matter how well you field.
Maybe Forbes still is believed to have more potential than I'm giving him credit for. Some players are late bloomers who reward teams who are patient with them. But at least based on what he's done so far, it's hard to understand how the Orioles could have felt the asking price was too high.
Let's be fair to the Orioles, though. On August 3, Gonzalez got torched for seven runs in 1.2 innings and had a 5.15 ERA after that bummer of an outing. It's possible they were concerned that's the "real" Gonzalez this season. That said, since the All-Star break, Gonzalez has started nine games, and even factoring in that ugly outing, has a 3.11 ERA in 55 innings.
In the end, I don't know why the Orioles let another team pull the trigger on Gonzalez. Maybe they wanted to get a little money from the White Sox to offset the $1 million or so Gonzalez will make in the last month. Maybe they're unwilling to either shunt to the bullpen or DFA struggling, negative-value starters like Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Maybe, too, the Orioles were concerned that Gonzalez, who's working with both the lowest strikeout rate of his career and highest walk rate of his career, while still being homer-prone, might be headed for a tough last month.
If that last bit is their justification, it would be strange to suddenly care about trading for pitchers who are struggling in inferior divisions while pitching in more pitcher-friendly parks after two consecutive trade deadlines in which they acquired Miley and Hellickson, respectively.
Also, the O's have seemed to like feel-good trades to re-add Orioles who were part of recent special seasons, if last year's Steve Pearce trade and late August Tommy Hunter signing were any indication. But for Gonzalez this year, nothing, so he'll spend a month trying to help the Rangers while the Orioles rotation continues to be the Orioles rotation.
If the O's come up a game or two short while Gonzalez does fine for the Rangers, this could be the kind of what-if decision that haunts them. Here's hoping they play well enough that it doesn't matter that they didn't trade for Gonzalez.