While the Orioles sit back and enjoy the success they’ve had so far in 2012, the team is not without weaknesses. The rotation has been decent this year, but plagued by inconsistency. The bullpen is definitely the team’s strong suit, having shut the game down in the late innings. What the Orioles REALLY need are two things; a number one starter and a power bat to stick in the middle of the lineup. The way the team is currently constructed, that bat would be best suited for an outfield/DH spot. There are definitely some bats on the market right now, and more that may join them as teams get a better glimpse of their postseason chances. The pitching market is a bit more clearly defined as the trade deadline approaches on July 31st.
One team to watch in the coming weeks that may gut most of their core is the Chicago Cubs. They are not going to sniff playoff contention this year, Theo Epstein’s first with the team. I’ve heard varying thoughts about what players will be available from the team. In my opinion, other than stud SS Starlin Castro, anyone on the Cubs can be on the move given the right package. Chicago features not one but TWO starting pitchers that teams covet. One of them has an excellent track record pitching in the AL East, Matt Garza. Garza is only 28 years old, which means he could require a group of players with tons of upside. The Cubs gave up a kings random for him when they acquired him from Tampa Bay. While that package may not be matched, a comparable one will at least have to be discussed. Ryan Dempster is the other pitcher that teams have interest in. Dempster is a bit older at 35, and has some wear and tear on him. With that all in mind, Dempster has been a consistent pitcher throughout his major league career, starting and in relief. Any team that would make a play for Dempster or Garza may have to take on outfielder Alfonso Soriano, and some portion of the remainder of his infamous 8-year $136 million contract. That could actually bode well if the Orioles acquired him since we have a desperate need for power. Soriano could slide right in as a DH or situational corner outfielder until Nick Markakis gets back.
Other possible hitters that COULD be trade targets for the Orioles include: Carlos Lee of the Astros, Justin Morneau or Josh Willingham of the Twins, Carlos Quentin of the Padres, Jeff Francoeur of the Royals, Vernon Wells of the Angels, Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks, and Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies. As far as the free agency market is concerned, Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, and Derrek Lee are all out there. Realistically, I could see an acquisition in the form of a salary dump or marginal player. That leaves Lee, Quentin, Francoeur, and Wells. The Orioles simply do not have the minor league talent, beyond untouchables Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy, to acquire star power.
On the pitching front, aside from Garza and Dempster, there are some other starters that could be available. This group would include former Oriole Erik Bedard, Cole Hamels, Wandy Rodriguez, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum Rick Porcello, ex-Oriole Jeremy Guthrie, John Lannan, R.A. Dickey, Jason Vargas, Gavin Floyd, Kevin Correia, and A.J. Burnett. My first inclination would be to dangle Mark Reynolds in any trade package, because teams always need home run power. A club troubled offensively, like Pittsburgh, may be willing to trade from their wealth of pitching for a power threat like Reynolds.
With all those names, this year should prove to be another deadline full of rumors and hopefully some great trades going down. It’s been forever since the Orioles have been looked at as buyers. The landscape has changed with the influx of the second wildcard in each league; more teams think they are on the cusp of a playoff push. July 31st, is my absolute FAVORITE time of the year, aside from the baseball games themselves. I’m one fan that hopes Dan Duquette and company in the Orioles front office make a big splash at the deadline.
Let’s here your opinions! Who do YOU think the Orioles should try and acquire this year? Is there a player I left off my lists? I’d love to hear from all you fellow Birds fans!